Resonance of Fate
It’s like Christmas for the lovers of Japanese role playing games. The last couple of weeks there’s been a flood of titles in the genre big enough to last the rest of the year in game time. Those without a life that have already finished Star Ocean: The Last Hope, White Knight Chronicles and Final Fantasy XIII can now get going with Tri-Ace’s latest, Resonance of Fate.
The story of Resonance of Fate plays in a distant future. Humanity didn’t listen to the all the ecologists and polluted Earth in such a way that it became completely inhabitable. Therefore construction of the floating city of Basel was started. Throughout time, waiting for Earth to be cleaned up, true cities were formed in the mechanical tower and everything started leading its own life. The machines created to fight pollution were forgotten and and slowly also the tower started to wither. This is seen in the gruesome mutations in the lower classes of the population, living in the lower levels.
Here the three main characters, Vasheron, Zephyr and Leanne, arrive on stage. As player you take control over this team of bounty hunters, fight the different monsters, and try to get the machines repaired. The story can at the least be called good thanks to some surprising plot twists and the necessary dose of humour, but it isn’t as epic or memorable like the one from Final Fantasy VII. But have we seen anything better in the last 10 years?
The story is divided into 16 chapters where you fulfil different missions which often result in fights that having action bursting from the screen. Those that want to explore the Steampunk world more can do this through the worldmpa that’s built up from hexagons. Of course not all areas are accessible from the start. The closed hexagons can only be opened by placing an “Energy Hex” on them which are earnt by defeating different enemies. Next to that certain areas are locked with a certain color and you’ll need to defeat NPCs in combat or accept missions that progress the storyline to free these up. Thanks to this system you get the impression that you’re walking around in a free world, but still the developers manage to push the story down your throat.
Those that want to explore everything will have to exploit their puzzle talents and use each hexagon in optimal way. Another strong point is the combat system which is a complex hybrid between real-time and turn-based form and contains a lot of rules while you control one character every turn. The moment your character moves you start using up action points and as long as you move, your opponent will do so too. Pause and he will pause as well while you can review your strategy. Do keep in mind that when the enemy attacks first this can lead to an abrupt end of your attack.
Attacks are divided into two methods: standard and “Hero Actions”. The first allows to aim at a target and perform an attack while the latter lets you plot a route beforehand which you go through at high pace while taking hostiles under fire. You only stop when you collide with an object or reach the end of the combat area.
Hero Actions eat up the most important material, Bezels, in the game. These are collected by defeating enemies or chopping off parts of them like an arm or their legs. The concept behind these Bezels is highly strategic due to their limited nature and being without them also strongly weakens your entire team due to the inability to perform all actions often results in game over.
Just like with attacks there are two types of damage: direct from handguns and throwable weapons, and “scratch” from machine guns. The first does damage that cannot be repaired, while the latter does more damage but with a non-lasting effect. The idea is to do as much damage with “scratch” and then finish it off quickly with a direct attack that delivers permanent damage.
to make things more difficult the combat also has a Tri-Attack, a combination that can only be activated under certain circumstances. This is for instance by running between the other two friendly characters during a Hero Action which gives you a Resonance point that can be spent on a Tri-Attack. During such action all three characters will perform an attack on the selected target with as result a decent package of damage points being dealt to the enemy.
In line with the combat system is the vast possibility to adjust weapons and clothing for the characters. Weapons can have different parts like visors or barrels that add to the damage they deal but clothing will only give you better looks. They’re still a nice treat though, as all cut-scenes will feature your characters exactly as you’ve dressed them up.
The depth of the gameplay unfortunately is in high contrast with the looks of the game. The clothing and characters look nice and have plenty of detail, but the surroundings are empty and can hardly be any uglier. The voice work is at times really great, but seconds later you’ll be wondering what the hell they’re saying. Not really consequent and it’s clear the polishing was out of juice after finishing the entire combat system.
Next to the disappointing graphics and audio we also have some other remarks. The learning curve for combat is way too steep due to an almost completely absent tutorial. Ok, there’s one present but it’s so limited that you don’t really learn anything you couldn’t discover yourself. Especially the fact that all the important aspects which make the combat so good are not present in the tutorial make it almost useless.
Despite some shortcomings Resonance of Fate is certainly worth a try for the hardcore J-RPG fan. The combat system is unique and innovative in the world of RPGs, but a bit complicated which makes it tough for the general public. Next to that the presentation is far from finished, the graphics below standard, the voices varying in quality and the story not really overwhelming. Resonance of Fate could have been a great game thanks to its well-thought of innovations, but now remains standing in the shadow of other top titles.