Saturday, May 22, 2010

Resonance of Fate

Hey, it's a game review! And... it's a JRPG. I swear, those aren't the only games I play. Really.
I really enjoyed this game, but I'm not sure I can give it a recommendation. I'd say give it a rental. It's a long game if you want to see all the content, so you won't blow through it in a weekend. I'm up to 40+ hours in my main save, and I'm still not done the story. And that's a nice segue to talking about the game!

This game is fairly unique to me in that it has a good story that's slowly revealed, excellent characterization, good voice acting and dialogue, but... there's no plot. Not a plot to be seen anywhere. You know, in most games, the plot is your character's motivation. The reason they're doing what they're doing. They're out for revenge, or to save a family member, or the whole world, or they're the subject of prophecy. Not in RoF. In this game, your characters (Vasheryon, Zepher, and Leanne) are making a living as Hunters, basically mercenaries-for-hire, and their entire motivation is taking missions to earn money and make connections among the ruling class (the Cardinals) and... that's it. You're not out for revenge, you're not out to save the world, or unmask a conspiracy, or even lay the troubled ghosts of your past to rest. You're just out to make a living killing monsters and delivering books through dangerous territory. But it works, because like I said, there's a good story going on around your characters. They all have a good backstory, they're all likeable, and they don't act out of character. The story that unfolds around you seems like it'd make a good plot, if you were somehow involved in it. Conspiracy, intrigue, betrayal. It's fairly epic in scope. There's also small stories going on amongst the NPCs that you only find out about by talking to them as the game progresses. I'm not certain, but some of them may be tied to the optional missions you do or don't do, giving different dialogue and outcomes for those conversations stories. The setting is interesting, too. A giant multi-level clockwork device with towns and settlements scattered about, all floors connected by various elevators, with the wealthy and powerful being towards the top.

So, good story, setting, and characters, but no plot. This leaves gameplay and mechanics.
We'll start with the setting's mechanics. Each level of the overworld is made up of hexes. A hex is deactivated until you power it using an energy hex, which you receive in a lot of different ways. You can't walk on a deactivated hex. Activating a hex sometimes reveals various hidden treasures which range from combat items to clothing to dress up your characters. Some hexes are specially coloured, and require special hexes of the same colour to activate. That's how various areas are blocked off to you: by restricting access to the coloured hexes. The overworld also has terminals that have differing positive combat effects (damage modifiers, experience boosts, item find increases, etc), but they need to be connected to a certain number of coloured hexes. You can connect different terminals to chain effects, but you need to add their requirements to power them (a 50 and a 60 require 110 same-coloured hexes all connected). OCD and min/maxers, welcome to your HELL. You can connect across levels using basic elevators, but not across "core lifts," so there's sections you can't connect, but energy hexes come in different shapes, and due to how terrain is laid out, you will need to plan ahead and use specific coloured hexes to connect terminals. In order to chain effects, it has to be all the same colour. So, you'll need to farm those from certain enemies. You'll be doing lots of farming any way, because of our next point of examination...

Equipment! This is actually pretty cool. You have three basic weapon types. Pistols, machine guns, and grenades. You can buy or otherwise receive a few various weapons with differing stats. But that's not the real strength of the weapons. The point of weapons is customizability. You get different parts to add on to your weapon that give boosts to the stats. There's barrels to add to your combat gauge's charge acceleration, sights to add to the base charge speed, grips to add to the focus of your bullets (helps shoot people from across the battle screens, and for hitting specifically what you aim at), etc. but at the cost of adding weight to the gun (The weight of the equipment you can carry goes up with your level). Now, the true beauty of this system is that you can add multiple of most types of mods. Yes. You can and will have a pistol with six barrels attached. The skill of this system is that you can't buy anything but the most basic mods, instead you have to craft them from base materials and lower mods at the tinkerer. That's where the rest of your item farming comes in. It's a pretty awesome system, since parts need to connect to guns at certain points, and take up a certain amount of space on the customization grid, so you'll need to trade off between different aspects. You probably, however, will go insane trying to figure out where to get some components though. There's a beastiary at the guild and in your base, and it lists the treasure various monsters drop, and where to find the monsters, but you still need to page through it, and some of the item names are terribly similar (scrapped blowgun SD vs. scrapped blowgun BD).

Now that you're all equipped, move on to combat. Combat centres around two types of damage. Scratch damage, and direct damage. Machine guns can only do scratch damage, handguns can only do direct damage. Different types of grenades do different types of damage. Only direct damage can kill an enemy. Only machine guns and high-level grenades do large amounts of damage. However, you can convert scratch damage to direct damage by dealing direct damage. You only kill an enemy by reducing the main body's hp to zero, but you get items by destroying other parts they have. You may also need to deplete those gauges to hit the main body, since it might be armour. Battlefield positioning is paramount, since while running around, you only hit the gauges facing you. It's rather complex and involving, yet after grinding for a while it will get repetitive since you need to use specific strategies on specific monster types.

My absolute biggest gripe with the game comes in the form of one specific mechanic though, beyond the need for grinding for hexes and components. There are certain battles that you cannot run away from, and you can't know what you're about to face, so if you're under-levelled, equipped incorrectly, or something like that, you're going to lose, horribly. And then your options are to pay money and restart the battle, or to resume from your last save. Yeah, if you lose a battle, you restart the battle, and you have to pay for the privilege. Restarting from just before a battle would be much more player-friendly, since you could re-equip before heading in to a fight and increase your options. But no. So, make sure to save before entering that kind of fight.

I acknowledge that this game isn't for everyone, but if you don't mind grinding for items, and a lack of a plot, but enjoy a good story and flashy-but-deep combat, give the game a rent. You should be able to get through at least the first few chapters in order to get a taste for the game and know if it's worth a purchase for you.

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