For August, we'll be taking a look at a game I have a love-hate relationship with: Resonance of Fate. Resonance of Fate was developed by tri-Ace and published by SEGA. It is set in a world where some kind of environmental disaster has occurred, and the only habitable part of the world remaining is a large tower/purifier called Basel. Given the basics of human nature, the rich live at the top of the tower in their mansions while the poor live on the more dangerous lower levels in the slums. The primary story follows the exploits of three mercenaries: Vashyron, Zephyr, and Leanne. There is a larger story behind the scenes, but the game doesn't go out of its way most of the time to make you aware of it. The art style is a variety of steampunk. The environments are mostly monochrome, though detailed, with the different clothing choices for the characters being used to provide contrast to the surrounding world. What really makes or breaks the game in most peoples eyes is the combat mechanics.
Gameplay itself in RoF is markedly different from most anything else out there. The action is ostensibly turn-based, but in actuality happens in real-time. I'm not sure that I will be able to satisfactorily explain every system in play, but here it goes. During a character's turn, you can choose to move the character freely or you can choose a straight line path for them to travel on. Ideally, you will chose a path that bisects a line between the other two members of your party. You can then initiate a hero action that allows you to fire and jump multiple times while being immune to damage. However, your hero attacks are limited by a bezel counter which is generally recharged by breaking armor or killing an enemy. You can also initiate a tri-attack in the right circumstances, where all three members of your party are active at once and you can switch between them at will. There are two different types of damage, depending on the type of weapon you are using. Scratch damage is generally done by SMGs. It is done in large amounts, but it is only temporary damage. Direct damage is needed to make scratch damage permanent. Handguns do very small amounts of damage, but are necessary to kill enemies. Grenades also do direct damage in larger chunks, but there is a limited inventory for them. Generally, there seems to be a pretty steep barrier to entry on the combat system, but once it clicks it gets significantly easier. Aside from the multiple severe difficulty spikes in the game, that is. Weapons can be modified in ridiculous ways to alter their combat stats, and with some planning over a dozen scopes, clips, stocks, etc. can be added to a single weapon. There are ten difficulty levels in the game, with each one being unlocked after the prior one has been completed. That's right... ten. I have yet to beat the first one, for reasons to be described next.
Outside of combat, there is a separate puzzle game that limits where you can travel on the overworld map. You have to get pieces made of combined hexagonal spaces and fit these pieces onto the map in order to open up paths. You can also connect paths to certain colored generators which will grant combat modifiers to any encounters in connected hexes. There are hidden items that can be uncovered by putting pieces down in the right areas, usually clothing items or gun parts. It is possible to 100% every level, but therein lies the path to madness.
This being a game that I have actually put some time into previously (unlike many of the Year of... games), I have a love/hate relationship with it. I love the look of the game, hands down. Playing dress-up with the characters is fun also, as every change carries over into combat and cut-scenes. Combat has a great feel to it, once it clicks in and you get a feel for it. However, after a while, you start to feel like the same strategy works on 90% of encounters. Also, the overworld is terribly frustrating for someone who feels an irrational need to get everything. I am going to give this one another shot, provided I can get it back from a friend this evening, as it falls squarely into the set of games published over the past few years by SEGA that are almost criminally overlooked (along with Alpha Protocol and Binary Domain, among others). Enjoy!