Review by Kuroi_Kenshin
"A typical-fare PS2-era Japanese RPG, but not great even by those standards."
Resonance of Fate Xbox 360 Review
A typical-fare PS2-era Japanese RPG, but not great even by those standards.
Fair warning, this may be in large part a rant of my own about how the old-school RPG format has had its day. Bear in mind they are just opinions.
I picked this game up since it looked like it was done by the same team that did Shadow Hearts on the PS2, and I really enjoyed Shadow Hearts 1 & 2. I think I was right and it is the same team, but I don't know if they have a new project leader or what, but this game is like a weaksauce version of Shadow Hearts 3 which itself was lacking compared to 1 & 2. I was hoping for a dark semi-gothic environment a la Shadow Hearts 1 & 2 with a moderate to interesting story & characters, and fun combat system - all updated to today's standards. Zero for four leaves me unimpressed.
Where to begin? The combat engine is an awkward, clunky way of trying to implement armor penetration and address why to have pistols and machineguns. Since obviously if machineguns fire ten times the ammo, that means ten times the damage, so there's no real use for handguns. (I'm being sarcastic, think accuracy, game designers) Instead of doing it in a way that makes sense, like many 1st person shooters - accuracy and/or penetration is reduced for auto-fire weapons, there's a ridiculous dual-layered damage system. This in itself is not necessarily bad but the implementation is moronic, with it generally being necessary to riddle something with hundreds of machinegun rounds doing hundreds of damage, then fire a few shots doing a couple damage with another character to actually cause the machinegun damage to take effect. The character with the MG literally CANNOT KILL ANYTHING with an MG alone - what the heck? It also means the handgun users can't kill anything directly unless they are 20-30 levels higher, and ooh boy is that stupid. Compare that to a more active system where single shot type weapons with good aiming at vulnerable spots or straight up pumping something full of rounds auto-fire can be more or less equally effective, and which often have situations where either has a significant advantage but using the other is not outright impossible - that's good game design. Both effective vs average enemies, both have advantages and disadvantages.
The idiotic thing is there's no pros and cons to the MG/pistol decision in this game - you must have both, all the time, to beat almost anything. There is no room for preference at all, WHICH IS THE WHOLE POINT OF CUSTOMIZATION. I have a feeling they did this to make sure combat didn't go too quickly, but it's just stupid, there are far better ways to make a good RPG combat system. It also grates that the game designers are forcing you to pointlessly drag out all combat.
Using items is also stupid, with about 3 unnecessary steps. Instead of just pulling up a menu and using an item, you have to pull it up, select it, change to your other hand, change your target, then use it. You do not automatically go back to your weapon either, so if you try to attack you'll find yourself unable to shoot and already used your character's turn. Bad, bad design.
Not only is the system clunky, but as with many Japanese RPGs you have the characters with some cool acrobatic attack which ends up being the only one that seems useful and so you have to watch it 500+ times. Why RPGs don't have more variety and built-in necessity to use it, I don't understand. Shadow Hearts 1 & 2 had that at least to some degree as far as I recall, you had the Fire Monster attack of the main character that was more useful for one section of the game, the Water Monster attack for another, and there was a good reason to use them. I'd have preferred a series of improved attacks (5-10) per character that upgraded so there was a bit more variety in the animations. Better yet, the environment should change to full 3D so tactical positioning is the prime concern, not attack order or repetitive flamboyant attack animations.
Another thing that takes the cake is when any ONE of your characters gets very low on health, crystals fly off them which you then have to run around the battle screen collecting or enemies will take them and recuperate - but the real kicker is if any character is hit too much ALL your team will go into a coward mode where they can barely fight. This is adding insult to the already bad combat system. Nine times out of ten, if you get knocked into coward mode, you'll be dead anyway.
On top of this, very few tactics are involved other than a little tiny bit of positioning, picking your target order correctly (WAY too important, screwup ONE action and you may lose in a 'normal' encounter, thanks to coward mode), and/or occasional use of items. Generally you riddle something with MG fire, (skip other characters turns) until it's all blue, then shoot it and it dies. The game designers didn't want this either, so they added yet another layer so the MG will only drain so much HP then stop. Meaning you now have to shoot the enemy with a minimum of 4 turns/characters, a totally pointless way of dragging out combat even more. The biggest frustration is not the enemies, it's the system.
Turn-based RPGs are a thing of the past, from my perspective. It's just too weird now to go into la-la "combat realm" of flat box, sometimes with bits of cover and respawning enemies after playing games where enemies inhabit the 3D world, are a much greater threat to you, and where positioning and cover are far more important than the order of attack in a turn system.
More pointlessness - in the dungeons, after getting to the end (5-8 combat screens you "walk" through), you have to walk all the way back, and all enemies have respawned. I cannot fathom why RPGs these days think it's fun to walk back through empty dungeons or worse, walk back and have to either run away from or fight the same enemies again. Upon achieving objective allow a warp/skip back to where to start the next one, or at minimum at the entrance/exit to the dungeon. You have to use items instead of just automatically being sent back, and you have to re-equip characters when they rejoin - I have found no way to do it in combat so if you forget they are useless next battle. Saving game is also a pain in the butt, often forcing you to grind to put up stations or walk all the way back to the start.
