|System: Wii, PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Sting||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atlus||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: April 8, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
It's a real pity that there are so many parts of Baroque that don't work because the title also features some innovations for the dungeon-crawling sub-genre. For example, rather than having a simple life meter of HP, you've got two life meters: one with your traditional HP and one with your vitality. Vitality is what matters because as long as it's full, your HP meter will continue to refill itself. But if you let your vitality fall -- and it will on its own just from walking around -- then your HP will begin to decrease as well. What do you do? Kill stuff. Killing enemies will replenish your vitality, and in so doing adds a neat little strategy to the game. In most traditional RPGs, you avoid enemies when you're low on health. But in Baroque, you do exactly the opposite -- the game features no healing items, and this is a neat way to force you into combat and ensure that you don't breeze through the tower. On the other hand, being forced to fight doesn't sound so great when the controls you'll use for fighting feel awkward and poorly conceived.
Aside from the control scheme, the hack-and-slash gameplay of Baroque is fairly fun, if repetitive. Combat is standard, and you're already well-prepared if you've played such games as Final Fantasy XII on the PS2. You'll find weapons, armor, and other accoutrements scattered throughout Neuro Tower which you can naturally use on your character. Additionally, you'll even come into contact with what are called Parasites; these can then be bound with your weapons to create even more powerful items. Again, it's a neat system that helps relieve the potential tedium of a dungeon crawler; however, it's overshadowed by the fact that this game is generally not fun to play.
Baroque's graphics are about what you'd expect from your standard PS2 title. There are several games out there that look a lot better, but there are also many that look worse -- there's not a lot to complain about here, to be honest. That said, the art direction is well-done, and the dark, death-themed surroundings mesh perfectly with the overall tone of the game. The music is also done well, featuring a quality soundtrack and (surprisingly) relatively good voice acting. Atlus is well-known for releasing polished games, and Baroque is no exception; it's just too bad that the developers didn't focus some of that attention on creating a better-playing game rather than a better-looking one.
Despite all of its problems, there are still a few redeeming aspects that hardcore hack-and-slash RPG fans may appreciate. It's a really tough game with decent replay value, and while the controls are poorly done, there's no denying the potential that Baroque has. It's unfortunate that a game with this much promise turned out to be a rather poor title. Let's just hope that Atlus and Sting have learned something from this outing and produce a much better RPG sometime in the near future. Until then, though, most people are going to want to avoid Baroque.
CCC Freelance Writer