Category: Reviews

Resonance of Fate – Review

I don’t buy it when people say JRPG games are dead. They’re not dead; you just have to look a little harder to find the great ones. Is Resonance of Fate one of the great ones? Sure, but it’s still kind of awful at the same time.

The main characters in this game are Vashyron: The epitome of the father figure, tough guy, seen-it-all in his past type. Leanne: The good looking but awkward girl that seems so carefree it’s worrying. And finally, Zephyr, the “I don’t walk to talk about it” attention seeking lady faced teen that has pretty much become the norm in games like this. I imagine him being the kind of person that posts those useless moody updates on facebook looking for likes. They play to their archetypes pretty much throughout the whole game, and I like that. Sure, the dialogue gets a bit predictable because of it. But these characters are sympathetic and the occasional funny line actually made me like them after a few hours. Well, not Zephyr. He’s an insufferable douchebag. I was actually hoping he would die early. Sadly not.


Zephyr, Leanne, Vashyron

I would talk about the story, but to be honest I don’t actually know what the hell happened. You’ll spend 75% of the game doing fetch quests like going into dungeons to get bottles of wine for rich people or cold medicine for one of your sick party members. If you’re looking for an engaging story of FF7 quality, look elsewhere. Things are explained very slowing and very poorly. It’s told via end of chapter cutscenes that usually have very little to do with the player. Actually very little to do with the player is quite a good description. It’s almost as if two different games are happening. You’ll be doing your quests as the player, fighting monsters and collecting items. And at the end of a chapter you’ll just see a cutscene of some other people somewhere else talking about things you have no idea about. It has zero context until about 20 hours in and even then you feel like most of the explaining is happening when you’re off doing something else. This game doesn’t know what tone it wants. You’ll switch from dark comedy and sex filled innuendo to scenes filled with melancholic drama from chapter to chapter. They work individually, but they don’t really make for a great overall story.

But what about the game part of the actual game? Well, it’s brilliant. Seriously, it’s amazing.  It takes the usual turn based RPG formula of characters on one end of the screen and enemy on the other and makes it something completely unique, complex and engaging. You have two different types of damage; normal damage that doesn’t do a lot but is permanent and scratch damage. This is damage that absolutely drains the enemies life but isn’t permanent. Basically, you need to scratch someone and then finish them off with normal damage. It means you need to utilize your entire team and simply pressing attack every time it’s an option will get you killed quickly. Different weapons will do different damage. Things like your position on the map, the type of movements you’re making and when you decide to strike all make huge differences on the outcome of encounters. The game becomes fantastic the first time everything clicked and I actually understood the system and exactly how deep it was. The learning curve is very steep and I spent my fist 10 or so battles completely clueless. But one you get it, you’re hooked.


The best combat system this genre has seen in years

What I loved about this system is that it doesn’t hold your hand one bit. Here is the battlefield; the strategy is up to you. And you will need a good plan going into fights. It’s less about grinding and simply having a higher level or better gear than your enemy. You need to actually plan your attack, where will I move on the battlefield, who will I use this turn? What ammo is better against what? What type of attack will I use? How will my moves impact my characters 2 turns from now? Encounters are won by clever movements and well placed shots. It’s so refreshing to see a JRPG try something different and not be afraid to take to its extreme. This is the furthest thing from your typical combat system and it’s awesome. How many other JRPG games can say they have a combat system so deep that you can you could only really master it on your second playthrough? Not many.

Visually, it’s a mixed bag. While the detail and creativity that has gone into the enemies and the bosses in particular will have you wanting to replay it just to see it again, the world, people and towns are bland. Not a lot of variety has gone into the environments both in and outside of battle. It won’t be long before you’re seeing the exact same industrial area battle zones over and over again. This coupled with the fact that there’s just not a whole lot to see in this game, I was bored with the world quite quickly. Being bored is actually quite impressive in a game with art design this good. The world looks like the inner workings of a giant clock. I don’t know why they didn’t make a big deal out of this; it’s a clever idea that is never taken anywhere.


An interesting concept for a world map

The game has this whole dress up thing where you’re encouraged(?) to mix and match different outfits for your characters. I didn’t understand this system at all. I was about 45 hours in before I bought a single piece of clothing I didn’t just find from a treasure chest. What’s the point? Nothing I can do will make these characters anything other than what the developers wanted them to be. I don’t see how me spending my money on the most fashionable shades or a shirt that makes Zephyr look even more effeminate (If that’s possible) will add to my connection with these characters. I know playing dress-up is big in Japan. I’m guessing something has been lost in translation. If you’re going to include throwaway features like this, at least give me a reason to care beyond that I may randomly be into this shit.

