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Game Review: Resonance of Fate

Resonance of Fate (or End of Eternity for the Japanese version) is a very different RPG.  Even more different from most of its companion JRPGs, which is really saying something if you know anything about JRPGs.  And I don’t mean “different” as in weird, which JRPGs can certainly be, but different as in unique.  Resonance of Fate is unique in its gameplay, setting & story.  Most sources give it moderately positive reviews.  It probably averages around 75%.  So does its uniqueness work to its advantage or disadvantage?

Hope you brought your bulletproof vest

RoF is set in the futuristic steampunk world of Basel.  Hundreds of years before the game starts, humanity built Basel to purify the air of a poison that nearly wiped out all life.  They also built a device called Zenith, which tied their lives to quartz stones.  This saved them from mutations, but gives them a set lifespan.  Over time people began to live in Basel & forgot completely about a world existing outside the machine.  They came to revere Zenith as a god.  The game follows three Hunters, adventurers-for-hire, Vashyron, Zephyr & Leanne.   These three are tied together by the fact that they should all be dead but continue to live.  They hire their services to the aristocratic Cardinals who live at the top of Basel.  These missions range from killing the giant mechanical tortoise destroying the power plant, to crashing another Cardinal’s wedding, to delivering Christmas presents.  Each chapter ends once this main mission is completed, but there are other side mission to complete for money or items.  As the story progresses, the Hunters become unwillingly dragged into a war between two men: one who wants to control god & the other who wants to abandon god.

(left to right) Zehpyr, Vashyron & Leanne

(left to right) Zehpyr, Vashyron & Leanne

The gameplay is what really stands out in this game.  Combat is both turn-based & real-time.  The combat is a bit too complicated for me to explain completely here, but I’ll try to give an abbreviated version.  Combat is gun-based.  You have access to machine guns, pistols & grenades.  Machine guns create scratch damage.  This damage builds up quickly, but it won’t kill an enemy & recovers over time.  Pistols & grenades create direct damage.  This damage builds up slowly but can kill an enemy.  In order to do the most damage, you have to use machine guns to scratch an enemy, followed by pistols to permanently harm them.  For example, if your machine gun does 10 points of scratch damage followed by a pistol, it will automatically convert that to 10 points of direct damage.  During combat you have three types of attacks available: Hero actions, tri-attacks & regular attacks.  Regular attacks include moving your character around the battlefield & single attacks.  Hero actions are what you’ll use the most.  They allow you to move along a path while attacking multiple times, & also make you invulnerable.  Hero actions use up bezel gauges, which can be replenished by taking out enemies or doing enough damage.  Once you run out of bezel, you enter Critical Mode.  All damage done to your character is direct & you can only use regular attacks.  Tri-attacks are your most powerful attacks.  You can use these by using Hero actions that cross.  Once you’ve crossed at least two Hero runs, a tri-attack allows all three characters to attack in sequence & heals scratch damage.

I can’t highly recommend enough to play through the tutorial and the battle arena.  This will go a long way in helping you learn the combat.

Aside from the combat, gameplay is your standard RPG.  The only things that are unique are the customization and world map.  The only thing to really spend your money on is clothing & gun upgrades.  There’s a long list of clothing items to buy for each character, including hair dyes & colored contacts.  Pieces can be bought for your guns to increase magazine size, charge speed, damage, etc.  The grid for customization allows for some crazy combinations!  You’ll also gain energy hexes during combat to unlock areas in the world map.

Narrative: It takes a while for the main story to really get going.  But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  The first part of the game is building up the relationship between the characters.  It’s the relationship between them that really makes the main plot later in the game believable.  The Hunters & their Cardinal patrons all have unique & entertaining personalities.  The game really has a sense of humor & genuinely made me laugh.

Each mission is different, & not just the goal.  Sometimes you have all three Hunters, other you only have two, & sometimes you only have one.  It can seem a bit spastic at times, but it’s always moving towards a singular endpoint.  My only real complaint is the ending.  It left me without a sense of real closure.  Although the heroes survive, the enemies aren’t really defeated.  I’m not sure if they’re planning a sequel or not.  Score: 4

So... what calibur is your gun?

So… what caliber is your gun?

