The end of the world is nigh. Let’s write a book!
Avalon Code is an action RPG from Matrix Software, the guys behind the Final Fantasy III and IV on DS. Armed with this knowledge, it can be taken as a certainty that this game is going to look good. But will it follow in the footsteps of other RPG’s on the Nintendo handheld? Or will Avalon Code forge its own path into the wilderness?
The world is coming to an end. That is the cheerful beginning to this story. The player, as the hero or heroine in this morbid tale, has been charged to make a record of all things in the Book of Prophecy. This book will then be used as a reference for the new world that shall be created after this one ends. Think of it as “Creation for Dummies”. So the player must roam the world, making a record of everything, from people to monsters, from flowers to equipment.
Obviously this quest will not be as easy as just wandering around and slapping things with your book. There are conversations to be had, monsters to fight and even dungeons to explore. In fact, the dungeons earn a special mention as these puzzle based dungeons will require the completing of objectives to move from one area to the next.
Avalon Code offers something new, however. Something to raise it above the numerous other titles that inhabit this genre. The Book of Prophecy not only records the details of everything, but it can also manipulate them. It is around this main premise that the game is based. Each entry into the book has attributes. Find a monster that is too tough? apply a code and make it weaker. Need a light? apply a code and add fire to your sword. The possibilities are endless.
And here in lies one of the games problems. As you progress through this linear story, you will gather more and more codes. The book itself becomes ungainly after a while, and the interface is not exactly designed to be user friendly. The player will soon find themselves spending more time looking for things than actually playing the game. Another problem is that effects are added to items, monsters etc using codes. Fire for fire characteristics, Ice for ice and Ill for weakness, for example. The actual use of these codes can be difficult to start with. Add to that the fact that the player can only carry four at any time and constant reference to the ungainly Book is needed.
Whilst use of the book itself can be slightly frustrating, players are helped along their way by elemental spirits. These spirits will explain the book to the player and give tips to guide the player in the right direction. They certainly do their best to help explain things but, even with their aid, this is still not the easiest game to get your head around.
Thankfully, the game itself, ignoring the Book for a moment, is actually fairly simple. If you can work out the methods of using the Book, then monsters will really be no problem whatsoever. Of course, for the more adventurous out there, players can always manipulate the code to make the monsters stronger. If the playerÂ manages to sneak up on an enemy, they will have the chance to enter a mini game, known as Judgment Link. The player gets to enjoy a game of “keepie uppie” with the enemy and bounce them into the air. With each bounce, the enemy gets higher until they eventually disappear into space. This little game is a bit bizarre and does not really fit in with the rest of the game, but it is fun nonetheless.
As I said earlier, knowing that this game comes from Matrix Software should indicate that it will look good. And it does. the world is all 3D and looks great on the little handheld. The limits of the DS have been really pushed in this title. The games soundtrack is of a similarly high standard, with glorious orchestral music and a damn good helping of quality voice acting.
Avalon Code is a great game that tries to do something new. It is, however, let down by the implementation of this new idea. The Book of Prophecy is a good idea, and maybe one that can be refined into something more manageable, but for now it is just too slow and frustrating. Players who can persevere will find a beautiful game with a decent story that will entertain for longer than most.