Sunday, February 21, 2010

X360 Look - Magna Carta 2

In a world where the men look like girls and the women look like WOMEN it's up someone to do something that just might save the day. I am of course talking about Magna Carta 2. Sure some people might claim that I could be talking about any other JRPG but well..I don't know sometimes it feels that way when I play this game. There's a certain appeal to it in its simplicity though aside from that it's just another excuse to throw away another forty or so hours of one's life.

Juto was living a peaceful and carefree life on some island with his mentor. Though he regards her as a sister I wonder what he really thinks when he looks at her in her very unfortunate outfit(she's dressed like a stripper, heels and all). At any rate things go downhill quickly when a beautiful princess arrives to solve some mysteries. This leads to conflict between the North & South and before anyone knows it Juto has joined the war effort for matters of revenge and such. The only difference between this tale and 90% of other RPG efforts is that Juto is an unlikeable stubborn jerk who mopes about everything and has forced inner monologues that get under my skin in the worst possible way.

Unlike the storyline the battle system is actually rather unique. At first glance it comes off similar to Final Fantasy XII as the three party members can jump in and out of battle at any moment. However moving the player-character around can actually have some effect on the battle. For example one could back away so that most enemy attacks will miss entirely. Granted this doesn't account for projectiles or special attacks but it is kind of nice. In fact the player can effectively lead enemies around while the other two party members slap them silly.

The biggest difference however is in the stamina gauge. There's no real turn system in place for this game so the player is free to attack the enemy as much as they are able. Performing moves costs stamina however and though attacks gain in strength as more stamina is used eventually the player will tire out. At this point they're helpless and must sit still to recover stamina. There is a way around this and it forms the basis for the battle system. A chain is when the player uses up the stamina of one party member with a special attack and then switches to another party member to do the same. This breaks the chain and both participating party members regain all of their stamina. The usefulness of this feature is obvious as two attackers can focus on pummeling an enemy while a healer can stay back and provide support. Some players might opt to have all three attacking at once and well that's about the extent of the depth to that system.

Another unique quality of this game is how "MP" is handled. Instead of having a standard pool of magic to draw from each character uses Kan. This stuff is built up by attacking enemies and can then be used to perform special attacks. While two of the characters can store Kan for indefinite periods of time the other four party members must draw Kan from the surrounding air. This particular Kan is divided into four different elements and depending on the area or what attacks the enemy uses more of a particular Kan element can be found. Properly handling this system is important because spellcasters aren't much good if not enough Kan is being produced.

Each of the six party members are very useful when applied properly as they also have access to special abilities like the ability to break armor as well as create shields to deflect attacks. To further round out the diversity each party member is capable of wielding one of two different weapons. These weapons are tied to particular skill-sets so the player can focus on one or the other or abuse skill-up equipment in order to mastery both weapon sets. Unfortunately this can lead to quite a bit of grinding which is a bit of a shame because the experience system is actually handled quite well in that as the story progresses enemy experience levels raise so that gaining levels is a very painless affair.

Really though I can't say that this game is worth bothering with. It's effective at what it does certainly but hour #25 isn't much different from hour #5. Sure this game is of reasonable length but all the same time there's a lot of repetitive content and traversing of the same areas over and over again. I'm also aware of the people who actually play RPGs for the story. They would do well to steer very clear of this one because it's just bad. Aside from covering all of the usual tropes the story has some kind of Freudian aspect to it that I just can't grasp and there's little to no redeeming qualities for any of the characters. I know I shouldn't bother with the story myself but hey I've gotta justify the time I've burned on this game somehow.

Exploration or the general lack of is easily the weakest part of this game. There's an impressive number of quests to take on but a good majority of them can be completed in the same area they are accepted in. These quests are typically of the MMO variety as well. So you'll get a few of "kill XX monsters" or "kill X monster until it drops Y item" and a lot of others that amount simply to "Go here". There's a constant feeling of accomplishment in completing these quests and the rewards are always nice. The biggest problem is though is that the world of Magna Carta 2 is a tiny one and every area is already conveniently mapped with the destinations and dead-ends clearly marked. This basically leads to just moving towards the glowing arrows until the story progresses while making sure to check the dead-ends for quests/treasure. There's little sense of mystery or wonderment and all of the lore is explained through seemingly endless chatter between party members. For those RPG fans who always think it should be about the journey there's really none to be had here.

To steal a quote from another nerd I've noticed something that just screams "What were they thinking?" This has to do with the DLC available for the game. It adds a few scenes that are solely for comedic effect(oh and some easy achievements) but the real star of the extras are the bonus weapons. These weapons look like jokes but I got them at about hour #20 and they were probably around 3 or 4 times stronger than my current weapons. Imagine equipping these at the very beginning of the game. Couldn't they have stuck these things in the final dungeon or something? For $5 you have the freedom to break the game and practically ignore chain-breaking, kan-managing, and whatever else for probably 30 or so hours. These weapons are also highly-customizable so one can load them up with all kinds of useful augments to become further overpowered. At the moment I'm walking up to enemy parties and drowning them in hot meteor death while they can't so much as scratch me. Oh sure nuking monsters may never get old no matter how often I do it but I can't help knowing that I cheated to get there.

Magna Carta 2 really isn't a bad game. Like a number of other games the core aspects are fairly well-tuned but again it's not enough to sustain the average length an RPG comes to. I will say however that there's a lot to appreciate in how gaining levels is handled and the character variety. It's nothing spectacular but it could have been quite a bit worse, making for an absolutely dreadful experience. Still I can't recommend a game simply because it does things correctly. That should be expected out of any game.

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