Mechanics: As I said before, the gameplay is the real selling point of this game.  It’s a love it or hate it type of thing.  The combat system can take a while to fully understand, but once you get it I think there’s something for everyone to enjoy.  It has enough turn-based to appeal to traditionalists, enough real-time for the action enthusiast, & enough strategy for strategists.  It’s very satisfying pulling a tri-attack & decimated your enemies.  The only real problem I had in terms of gameplay is that, like most JRPGs, it can be very grind-heavy.  If you want to not struggle through the main missions, you have to grind.  The arena is the best for this.  But it does stall the game a bit.  On the plus side, you can always restart difficult fights… if you’re willing to pay the money.  There is sort of an exploration aspect as well.  It’s a bit weird having to “unlock” paths on the map, but doing so can give you lots of nice loot.  And I was surprised at how addicting it can be suping-up your guns can be.  You can achieve some ridiculous firepower, but it’s oh-so-satisfying.  Score: 4

Hero runs can be very acrobatic

Hero runs can be very acrobatic

Aesthetics: Sadly, the visuals aren’t as groundbreaking as the gameplay.  While the characters are nicely animated, the environment can get a bit bland.  Although the grays & browns help lend to the steampunk feel of the game, most of the backgrounds look the same, especially during combat.  Also, the world map isn’t that interesting to look at, which is a shame since you’ll spend a lot of time there.  Combat movement is very stylish, however.  Sliding along the ground or flipping through the air lends to the action movie feel.  The audio is a bit better.  The music is nice & matches the level.  The voiceacting is also good.  There weren’t any awkward translations like you sometimes get in Japanese games.  Score: 3

Replay Value: Average.  You can only play on Normal during your initial playthrough, but afterwards you unlock Game+ mode & increasing difficulties (Hard, Advanced, Professional, Hurt Me Plenty, Ultimate & Supremacy).  If you play on the same difficulty you retain all your items.  You can keep leveling up no matter the difficulty.  There’s also a hidden level & boss that you can only reach after you’ve beaten the game.  Score: 3

Breakdown

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Overall Score: 4

Final Word: If you like JRPGS, steampunk worlds, or are willing to try something new, I recommend this game.  If you don’t have the patience to learn the combat or just like to fly to the end of a game, you probably won’t enjoy this one.

Game Title: Resonance of Fate (End of Eternity)
Console: 360 & PS3
Rating: T
Developer: tri-Ace
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: March 16, 2010
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Filed under 4, PS3, Reviews, RPG, XBox 360

Game Review: Dragon Age II

I recently finished this behemoth of a game & have already started a 2nd playthrough.  That should sum up my opinion of this game.  But there has been some mixed reviews about Dragon Age II.  While all the reviews I’ve seen rank it positively, some people aren’t happy with some of the changes BioWare made.  If there’s one thing I admire about BioWare, it’s that they don’t rest on what has worked in the past.  They’re not afraid to try new things.  Of course, the risk in trying new things is that they don’t always work, or that people will simply prefer the way things were before.  So what are the changes, & do they work?

Dragon Age 2

Now with 50% more dragons

Dragon Age II is, obviously, a sequel to Dragon Age: Origins & Awakenings (which I plan to review later).  You can import the choices from your Origins game over, which will affect certain characters or quests that become available.  But don’t worry if you haven’t played Origins yet (though why you’d play 2 before 1 makes no sense).  There are three pre-set histories you can select.   In this sequel, you play as Hawke, a refugee from the previous Blight who flees Lothering with their family before it’s destroyed in the first game.  Hawke moves to Kirkwall & eventually becomes the Champion.  The game is broken up into 4 acts.  The Prologue is Hawke’s escape from Lothering.  Act 1 focuses on Hawke trying to earn money to go on an expedition into the Deep Roads to make their fortune.  Act 2 focuses on the rising turmoil with the Qunari.  Act 3 focuses on the rising tension between the mages & templars.  This is the overarching plot of the game, although it isn’t really focused on until the final act.

default Hawke

Default male & female Hawke

Many gameplay aspects have been streamlined.  Like before, you can make your character male or female & customize their appearance.  You can also choose between warrior, rogue & mage.  But you’re only allowed to be a human, instead of choosing a race like the last game.  Combat is much more action-oriented, & attempts have been made to balance the classes.  Warriors are the powerhouse of the team, specializing in either a weapon & shield or two-handed weapon.  Rogues are the only class who can pick locks & disarm traps, & specialize in dual-wielding or archery.  Mages have access to a wide range of spells to both destroy & support.  The inventory has also been streamlined.  Your companions now have their own armor, which you can’t change but can upgraded.  Speaking of companions, the approval system has been replaced with a Friendship/Rivalry system.  Companions have views & opinions on your actions.  Siding with their views will gain you friendship while disagreeing will gain you rivalry.  However, rivalry isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It simply affects the nature of your relationship & your dialogue options.  Also, there are four romanceable companions, & they can be romanced regardless of your character’s gender.

