Review by BlackWizardMagus
"An attempt to save, or assassinate, JRPGs?"
A short review should really suffice here, because the game is shockingly poor when compared to the amount of polish that was put into graphics and voice work. Those are usually good indicators of the quality of the game, but here, they were simply a feint.
The game's story, if slow to pick up, wasn't bad. Hard to talk about it and not ruin it, but it was alright. The characters were interesting in that they were actually fairly funny and realistic, which is even more appreciated in this current era of pretty but completely irrelevant and shallow characters ala Mass Effect, but were also mysteries. For so long, you have no idea who these characters are or what they are doing. Even while they joke around and show some clear camraderie, you feel like you are eavesdropping into the middle of a conversation; there's no context and you don't know what's going on. It's been a long time, a very long time, since character banter actually made me laugh, on a regular basis. But still, depth is lacking.
The gameplay (outside of battle) was pretty bad. There is no merit to trying to be old school just for the sake of it; bad is bad. Walking around a grid system with random encounters (remember those?) isn't inexcusable, but needs to have a damn good reason. Doing it so that you could make us fit puzzle pieces onto the map to move around is not a good excuse. NPC dialogue being absolute doggerel is another old school trope I could do without. Both the map and traveling was really just a pain; a good game should not have to create challenge by pitting the mechanics against you. Especially since...
Combat is absolutely terrible. Just...it's nearly unplayable. Once you figure out how to make infinite amounts of money, you can cheat some, to make like more pleasant, but it's still simply trash. And it's difficult to explain why, because the whole system is confusing. Random encounters were mostly easy; you could use what were basically life pieces (or, they heal your life when you get too injured) to unleash massive attacks, just riddling enemies with holes. But tough battles would not allow that, as you would run out of life long before the enemy did. Then you get battles of attrition, trying to akwardly run around the map and use small attacks, heal yourself constantly, flank your enemies slowly, etc. It's miserable. One single boss enemy might not be so bad, as you simply kill it with bug-bites, but if he has back-up, or if the battle is against a couple of powerful foes, it's a mess. It's real-time, but it's not. Healing is hard, dealing damage is hard as there are two different types of damage, and you have to use one to "trigger" the other, and then trying to figure out enemy strategies and weaknesses is a huge pain. It's like the most frustrating old-school battles, but now imagine trying to play them in semi-real time, moving around a map, with abilities that suck your life. And then imagine abilities that could "break" chunks of your life off, and then you literally have to run around and pick them up. Which is actually required to get ANY loot, come to think of it. And if you find battle too hard, just go train at the arena; that is, play the same fight over and over, getting coins to trade in, until you reach the next rank, and play THAT same battle over and over. And we aren't talking like the Wild Arms arena, where each fight was a boss fight, and even seasoned veterans of the mere 4 battles could get destroyed by bad luck in round 2; I mean it's basically a random enounter-level fight repeated ad nauseum.
That really sums it up. It looks good (older-style graphics, but GOOD older-style graphics), it sounds good, the world is interesting, the characters are in many ways a refreshing reminder of, say, mid-1990's to early 2000's RPGs, etc. But gameplay is all around clunky and poorly through out, trying to force an old-school feel even if it sucks, and combat is much worse than that. All in all, it's nearly unplayable, especially without a guide (even simple details are often omitted, while you are innudated with tutorials otherwise). This game is proof that I'm not the only one who misses RPGs from that era, but in many ways, this game is not an homage, nor a revival, but a throwback. And where they do try to be new and innovative, they completely bomb; if I didn't know any better, I'd say it was an intentional, ironic reference to some of the first RPGs that tried going real time and ended up failing due to technical limitations, as well as time and budget constraints. Avoid this game. Don't try it unless you can do it for free, because it's literally one of the worst games I've played in terms of technical detail; even Shadow Madness was playable, if for some reason you wanted to. This is Daikatana for RPGs.
Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 07/19/10
Game Release: Resonance of Fate (US, 03/16/10)
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