December 1, 2008
Hours Played - almost 3 ingame - add 1 for mission retries
I know I have two other games already up in here, but I want to review most of the newer games I play, and nobody else is reviewing this to my knowledge, so here we go.
This was a HIGHLY anticipated game for me, ever since I started looking up information about it for the website. I am also a pretty big tactical strategy game fan; I love games with lots of stats and characters. I put it aside for a while to put some hours into Eternal Sonata, but I couldn't ignore the call after I finished looking through the incredible art book (one of the best I've ever received).
The art for the game is one of the big draws for me. Each character is uniquely designed, and the environments I have seen so far look nice too. The game has a dark overtone which is in everything from the brooding piano and string title screen music to the character design.
The storyline in general is pretty dark, but not horrifically (yet). The game reminds me of the anime/manga Berserk, one of my favorites. A quick synopsis: Majin (demons) have kidnapped a princess and brought her into their demon dimension/homeworld/realm called Besek. Besek is a mystery; it doesn't just look like hell, it can take on appearances of places from peoples' pasts. Besek itself has appeared in the world out of nowhere. Somewhere inside Besek is the Eternal Poison, a mysterious artifact which some people are trying to find rather than trying to rescue the princess. If you want to know more read my article here.
I am playing through Ashley's storyline first. There are three storylines to choose from when you begin the game, with apparently at least one more to unlock. Ashley is a protector of the church who is in Besek to rescue her mentor, along with her longtime friend and an associate of unknown loyalty.
The tutorial was quick and easy, the interface is simple to learn, and nothing at all is overly complicated about the game. The most complicated part so far is trying to capture Majin, which requires you to overkill them by a certain amount of damage. Once you capture them you take them back to the "town," and can either set them to be used as allies in battle, sell them to make an item available in the shop, put them in the demon cauldron to extract a skill (which you set into a character's weapon, armor, or accessory), or you extract PP which is used to summon Majin on the battlefield. I haven't summoned any Majin yet so I'm not sure exactly how PP come into play, but according to the manual: each turn a Majin is in play, PP are used up. I have extracted skills and I like the system; one gave me a new attack spell to cast, another gave me a higher critical chance, and another one added a status attack. Selling a set amount of each Majin will unlock a unique item in the shop; I have unlocked a bow and an armor which protects from the bleed effect.
It seems that capturing Majin will become a big part of the game, since I don't think there is any way to replay missions (so you can't just go back and capture tons of Majin). Once you finish a mission, that's it unless you retry. Speaking of which, this was the source of my retry time. One of the cool parts about the capturing system is that you can even capture bosses. I played one level 3 times to capture the first boss I encountered; there was no way I was not going to capture that thing. I didn't mind replaying the level, since the strategy involved made it different each time.
Anyway, there are all kinds of stats and rules to gameplay. You have your standard STR, ATK, DEF, etc...in addition to elements such as fire, air, earth ... and weapon properties such as pierce, slash, and strike. Each character and enemy has a different level of statistics and resistances, and each attack has a property or element associated with it which determines damage done (and positioning matters too, more damage is done from the sides or back). Weapons include long range bows to maces to two-square range spears. There are also status effects which really hurt, such as a bleed effect which does damage every time you move or attack (which means it can hit twice in a turn). When a character does anything useful they gain experience (you can't just cast status cure to gain experience). You even gain experience for being attacked.
The town in the game, which is like your base, was engulfed by Besek when it appeared. Characters will show up there and ask to join your party. You save certain characters when you beat a mission, with which you can converse. Conversing with them between each mission can have positive effects (you gain items or something). You can save musicians which then play music for you. Also in town is a bartender which allows you to play a 50-level game of skill to unlock concept art. There is of course, a place to buy and sell items in the town, a place to save, and in town is where you perform Majin selling/skilling related tasks. The only odd thing is that you need to visit a particular building to view your status or equip items (can't just open a menu when walking around town). Luckily it is not a hassle, but it feels a little weird.
The whole game is just engrossing so far. The story is not typical. Characters are not one-dimensional; some are flawed, some are betraying others, and some are not who they seem. Voices are performed well. I am enjoying the music and will probably listen to the included soundtrack CD at some point.
This ended up being longer than I planned...but I need to make this last point.
TURN OFF ANIMATIONS IF YOU PLAY THIS GAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I saw animation loading as a complaint by various others around the Internets, and I can say the complaint is well founded. It almost made me hate the game before I realized I could turn animations off. If you leave animations on, every time you perform an action in battle the screen will fade to a blinding white for 3-5 seconds and then go into a 3D animation of your action. I cannot say how annoying this is, not the animations themselves which are not too bad, but the loading and blinding white screen make the game nearly unplayable. Turning them off make the game all about strategy, with some minor animations to express it, which is just fine because this game is not about the graphics.
This was really too long, I need to work on that maybe.
I'm back into Eternal Poison. I have finished Ashley's storyline and powered through Olifen's as well. I'll have the game done hopefully by the end of the week at the latest.
I preferred Olifen's take so far due to the tidbits of information that were revealed about the storyline. I also liked the characters in Olifen's party much more. The game is a lot easier to play through once you know all the rules and techniques and equipment to use, but it still provides a challenge if you don't move through the level properly. Healer characters don't earn experience as fast, and can be wiped out if you put them in harm's way.
The graphics are somewhat of a low point in the game, with a little boost they would have improved the fun. Part of the fun of strategy games is to check out the cool animations of spells and whatnot. Turning on the animations is just not possible, as I tried to turn them on again and they are unbearable. What makes them unbearable is the 5 seconds of blinding white which precedes every single attack or spell. They look pretty good themselves, and the creepy opera singing which announces each majin is funny.
I am working through Thage's game now. Olifen's storyline has made me interested to play through everything and find out what happens. It's not the best story of all time or anything, but it does evolve and reveal surprises throughout.
Finished with the game. Overall, it has an interesting story, but the gameplay gets repetitive. Review soon.