An Up and Down Adventure
Role playing games are generally welcome on practically any system out there. The great storytelling, immense customization, and great atmosphere can really paint a great picture, similar to that of an epic story book.
The only complaint that people have had over the years regarding RPGs is the battle system. Though the turn-based system was fine the first few years it was conceived, it wasn’t long before it had become quite archaic. This was especially noticeable through Final Fantasy VII, which was an amazing game but quite poor in the combat area. Thankfully, a solution arrived in the form of a more realistic fighting system known as the “hack-and-slash.” Utilizing real time physics and combo chains, the hack-and-slash system has become the modern combat style for most adventure, action, and role-playing games. Warriors of the Lost Empire is an adventurous dungeon crawler that takes advantage of this system. With all this in mind, the question is this: “Is Warriors of the Lost Empire a great representation on the genre or a forgettable throwaway?”
Since this is a title that originated in Japan, the story is a bit roughly translated, but similar to titles like Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon, it only adds to the charm. Basically, the premise is that an emperor and several of his servants went off to find a new city. Preparations were going well until evil finally reared its ugly head in the form of a race of dark creatures. And as all cliché rescue plots go, it is up to you to take on the task of rescuing the emperor and the city. Four different heroes are available for the picking, including a Highlander, Gladiator, Dark Seeker, and Amazoness. They are not just unique in name alone, but also by the type of skills that they can wield. For instance, a Highlander can wield the game’s bigger weapons, including claymores and two-handed axes. On the other hand, there is the Dark Seeker, who is more of a defense specialist with the ability to use some magic. The path you choose will alter your adventure quite a bit, and it is this class based system that really helps define the game.
Okay, you’ve selected the type of class you want; now what? Well, you have a few options, but it really comes down to preparing for the adventure at hand. Warriors of the Lost Empire’s world is set up similar to that of Guild Wars or Phantasy Star Online. You have the main city (hub) that you can use to acquire weapons, armor, items, and so on, and then you have the dungeons. So, in essence, it is more appropriate to say that this game is a dungeon crawler than a traditional role playing game. Speaking of dungeons, each stage is made up of around six levels, each with their own obstacles and monsters blocking your path. You will spend the majority of the time hacking your way through creatures ranging from lowly rats and bugs to skeleton warriors. The A.I. is a bit on the stupid side, with the majority of enemies just running toward you with little variety in their attack strategy. In the end all you need to know is this: attack, attack, and . . . attack.
The main problem with Warriors of the Lost Empire is that it doesn’t really do anything to differ itself from the rest of the role playing genre. Enemies are generic, the combat style is repetitive, and the story is rather by the books. And of course, there is the traditional health, magic, and technique bars, which indicate how well your character is currently doing. This aside, what helps the game overcome most of these detriments is its simplistic approach and relation to modern MMORPGs. This relation is apparent through the attribute based leveling system, which continues to improve your character throughout the game’s progression. As you get to the later chapters of the game, you will unlock more and more abilities until you receive a total of ten skills. As with Guild Wars, only four can be used at one time, requiring you to use a little strategy before heading off to the next dungeon. What skills are most suitable for this particular dungeon? Do I have the right balance of techniques (healing, offensive, defensive)? To be honest though, because of the limited difficulty it is better to go with mostly healing and defensive moves most of the time. Hey, why go on the offensive when you can use your opponent’s traps against them?
Ever heard the old saying, “use your surroundings as a weapon?” Well, this quote applies greatly on how to vanquish foes within Warriors of the Lost Empire, but I’m sure it wasn’t meant to be used this way. Another primary issue with the A.I. in this game is the fact that they will mindlessly follow into the stage’s own traps. Whether it is a fire trap or pit fall, I found myself far too often able to extinguish my foes by leading them straight to their death. Several projectile based attacks can also be redirected to multiple foes, making it extremely easy to bypass multiple groups. It is unfortunate that the game’s camera makes this a little harder to accomplish. Despite the ability to aim the camera behind your character, there are too many occasions where a group of enemies or side of a wall will block your field of vision. To be honest, the game seems to move at a much faster pace than the camera can keep up with, which causes several awkward angles at times. Any player’s best bet is to try to stay in the middle of each hall and fight straight on. However, it is this linear style of combat that can really detract from the experience.
