Resonance of Fate
At first glance, Resonance of Fate appears to be a traditional Japanese RPG through and through. With wide-eyed protagonists laden with a surplus of belts and buckles, towns filled with talkative citizens eager to tell you their intimate details in repetitive one liners, and a wider world packed with random battles, dungeons, treasure and boss battles, the structure is nothing if not traditional.
But despite appearances, the details and underlying arrangement of these elements is wholly unique, carefully constructed to buck convention, and the resulting experience is fresher and more unusual than almost any JRPG from the past decade.
The setting itself sets the idiosyncratic tone. Here you're not in charge of a small band of wanderers setting out from a pastoral village on a quest to save the world. Rather, you're a resident of a student bedsit-type abode, in a settlement on a giant tower reaching up to the heavens, an air purifying structure for a world suffocating from pollution.
The tower is large enough to support entire towns, and, thanks to the views and relatively clean air, is inhabited by the aristocracy, who live in intricate, beautiful Victorian-style mansions. You take control of Leanne, Zephyr and Vashyron, a trio of freelance mercenaries who carry out jobs for the aristocracy on the tower, most of whom are housebound thanks to the bandits and rogue robots who roam the over world.
It's an unusual premise for a videogame, but one that allows the designers to create a lavish and detailed steampunk world, powered by cogs and wheels and filled with eccentric characters in period costume. While the towns are built in 3D, your character moves through them along a 2D horizontal plane, with the camera shifting perspective along a fixed path as you progress. This allows the designers to show off the world at its best, taking in the dainty streetlamps and aged cobblestones while a dramatic orchestral score swills all around.
Beyond the world and visuals, the game's most interesting features are its battle system and over world map. The world map is composed of hexes, most of which are frozen at the start of the game to prevent access to different areas of the tower. To unlock frozen hexes you must rotate and lay 'energy hexes' (won by defeating enemies) on top of the area you want to unfreeze.
Once unfrozen your team can walk along that particular hex, gaining access to new areas, towns, and mansions. It's an interesting mechanic that introduces a layer of puzzling as you search for hex configurations that will enable you to unlock those hard to reach corners of the map as you seek to complete the missions the tower's residents give you.
Enter the Warzone
The main area of interest, however, is in the battle system, which, with its vintage firearms, tickers and readouts, is one of the most eccentric in years. You control all three characters in a semi-real-time 3D environment. There are two types of damage that the player can inflict on opponents: direct damage and scratch damage, each dictated by the type of weapon equipped.
Direct damage drains an enemy faster, while scratch damage inflicts injury faster, but recovers with time and does not destroy the enemy when reduced to zero. The aim of the game is to inflict scratch damage with one character, and then turn it into direct damage with another before it replenishes.
Attacks can be either 'Standard Actions', which have you taking single potshots as in most RPGs, or 'Hero Actions' which have you sprinting across the playfield firing as often as you can tap the button, at the expense of one of your team's shields (known as Bezels). With tri attacks that allow your team to combine for a devastating attack if positioned correctly in the game field, a deep and complex battle system emerges, one that requires time to learn and practice to perfect.
The result of these unusual and interesting systems is one of the most engaging and odd JRPG experiences in recent memory, one completely at odds with its more mainstream current rival, Final Fantasy XIII. The uneven difficulty level will put some off, and the tricky battle system is made all the more difficult to master by way of some terrible tutorials.
But in the end, Resonance of Fate's charm and singular vision win out to deliver a game that may be relentlessly quirky and eccentric but which is also fundamentally sound.
- Creative overhaul of the JRPG.
- Deep and engaging battle system.
- Unusual character design.
- Poor tutorials.
- Unbalanced difficulty curve.
- Thin storyline.