On top of this, navigating the dungeons is done by color coding because ALL THE COMBAT SCREENS LOOK PRETTY MUCH THE SAME. You literally can't tell the entrance from the door to the next room except by the color the designers put on the ground.
Victory poses, these seem pointless and passe.
Arena - As a note, the arena should give you the option of continuing or quitting at the end of each battle, instead it takes you out, makes you walk back to the counter, select compete from the menu, wait a few seconds, then start the battle again. Particularly given the number of battles there are and the way it's difficult to win battles quickly.
Another clunky, awkward attempt to make weapons customizable. It makes customizing weapons a pain, since the way you assemble them doesn't have to make much sense, as long as you get more pluses. You have two identical scopes/sights on the same gun? Of course you get double pluses! Not only that but you have to go through steps to get parts, then get those parts assembled, then actually put your guns together - it's really unmotivating and I generally ignored it only customizing where necessary because enemies were getting too tough. It's not straightforward or simple and it's not rewarding - I really don't want to have to figure how to get parts for my gun, go grind a bunch to get them, then figure out how add them to get the most pluses. If I'm progressing let me upgrade my guns quick and easy, with the option of getting detailed for some more benefit (5-10%) IF customization is the goal - real customization, not "more pluses!"
Basically this is not really cutomization, instead it's clunky, stupidly illogical weapon assembly for pluses. (Put 4 barrels on your handgun, cool! - NOT) People who liked FF8's weapon system will probably like it. I'd have preferred a more straightforward and simplified customization system, where you have the base gun (say 5 types with various pros/cons) and various components of which you choose 1 each where applicable, where you just pick the components you want, then the game automatically assembles the gun for you, ie:
This should be where the components are more tweaking the base gun, which accounts for 80-85% of the performance. Various guns, which you choose according to your preference, then tweaked according to your preference, all of which can be reasonably effective, and which have pros and cons - I guess it's a lot to ask from a developer using an 8 year old RPG model.
There is literally no story to speak of. You are hunters, you go check a board for jobs/quests. There's some mysterious guy doing stuff in CGI cutscenes that you know is going to be the end boss, but really you barely have a sense of what the world is, so why are you going to care about some obscurely referenced stuff? There's no connection or motivation to the characters as far as I can see, being up to Chapter 5. (way too late to get me interested) Nobody killed your parents or stole your girlfriend or did anything bad to you, and it's also not your job to go after this guy or anything. It's a bunch of unconnected random errands/quests to date.
What little story there is alternates between characters making canned comments that are meant to be funny or amusing, but aren't, (insert laugh track, "ha-ha"...) or the next chapter are talking about suicide. This game seriously needs to decide who its audience is.
The story is supposed to interest me and motivate me to play more, in that respect this game was a total failure, since I totally didn't care about 90+% of the "story". In short, vapid and pointless - aimed at Japanese kids 8-12 near as I can figure, but then bizarrely adding some serious stuff well beyond kids of that age.
What takes the cake is how there can be virtually no story with ONLY 3 CHARACTERS. Other games have more story for each of 12 or more characters than this had for even ONE.
It was with shock I realized this is old-school RPG with minimal voices. It was weird in PS2's latter days, now it's just not right to be charging full price for an RPG model this much out of date. Play Modern Warfare 1 or 2, or Mass Effect 1 or 2, and imagine reading everything people say.
Wallpaper: Something a lot of game designers don't seem to understand is the wallpaper doesn't really matter. Whether or not some wallpaper character stays in the same spot or disappears and/or reappears and/or says the same thing all the time or says something different DOES NOT MATTER if they have no connection to the character and/or quest/adventure. Do I really care that some random wallpaper character says a different inane comment that is equally pointless at various stages of the game and which do not have anything to do with me? NO. Give it a rest people, it's time for all the "I like bread," and other pointless wallpaper comments to be axed or made relevant to the player. (at minimum in a peripheral way) A general rule to follow would be that wallpaper comments should enhance the environment or atmosphere and only come AFTER a solid game and engine is up and running. They only need to change as a result of something the player did, had a hand in, or was affected by.
I was initially dumbfounded that the world is PS2-era 3D but basically just to look at, with static screens a la FF8 or Resident Evil 2. You can't look around like a normal game these days. Coming straight off of Mass Effect 2 where you're walking through full detailed 3D environments I did a double take upon starting. It worked in PS2 days, but it shows this is an archaic game design.
The map is weird, with no icon for your characters, but oddly enough moving the pointer around counts as walking. It's a lot faster but a bit strange. It's also just kind of weird in an old-school RPG way, with it being hexagon blocks. The Core Lifts also pointless make you enter the screen every time to walk 10 steps, then walk 10 steps out. Skip it designers...
On the map note, I was quite surprised to see RPGs still use the map with invisible random encounters and respawning enemies/dungeons are alive and well. So outdated...
Grinding has NO PLACE in the modern era of video games, and only bad game designers use it. It's the same as filler work at school, pointless just to keep you busy but with no value at all. Grinding is only a crutch for game designers looking to score some kind of magic "gameplay hours of entertainment number" to put on the box. If a game requires a little too much grinding, I've got loads better things to do with my time and the game has just lost a potential player/fan.
There's a bunch of other complaints I have, but no energy to write them. Final Verdict, a sub-par PS2 era Japanese RPG. Not worthwhile, pass it by.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 05/10/10
Game Release: Resonance of Fate (US, 03/16/10)
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