Tri-Ace has stepped up again to bring us there next slice of brilliance, resonance of Fate.
Experience a very distinctive journey with Zephyr, Vashyron and Leanne in this eccentric styled RPG and with addictive layered grid maps to unlock, acrobatic gun battles and heaps of original customization Tri-Ace is looking in good stead to resurrect that 90’s JRPG vibe some of us have been pinning for.
Advanced warning to you, the game doesn’t ease you into the natural rhythm of the gameplay and set-up like other titles may. It does show you an interesting intro scene consisting of some obscure but clever hints revolving round the story and just narrowly explaining why the Rof world is the way it is. For a game of this generation it still has a very blunt start, something I haven’t seen in a while and normally associated as a problem with past titles. It has a very prominent older gothic heritage when you start playing, this and the fact that I experienced a difficulty spike from the start of the game seems to me that RoF’s difficulty of gameplay is aimed and based a little higher than usual for a game of this generation. This doesn’t mean its “Faulty” or “broken” it means you may (heaven forbid) have to search around yourself as everything isn’t spoon fed or shown to you, this is a refurbished revitalized type of RPG from the past, or from the East currently.
I’ve seen certain elements and trends come and go in Video Game series’ and in studios themselves but I didn’t think I’d get these old school visuals and gameplay delivered in a forgotten but familiar structure so soon after the new 22nd century movement of Video Games had arrived and had time to grow. As you start playing RoF you will feel a little lost and probably bemused by the whole set-up of menus and the small town you start in but this will soon pass in the ten minutes you will spend just running around. The style of the architecture is something to notice too, it isn’t all neatly placed and perfect it actually looks like some strange ancient village with steam technology powering towns. You do get the impression the game is from a more realistic direction where magic doesn’t really exist, it’s all about actual things to do and not whimsical journeys into the unknown – you shoot to kill.
When you start a new game for the first time you’ll notice for a game that hasn’t had much hype the cut-scenes look finely detailed and creative, giving you a small but alluring spark to keep you enjoying the story telling throughout. The game is also separated into chapters and your first will obviously be the prologue. You’ll start outside your cool rustic looking house in the town of Edel with your three characters (only your party leader will be shown) As you go to walk into town a man will approach you and give a vague hint at what your life style is about – you basically complete the odd quest or mission to support yourself. The game does try and portray adventuring around like that, it tries to get across more human aspects of life or highlight them within its more logical story telling boundaries compared to more whimsical and magical RPG’s.
The world around you like battlegrounds and towns/city’s seems very dull and gray – reds, blues and greens stand out but some of the smaller detail or shading will be lost in the very dull look Tri-Ace have gone with. This look does generally suit the feel of the game and its gameplay elements but this dull vial can hold back some of the excitement or emotion in the more epic situations. There’s alot going on within town and city’s which is interesting when you visit them and the dialogue from ordinary characters will change chapter to chapter and isn’t too mundane. You will be doing most of this before you even start to wonder how to fight, never mind anything else and I’d suggest you do it that way so you can get a solid feel for the games details and constraints.
After this initial slow start you will find the guild building and shops, the missions aren’t amazing in the prologue chapter but are easy enough to help you into the swing of combat. After you have found the bill board and picked up some quests you will notice a pointer above certain characters heads, this is when they are part of your mission so look out for when the cursors turn red. You will have to find the person who wants the mission done first and talk to them to pick up a couple of hints in the dialogue as the game leaves you to figure everything out at your own pace. This was quite a big surprise as normally games just cut out these parts known as “useless dialogue” these parts actually get you to do what every gamer used to HAVE to do back in the day, and that’s searching for clues or hints to missions.
When you talk to the first guy outside the guild he will explain how the outside world works. The world map is composed of hexes; these hexes need to basically be restored so you can cross them. To do this you will need to fight enemies to acquire these hexes, hexes also come in different colours and formations so a puzzle element can be added or incorporated straight away. This creates a much more enjoyable experience when your exploring as you will have to unlock areas you need to get to and when you place your hexes over locked ones you can sometimes uncover items. You may think that this sounds very time consuming and boring but it progresses in the same way you would levelling up (which you still do). Tri-Ace have also added passing time in the outside world which will be explained in the same conversation, there’s a bar at the bottom of the screen depicting whether it’s night or day – townspeople locations and enemies conditions differ from night to day. You can check over this information in your Manual but your manual isn’t in the normal menu screen for the game it’s on the pause screen.
After some, what it seems like studying the rules of the game the same guy will direct you to the arena just outside the town. You can’t do much here at the moment but you can go through the combat system and learn the basics. You can learn more advances techniques but its best to just learn them vaguely then practice them when you’re actually fighting outside as the combat system is quite lively and intricate at times and will take time to master.
