Tuesday, January 11, 2011

X360 Look - Resonance of Fate

If my body and mind were anywhere near one to one with each other I would be asleep right now. At one time or another the proverbial strings were yanked and I being a mere puppet to inspiration had no choice but to rise and write something about the game that has been dominating my free-time for quite awhile. Resonance of Fate is a near-impossible game to put down because even if I can drag myself away from the excellent battle-system there are the little things I love about games like watching numbers rise, emptying/filling bars, and for crying out loud there's even the ability to play dress-up.

Beneath all of that however there is something else, some sort of deeper meaning. Resonance of Fate is based in the post-apocalyptic far future but its visual style is like a multi-car pileup of the 20th century. I guess it's just as well seeing as how the world has become some tower where everyone at the bottom digs in mines and salvages for scraps of Earth's history while everyone at the top obsesses with creationism and art. Somewhere along the lines we expect to hear something profound that leaves us questioning our beliefs or heck at least something absurdly pretentious.

This is a Tri-ace RPG though so we are more likely to expect a goofy scene involving the female protagonist in a bath. For a team that has been around since the days of the Super Famicom one would think they could write a story that wasn't completely ridiculous but here we are once again. A better writer may have been able to successfully pull of the storyline but instead we spend a good thirty to forty hours in the dark and merely take in the sights and the game itself until someone feels it necessary to tell us what exactly is going on. In fact even at fifty-five hours and just shy of the end of the game I still can't tell you what the deal is with everyone.

The design of the world is some sort of geometric fantasy. The overworld is handled somewhat like the Shin Megami Tensei games where the player moves a cursor around to various locations. Though rather than showing semblance of a living, breathing world, Tri-ace chose to have every bit of land represented in the shape of a hexagon. Nearly the entire overworld is locked away and the player progresses by finding hexel-pieces which serve as keys. It's a different approach and I like it because many pieces of land happen to have treasure buried along with them. It's not uncommon to find some glasses, maybe some hair-dye, or something really useful like a bezel shard. Through the usage of terminals the player can also add extra effects that may give them the edge like double-fire damage or higher drop-rates. These require colored-hexes to work properly and due to the way the game-world is structured not all of them can be used at once. Still it is unique and that's worth a bit of credit.

The other shape that this game obsesses over is the triangle. The player's party is introduced in the first few minutes and keeping them together is an integral aspect of the battle system. Vashyron is the standard protector of justice, older man, and pervert of the Japanese RPG. Zephyr is the young man with the dark past. Finally there's Leanne who is the young lady of mystery. From the beginning the party has nearly all of the tools that will last them the rest of the game. Nobody is left behind in this game since if one character dies in battle the game immediately ends. Furthermore while their roles can be shifted easily they are all essential to mastering the battle-system.

The first thing anyone should do when starting this game is immediately head to the tutorial arena. The battle-system is a sheer cliff wall compared to many of the RPGs we've been seeing lately and the penalties for even the simplest mistakes can be huge. To start with our three heroes depend on the hero gauge for survival. This meter is featured prominently in the battle-screen and at the start everyone must make do with a mere three bezels. Since our heroes come equipped with guns the obvious idea is to run up to something and shoot it. What's obvious isn't what's effective in this case though since as the player runs enemies will be moving as well and preparing for attack. The player-characters are given only so much room to run with and will be left at the mercy of the enemy if they don't have a plan. Furthermore weapons are several times more effective when the player is close to an enemy so aggressive behavior is encouraged.

Getting aggressive in this game requires an extra surge of energy, something that allows us to perform heroic actions when naturally we should be unable to. That's right it's all about the hero gauge. With the push of a button the player can decide what location they can run to whether its the safety of cover, away from a major attack, or to simply ruin some creature's day. Performing this command costs a bezel but these can be replenished easily by a number of factors. Since the heroes of Fate are effectively extending themselves beyond their boundaries using up all of their bezels reduces them to quivering, weak, and most unfortunately frail chumps who will be killed off unless something miraculous happens.

As expected the enemies aren't going to be content with sitting around waiting for the player to show up. Damage is handled in a different fashion as most damage done by enemies is called "scratch-damage". Scratch damage is sort of like when the player gets shot in a modern first-person-shooter. Health is lost but it can be recovered over time(or in Fate's case, healed with a medkit). However when the party goes into critical mode or someone gets poisoned the scratch damage converts to real damage and that isn't easily recovered. The old adage of picking one's battles has rarely been more important as knowing which enemies to keep from attacking is necessary for survival.