Just like with other role playing games, the game is not just based around combat. The title also boasts a synthesis system that allows you to customize particular items and weapons to your liking. Using a combination of different color scraps, you can alter critical hit ratio, attack power, recovery rate, and more. I found the system pretty easy to figure out on paper, but a lot of people new to the genre, especially younger kids, would definitely have a problem getting everything perfect. The system does take a lot of trial and error to get your equipment just the way you want it and consistent poor results can leave you frustrated.
Another surprising element to the game is that there is no money involved whatsoever. That’s right, no coins, clams, denaros, or buckaroos; looks like you got on the good side of everyone in town. Pretty much everything that you will use in this game you will find as you go from dungeon to dungeon, with the majority of the items you find being available for pick-up in the town’s storage bank. So you can imagine that there isn’t really a lot of micromanagement to be done. Just get your items up to speed, go to the dungeon, conquer it, and come back.
Tired of dungeon crawling alone and looking for a partner? Fortunately for you the game features a co-op mode in which you and a friend can get in on some of the action. Assuming both players have a copy of the game, one of the players can host a game, based on how far one of the two is in their single player mode. Basically everything is the same in multiplayer mode except that you can not upgrade skills or start a new game. However, you can level up and upgrade your character’s equipment, weapons, and so on. I found the lag favorable in this mode, with a smooth, consistent frame-rate being available 90% of the time. Probably the only real problem with this mode is that it makes the game even easier, but it was hard to notice all the issues while I was wading through hordes of monsters.
A dungeon crawler has to look good, right? Well, I’d be lying if I said that the visuals were the game’s strong point. In fact, the title’s color palette can be summed up in three words: brown, brown, and brown. Most dungeons throughout the game repeat their visual design, meaning several romps through colorless corridors and mazes. Spell attacks and occasional traps help brighten things up a bit, but all in all everything seems really faded. Character models on the other hand are done better, and most enemies and characters you come across will look fairly detailed. Adding to this is a window that displays an anime-style representation of the character when you talk to them. As far as sound effects go, everything is pretty standard, but it is the music in certain stages that helps improve the presentation a bit. Nothing orchestrated, but there are several interesting themes to go along with some of the dungeons that stand out from the others in appearance; if only they spent a bit more type with variety, they could’ve really had a more complete package.
At the end of the day, one could say that Warriors of the Lost Empire is a lackadaisical approach to the hack-and-slash role playing genre. Nevertheless, there are enough bright moments to overlook the game’s several detriments, which include mediocre visuals, a poor camera, a confusing synthesis system, and an uneven difficulty. With the PSP lacking a true hack-and-slash adventure on its console, action starved players should give this one a rental, especially if you can find a friend to pick up the game as well. The fun battle system and interesting class system make for a fun time and the game’s single player adventure is fairly long (between 15-20 hours). Just goes to show that a title can be good if it pretty much stands alone in its respective game group.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.9 Graphics
Character detail and animations are well done, but the palette is very plain looking. Lighting spells and effects are adequate. 4.0 Control
The main character controls very fluently and everything feels tight and constructed. Camera is a tad frustrating though. 3.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Sound effects are by the book and most of the game’s musical pieces are recycled and forgettable. It is the few themes in certain dungeons that help improve the presentation. 3.2 Play Value
To be honest, some might be turned off by the repetitive nature of the game, but that is really what you are getting in to with dungeon crawlers. Several particular dungeon romps and some frustrating synthesis issues bring down the experience a bit, but the multiplayer helps liven things up. If you can immerse yourself in it, expect around 20 hours of total gameplay. 3.3 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.