Important Note!  I don’t have any downloadable content with this game.  Therefore I can’t review any content related to “The Exiled Prince” or “The Black Emporium.”

Narrative: If there’s one thing BioWare knows how to do, it’s write a story.  The plot is smart & well-paced.  Some people complain that there isn’t enough focus in the game.  Although the main theme is the battle between mages & templars, this doesn’t really come into play until the final act.  You don’t even meet the main antagonist until the end of the second act.  However, I think the game does a good job of slowly building up the tension between the two factions.  They don’t just throw you right in the middle of the war.  It takes time to examine how the war began.  During the first two acts you face the mage v. templar problem over several quests.   To me, DA2 is the story of an ordinary person who, due to circumstances, find themselves involved in something much bigger than themselves.  And personally, I love stories like that.  But I do agree with others that the ending leaves the game feeling more like an interlude between games rather than a full-blown sequel.  I also like that regardless of who you side with, you’re character isn’t necessarily “evil.”  Both mages & templars are portrayed in an ambiguous way, where some are good & some are bad.  It’s a matter of viewpoint who you decide to support.  But plot preferences aside, dialogue is well-written & acted.  BioWare left the party banter, which adds to the immersion of the game.  However, there is less interaction between Hawke & your companions between quests, which is a shame because there are some great personalities here.  In general I found the companions in DA2 more likeable than the ones in the first game.  Score: 4

prologue

This is not a dragon you get to fight

Gameplay: As I stated before, Dragon Age II is much more action-oriented.  I’ve only played on the 360 so I can’t speak for the PC version, but people have complained that the game is a button-masher.  This isn’t completely inaccurate.  In Origins, you selected a target & pressed A once to attack, occasionally adding a special move.  In DA2, you have to press A each time you want to attack.  If you’re dual-wielding, this can become rather hectic.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for strategy.  You can take control of any party member you want, & now you don’t have to spend points to unlock tactic slots.  You gain slots with each level, & you can come up with some elaborate tactics.  Really, whether you like the new structure depends on what type of game you prefer.  If you’re a strategy buff you’ll probably be disappointed.  The Friend/Rival system is also an improvement.  Even with maxed out  rivalry, companions won’t abandon you.  You can also romance rivals.  It just changes the relationship dynamic.  Another complaint is that you visit the same locations over & over again.  While the game is more hub-based, the locations change each act, so they don’t look completely the same.  If you think about it, DAO didn’t have a huge number of locations.  I think it’s just because you seem to stay in a smaller area that it feels more confined.  I also enjoyed the streamlined skill progression, as it allows you to really customize your characters’ skills & abilities.  Score: 4

arishock

The new Qunari design

Aesthetics: There are several noticeable graphic changes.  Characters seem more slender in general, which I like (although this might be due to playing a game designed for HD on a non-HD tv).  The Elves & Qunari look much different in DA2.  Elves aren’t as short, have more angular faces & pointed ears (& all speak in a New Zealand accent).  Qunari look extremely different, with horns & dark eyes.  My only complaint about the graphics is that the text is hard to read if you’re not on an HD tv.  Audio is also well-done.  I didn’t notice any new music, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  The voiceacting is excellent all around.  I especially have to give credit to Jo Wyatt (female Hawke), Brian Bloom (Varric) & Gideon Emery (Fenris).  Score: 5

Replay Value: Very high.  There’s something new to try with each playthrough.  If you wanted to play through every combination of class, romance option & templar/mage, that’s 24 playthroughs!  You probably won’t play it that much, but with all the options, plus the downloadable content, DA2 has a high replay value.  Score: 5

Breakdown

untitled

Overall Score: 5

Final Word: If you enjoy fantasy, RPG’s, or games with good stories, this is a definite buy.  Even I can’t say whether it’s better than Origins.  There are some parts I like better & some parts I think Origins did better.  Regardless of whether you think it’s better than the first, Dragon Age II is still a great game.  Just be aware that if you’re a strategy fan you’ll be disappointed in the combat.

– GamerDame

Game Title: Dragon Age II
Console: 360, PS3, PC
Rating: M
Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: March 8, 2011

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Filed under 5, PC, Reviews, RPG, XBox 360