Thankfully the games other customization feature isn’t a completely pointless addition. You can customise your guns with different barrels, clips, scopes and other add-ons. Given the limited amount of space you have to do this I found the choice or what guns will specialize in what areas like speed, number of bullets of just damage was a difficult choice. I found it wasn’t really worth it to have every gun on every character be an all-round type. I needed to make each weapon have a purpose. Each would play a part in my battle strategy. Either do massive scratch damage, unload bullets quickly to break enemies or just do incredible damage. How many other JPRG games can say they make you think about your weapon this much? Usually it’s just choose it and use it with one or two additions if you’re lucky. RoF took that to a whole new level.


You’ll spend hours on your guns

Overall this game is full of some pretty good ideas but only one of them is really fleshed out enough to its full potential. Granted, it’s the most important one, the one that you’ll spend most of your time with. And if one superb feature is enough for you to overlook the shortcomings of the others, then get this. It’s one of the best JRPG games released in years. It’s just a damn the developers didn’t have more time to create a story, world and characters that were as great as the combat system is. This isn’t a bad game, it’s an unfinished one.

To be fair, SEGA never gave this game a shot at being a success. If giving it almost no pre-release press was bad enough, they decided to release it just one week after Final Fantasy XIII had hit shelves. Making sure the majority of your audience was busy with the most eagerly anticipated JRPG game on current consoles to release RoF wasn’t smart marketing on SEGA’s part, to say the least. I don’t know what the endgame was there, maybe trying to ride the wave of FF popularity? Whatever their intention was, all that ended up happening was that RoF got lost in the haze of FF and no one bought it. It’s a shame, even with its problems RoF is a far better game than anything Square has developed in half a decade.

I’d really like to see a sequel to this game be made sometime. Or maybe just that awesome combat system put into another tri-Ace developed game. I now that Valkyrie Profile and Star Ocean did similar things with their battle systems. But it never quite clicked as well as it does in this game. Pretty much all the problems I mentioned above could have been ironed out with time and maybe a bit more cash. But I know that’ll never happen. SEGA own the RoF IP and given that it didn’t do so well outside of Japan, we are unlikely to see another console version.


I’d like some more, please

Besides, tri-Ace are developing for the FF series now and if Square really didn’t want to rush their most profitable series into the grave (more than they already have, that is), they would give complete control to them. Hell, the stagger system in FF13 was a total rip off of the scratch damage system from RoF anyway. May as well let Square take their copying to its logical conclusion and have tri-Ace make the whole thing.

I’m willing to forgive a lot for some awesome gameplay. And this game has a lot that needs to be forgiven. The characters are boring, the world is bland, the missions are repetitive and the story just kinda sucks. But, damn. That combat system is awesome…


Review – Assassin’s Creed 2

Boy, am I late to this party…

*Spoilers ahead*

Assassin’s Creed is one of those series that everyone else but me seems to foam at the mouth over. I don’t get it. What are people seeing that I’m not?

Unlike almost everyone that I’ve spoken to, I loved the early stages of the game. The portions where you actually play as Ezio rather than a guy in a white cape were the only parts that kept me entertained. I loved these parts because they actually had a little weight behind them. The mission was unambiguous. Your family was killed and you need to kill the guy that did it. But most importantly the early stages also gave you time to really get to know your main character. Sure, it turned out he was an insufferable Italian twatwaffle. But that’s kind of the point, right? The transformation to the assassin is made all the more impactful if we know how unsuited for the role he was before.  Unfortunately after the first few hours the game starts to go downhill really quickly. Infact, I think the exact moment you can tell the developers stopped trying to make a great game was when you get to Venice.

The pace slows down to a crawl in Venice. Rather than have a clear goal every memory sequence boils down to having to assassinate the villain du jour. But wait! You need to get his defenses down in 3 of 4 different ways. It’s boring, repetitive garbage and incredibly frustrating to do. But more importantly, it adds nothing what so ever to the story. As soon as you get to Venice you basically start having to assemble a team to nobodies to help you do…something? The problem is that these guys never actually help you do anything. Every mission is the same, get told that killing this new guy will somehow bring you one step closer to the shadowy man in the red cape then going and killing him, repeat ad nauseam.