When you do first start fighting don’t be intimidated by how much you can do, if you’ve learnt the basics at the arena you should feel ready to at least lose your first fight. The combat has a mix of elements including real time but that’s only triggered when you move so you have time to come up with a strategies or just plan your next attack. You will start the battle with you three chosen characters and enemies’ characters in formation on the battleground. Each side will then take turns attacking depending on the distance and charge rate, soon as you move they will so make sure you’re ready. You can switch between the three characters at anytime just remember there is the time element there so the more you switch the more time the enemies gets to charge or move freely. Attacking is simple you just press A and watch the circle of the crosshair swing round to charge (further away the longer it will take). You can let this circle around a few times if your level is high enough causing more bullets to be fired, resulting in more damage. There are certain rules to the combat which make it stand out too, you have to cause scratch damage first which is shown in blue on yours and the enemies health bar (shown at the top left of the screen) then attack with a character that causes damage. You can equip your characters with whatever weapon you want – scratch or damage (red or blue) but if you just attack with damage causing weapons without scratching enemies first you will take off tiny bits of life and cause them to recharge quicker. Sounds a little complicated but that is only the basics, there is also the Hero Gauge which you use for more powerful chain attacks.
The Hero Gauge is displayed at the bottom of your screen in combat and consists of little jewels, these little jewels are called bezels and when these are filled they can be used to execute attacks and also track the condition of your party. If the Hero Gauge ends up empty you will be forced into a condition critical which is very bad news, you will lose shards of your bezel gauge over the ground and you will take red damage from that point on, not scratch damage. As long as one bezel remains your party will only sustain scratch damage, get hit too many times or fail attacks and you will lose your bezels. To get them back you must reduce an enemy’s health to zero, this will recover your gauge by one and will bring you back from the critical condition, just remember you’re very weak if this happens and your characters will become quivering messes that take off less damage, and it’s quite amusing actually. To use a bezel to attack press X and bring up your cursor, position it to anchor your destination (think attacking in lines) Press X again to begin moving. When your character starts to move you can do one of three things, A – attack, X – jump or B- stop. These three things will help you plan round your environment as you can hit things which will bring you to a quick stop and bring your attack to an early end, you can also power up bezel attacks by lining up you direction of attack between your other two characters. When you achieve all this comfortably it gets very enjoyable as you can enjoy the crazy flips while shooting and posing, not only that but you will learn more advance techniques and start to really enjoy what you pick up from continuous battles. You can also build up momentum by scratching many enemies and then using your secondary weapons, when you can achieve this stage of progress it will open up again offering you a world of different possibilities within the game and will give you a richer gameplay experience compared to developers who concentrate on other lesser elements too much like visuals or cut-scenes.
There’s a couple of ways you can find combat, it’s not just in the obvious outside places but combat does make another appearances in certain buildings or areas. When you enter a building or special area on the outside map you will enter a different mode, there will be a smaller map with more detail on it from there you will find the area you’ll need or if there isn’t you will be on foot as if you where fighting. When you’re on foot in an area you will be given a map to guide you through this smaller puzzle, it’s like layers upon layers or hex like puzzles and areas. When you get into the middle of the game the missions become better quality and rise noticeably in difficulty, the gameplay is balanced very well in the middle not only giving you more in the combat department but offering you some unique customisation opportunities too, giving you more hours for your buck.
Once you become submerged in this addictive puzzle like world you’ll notice some of the finer details, like power stations. Power stations can be found scattered over the world map and if you link multiple locked hexes with coloured hexes and connect them to the power stations you can cause certain bonus to appear on those hexes like Rare Item drop Rate x2. You can also customise weapons by purchasing or creating add-ons for your weapons such as Compact Scopes, Handgaurds, Top Sights and much more along with a huge amount of clothes to purchase and find. You can create items in the items/weapons store with the array of strange materials you will find from fights to help you progress and get a bit of satisfaction from it too. You can equip items but not as many as you think, just your weapons, your secondary weapons and two accessories slots. The rest of the games smaller features are to do with the menu system, they’ve simplified everything and made more basic which is ultimately easier but it does seem a bit too simple, more on the side of there’s some stuff missing. This lack of love for the small parts of the game does show to the point where it becomes a negative thing, though I love everything RoF has offered me I still miss what I buy an RPG for and that’s lots of things to collect, menus of info and skills to read through and more items to customise with.
Part of the fun in a RPG is the extra things you can do, RoF does have these extra things but because of its different set-up from the beginning like the interesting map design and combat system it doesn’t have as much as you would like. It does have alot of interesting things to do in game and gets you to play differently but you get an indefinite feel of your being led through the game in a linear fashion because of the obvious story. This becomes a bigger problem in certain parts of the game like at the end of chapters, you can’t go back and complete past missions you can only do them in that chapter, which does dampen your spirits a little. There’s also a lack of missions to complete though you’re encouraged to go out and gain hexes and items I missed having some sort of direction or point to the exploring.
RoF just missed perfection and took a small dive right past it – it has some unique selling points with its addictive map design and had an identifiable look from other RPG’s. It’s great to see such creativity shinning through especially as games like this have alot of other games to get past just to be noticed for what it actually is, alot of cool old RPG stuff dusted off. The fact that there are definite weak spots in the game don’t help sell its better aspects, it’s a good job they can pretty much sell themselves. The refurbished initiative combat style works incredibly well and has certain aspects I know gamers will love but it’s a damn shame that the game never looks after you enough to get the most out of it. It really does feel like you’re just playing the game it doesn’t make any or no effort to communicate with you or give you a chance to get to know it. This is a huge shame as that could have been the key to making it truly unforgettable game as it defiantly reminds me of a better time when these types of ideas and games flourished.