Since everyone is capable of using every tool at their disposal winning battles is all about effective placement, knowing weaknesses, and offering a balanced party-build. Machine-guns are the damage-dealers in this game though like the enemies they can only do scratch-damage. The player can also choose to carry a magazine box that houses all sorts of different ammo-types to work with whether the enemy needs to be frozen, shocked, or blown up just a little bit quicker. Hand-guns make for the perfect follow-up as while they are weak they can finish enemies off and perform a handful of other tasks. Grenades offer a bit of both in that they can do the direct-damage while offering status effects like fire which adds bonus scratch damage or poison. The medkit is the basic catch-all for every possible healing or status-effecting item around. The things to keep in mind here however is that each party-member can only hold two of these tools at any time and only one person can be a grenade-tosser, healer, or magazine-holder. They can also choose to be a dual wielder. Sure someone can't uses a machine-gun and a hand-gun at the same time but they can alternate or just focus on one or the other for more damage or greater versatility. All of the weapons can be leveled up which adds to the player's health, allows them to carry more weight, and gives weapon-specific skills that trigger via charge-time. So rather than just shooting the enemy a bunch of times with weak attacks the player can hero-run by until they build up to an especially powerful attack with a lot of bonus modifiers like extra damage or piercing effects to get through enemies with a lot of armor.

Above-all winning is about team-work. By using the hero gauge effectively the party can build up a little something called Resonance. This is done simply by hero-running in-between two other party-members. Sometimes it takes a bit of work as the battlegrounds tend to be a lot more than just flat-surfaces and Resonance is lost as simply as walking but with at least three charges magic can be made. When Resonance is prepped the party can perform a tri-attack where the three of them move in a triangle and attack at about the same time. This means the heavy machine-gun damage can be capitalized on immediately and over time this can either turn tables or just completely ruin the enemy party. It takes time to master but it gets results.

It's a lot to absorb like any good Tri-ace game the results are always worth it. Special abilities like the bonus-shot allow the player to do huge amounts of damage to helpless foes while smackdown attacks shake up the enemies with lots of extraneous parts. There are also many situations where effective positioning can lead to players taking multiple enemies out of commission with one attack or even going entire battles without so much as a scratch. As a bonus fans of enemy-parts and money will find tons of both through effective playing. This game has perhaps one of the best battle systems real-time or turn-based. There aren't hundreds of skills or dozens of playable characters and there certainly aren't shotguns or rocket launchers but somehow it's just so effective with the basic functions it's consistently satisfying.

Still let's talk about the sort of stuff I like to see in games. Shooting enemies is great and all but when it comes down to it I for whatever reason just love to mess with numbers and junk. All of the guns are fully-customizable and this opens up one of the sillier systems I've seen in an RPG. Each gun has various spots where attachments can be snapped on and there are many parts to find as well as build from scraps. The only real limits are that the pieces fit. There's really nothing stopping the player from tacking five barrels, four scopes, and a few hand-guards on their gun. Some people may question the usefulness of this but eh it adds to the weapon's strength and that is what matters most.

More important to myself however is the dress-up mode. Like I said way back in the in the beginning every one up top is obsessed with art and by extension fashion. With each new chapter the possibility exists that more clothes will be unlocked. For the most part these fall under one of two types of outfits but that's enough for me since I just love color-coordinating and wearing something different every couple hours. This is probably due to my real-life consisting of wearing a pizza-delivery uniform everyday to work so I have to live vicariously through videogames to get my fix of being able to wear different clothes.

Despite being near the end of the game it's still far from over. In the great Tri-ace tradition there is a bonus dungeon and additional difficulties to tackle. Although as with other traditions the harder difficulties just seem to be dramatic stat-boosts for the enemy. This game has also triggered that sort of addiction to a game that's either really good or really terrible. I love this game and everything but there are those nights I try to fall asleep and all I can think about is scratch-damage, wondering why I can't finish off some bad-guys, and so on. In fact I had just recovered from some all-nighter session that is making me question my sensibilities. I should probably quit this game while I'm behind but it's just too darn good and I still have so far to go.

So really I can't guarantee you'll take to this game like I do. It's for the best anyway since you could die or something from playing the game so much instead of sleeping. If I'm going to die in the middle of something it had better be something impressive and worth dying over, not playing some RPG with a nonsensical storyline but an absolutely perfect battle-system. Going further I'd say that this review shouldn't even exist because I should be asleep. There's really nothing else I can say so here's the score and I'm out of here.

Game rating - 4.5 out of 5 stars
My rating - 4.5 out of 5 stars

No comments:

Post a Comment