Come at me, bro

Ubisoft needed to ask themselves these two questions when the story was being written; What was the purpose to assembling the A-Team toward the middle of the game? And what was the purpose of killing all the cannon fodder during the missions leading up to the final battle? Extending the length by about 10 hours would be my guess. Think about those situations logically for a moment. If Ubisoft are asking us to spend this much time forming this team and kill these people, shouldn’t it have some sort of payoff in the end? You could make the argument that the killing of these randoms from chapter to chapter is lowering the defenses of Borgia. I never got the sense that killing these people or building my team was actually achieving anything other than making me bored. In the final mission it’s still me against a castle full of guards. So I guess I could have skipped the whole section in Venice and have been just as prepared for the fight against the final boss? It’s all well and good to tell me that my actions are having an effect. But it’s all for naught if it’s all happening off screen. Having Borgia show up from time to time and make angry faces in my direction is not my idea of good storytelling. Show me that my actions are having an effect.

What’s even worse is that Ezio’s journey is basically made meaningless towards the end. You see, Ubisoft felt it was necessary to pull out the old “You were the chosen one all along” plot device. Really? I’m the chosen one, am i? So this whole getting revenge for my murdered father and brother and the destruction of my home could have never happened and Ezio would have had just as much motivation because fate had apparently decided Ezio was born to do this? I don’t buy it. I want Ezio to be motivated by something real and revenge is as real as it gets. Being “The chosen one” hardly ever achieves what the developers think it does. It doesn’t make me feel any more engaged with the character than I normally would have it just makes the hero’s journey meaningless.

Pictured: Ezio – Not Pictured: Proper character motivation

But enough about that, story is for losers, daddy-o. How does the actual game part of the game stack up? Yea, it’s not bad. Firstly, the good. I really loved the movement in the game, jumping around the city and climbing buildings is great. Ubisoft have somehow managed to make these buildings fully climbable without making too many compromises in the art design department. Although you may see the occasional conveniently placed crack in the wall or portion of extruding ledge, for the most part buildings look the way they are supposed to. Kudos to the developers. Couple the good movement with the searching of puzzle pieces and collectables and you have an awesome thing to do when you’re not killing people or being Italian. Speaking of, how awesome are those puzzles? The story of how the game’s macguffin helps or hinders important people in history is very interesting and well told via a series of challenging riddles. Even thought the secret takes a turn for the laughable in the final moments I really enjoyed this portion of the game. It was actually the only thing keeping me playing after a while. It goes to show just how well these puzzles and the story behind them is when you are putting up with the rest of the game just to see it through to its conclusion.

For a game called Assassin’s Creed, the main character isn’t doing much assassinating. Sure, he kills people. But that doesn’t make him an assassin. It just makes him a killer. So many times the game forces you to basically run up to the target (Or fight your way to him) stab him in the throat and run away from his guards. Ezio has more in common with a renaissance era purse snatcher than an assassin. Aren’t the assassins supposed to be a highly trained order of skilled killers? Any moron can stab someone and run away. I get that Ubisoft seem to be required by law to include a rooftop chase in every mission.  But seriously, some variety would be nice. The actual times when you do get to stealth it up or kill the target are few and far between. I was bored with the run in-stab-run out routine very quickly.

The game gives you a gun but at times simply doesn’t allow you to use it if it’s not convenient to the plot. I guess da Vinci built a mechanism in it that allows for Ubisoft’s poor design decisions. You have da Vinci’s flying machine for one mission and it’s kinda cool but they don’t really do anything interesting with it. One truly bizarre feature was the villa that collects money. With very little investment I was earning so much every hour that it rendered the entire search for treasure across the city moot. Why would anyone waste their time looking for 250 florins when they make thousands by doing nothing? You’ve got to imagine what the thinking was behind including this feature? The developers must have known it would render the search for collectable almost obsolete. These are what I like to call “Trailer Features” stuff that was put in the game to be used in the press material. That wouldn’t be so bad, but developers usually stop caring once they have enough usability to fill out a 15 second spot on a video. And it shows.

Getting it right

Has any good come out of this IP at all? Well, I strongly suspect that Watch Dogs was originally supposed to be the inevitable Assassin’s Creed game set in the present day where you play as Desmond. So if that game turns out to be as awesome as it appears to be, then maybe half a decade of terrible games was worth it?