|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Tri-Ace||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 17, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Bill Wiemann
January 28, 2010 - Tri-Ace, most widely known for their work on Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile, has teamed up with SEGA to bring the world a new take on the typical JRPG. Calling upon industrial themes, a semi-active battle system, high-tempo action, and some heavy firepower, Resonance of Fate looks to appeal to a large swath of gamers.
Known as End of Eternity in Japan, Resonance of Fate (RoF) is the latest RPG from renowned developer Tri-Ace. This time, however, rather than recounting a high fantasy tale dependent upon swords and sorcery, RoF takes place in a dystopian future Earth where man's last bastion of civilization is imperiled by the very machine that keeps society alive. Taking up more traditional firearms, the party of mercenaries will perform amazing feats of agility and acrobatics as they solve the mysteries of Basel.
The story is set in the far future. The environment of the world has been seriously compromised over the millennia by misuse and unnatural blights. Consequently, humans cannot live outside the superstructure known as Basel - more or less an ark for humanity. Within Basel there is a strict hierarchy. The Cardinal ruling class lives in the upper suites, while the middle and lower classes struggle with their station in life because there is no chance for one to even mingle with high society let alone move up to a higher order.
Enter the party of player characters. These three protagonists are from the middle class and have recently taken to running errands and missions for people. Due to some as-yet-unrevealed events, these three members of the bourgeoisie end up becoming important mercenaries for all walks of society. Through their exploits they will eventually be made aware of some of the darker secrets of Basel. As it turns out, the edifice all of humanity depends on has an almost supernatural ability of watching over its inhabitants. In fact, Basel actually manipulates the lives and destinies of individuals to fit its shadowy goals.
Necessarily, the setting of the game takes place within the limits of Basel. But, thanks to the enormous size of the superstructure, that's more than enough real estate for gamers to get their dungeon-crawl on. What confining the players to indoor environments really does is allow the devs to give the game a decidedly industrial look and stratify the various environments in a controlled way. Rather than bringing the traditional high fantasy, highly colorful, otherworldly visuals to the game, the team at Tri-Ace has set a moodier, grittier, more grounded tone with a the subdued color palette that accentuates the immense halls and towering clockwork machinery. To sum up the look of the game, Western gamers should think Victorian era industrial with a Japanese twist.
Part of the motivation for this more terrestrial art direction is developer Tri-Ace's desire to make the game far more Western-friendly. This is especially apparent in the interesting battle system. Rather than bogging more impatient players down with turn-based strategy, RoF uses a semi-real-time battle system. While strategy is still a big part of dispatching foes efficiently, the game has a comparatively high-paced tempo. In this way, the majority of Western gamers, and Japanese audiences used to action-heavy titles, will be able to enjoy the pacing.
However, RoF has not sacrificed all of its JRPG cachet on the altar of worldwide appeal. For example, strategy still plays a major role in combat, as players can stop the action at any time to activate specific, highly cinematic powers. Also, lavish cutscenes, detailed architecture, and larger-than-life characters are still an important part of the setting and narrative. These aspects of the game should appeal to more traditional JRPG aficionados who will still get the tactical goodness and cinematic approach they crave.
What do we know of the battle system so far? It will be a hybrid between action and traditional RPG mechanics; think Devil May Cry meets Final Fantasy. Essentially, the heroes enter pitched combat against a set of opponents. Players will lock-on to an enemies and activate the load-up sequence. Depending on which enemy you're targeting and which power you select, you may or may not be able to get the attack off successfully. For instance, at any time your attacks can be interrupted by the enemy. Thankfully, you'll be able to move around the environments as you see fit, so battles never seem like a static standoff.
In the game, every creature will have two damage meters. As such, the PCs will want to attack both meters with different types of attacks. If you want to do direct damage, you'll want to employ one of your "red" attack maneuvers. However, direct damage attacks are less effective against enemies if their blue meters are completely full. That's why you'll frequently want to employ "scratch" damage attacks first. These will whittle down your enemy's blue damage meter, making direct damage attacks far more effective.
All of the previously discussed actions happen in more or less real-time, but there is also a reservoir of Invincible Actions from which players can draw that shift the game more toward a strategic scheme. Much like the use of powers in the Mass Effect series, players can instantly freeze the game and enact an Invincible Action. When the action is paused, you'll be able to plot an angle of attack. Once you've chosen the path, your character will link a few cinematic moves together that deliver a lot of damage and cannot be interrupted. The resulting action looks like the acrobatic moves you'd expect from a highly-stylized action flick. Best of all, you'll be able to link Invincible Actions with other party members' IAs and mundane actions to pull off lethal attack combos.
Though magic is not part of the game, weapons are augmentable with various ammo types, so they almost look like they're magically infused. That means you'll be able to add various elemental properties such as fire, ice, and lightning damage to your attacks. Furthermore, improving weaponry with new parts (better stocks, adding scopes, larger magazines, etc.) will constantly keep your attacks fresh and more powerful. The acquisition of new items and better weapons essentially levels-up your characters to deal with the ever-increasing difficulty of enemies.
Finally, the development team has added a few features that should help replayability and engage a wider variety of players. For starters, the game can be very strategic or very action-heavy depending on your play style. If you come up to a difficult section that you feel you didn't beat with the style and efficacy you'd have liked, you can go back and retry the battle. Additionally, Tri-Ace has decided to bless players with a quick save function in an attempt to ameliorate the frustration that often creeps in when you have to replay long sections of a traditional JRPG just to get back to the place where you died. While the latter option may not sit well with purists, it will likely be well received by those with less patience.
Resonance of Fate is almost all the way through its development cycle. From what we have seen so far, it should be an impressive addition to the RPG line-ups on both the PS3 and Xbox 360. Look for Resonance of Fate to hit store shelves in the third-quarter of 2010.
CCC Staff Contributor