Going Head to head with the latest Final Fantasy can only end in tears. But who is left crying?
Resonance of Fate is Tri-Ace’s latest RPG offering, which was released by Sega very soon after the mammoth RPG release of Final Fantasy XIII. Many have criticised this move by Sega, claiming that trying to go head to head with the daddy of JRPG’s was a foolish move. However, given that FFXIII was not the game that some people were expecting, maybe Sega knew something that the rest of us did not and wanted to offer the disillusioned FFXIII players an alternative. Or maybe it was just a mistake.
Either way, marketing mess up or a stroke of genius, comparisons were sure to be made. Whilst the majority of the two games are as different as they can be whilst staying in the same genre, there is one surprising, and perhaps unintentional, similarity. FFXIII holds the players hand and guides them through the complexities of gameplay. Resonance of Fate throws the player in at the deep end and, through a series of lacklustre tutorials, attempts to teach the player how to manage the incredibly complicated combat system. No similarities there, I hear you say. True, but in a bizarre twist of fate, the time it takes to work through the tutorial stage of FFXIII is freakishly close to the amount of time it will take to master the combat system in Resonance. Players are expected to put in a huge amount of time in both games, before reaching the point where the game becomes satisfying.
Well, that coincidence aside, the two games could not be more different. Set upon a steam punk styled tower, made up of level after level of gradually explorable areas, players will be immersed into a world wandering, mission taking and gun play. The overview map around which the player can travel to the various key areas is, initially, closed off, barring a few beginning locations. The map is divided into hexes and players must gather energy hexes from encounters. These can then be placed onto the map in order to unlock new areas. Certain areas require specific coloured hexes to unlock, which can be obtained by completing certain missions. This method gives the illusion of freedom, whilst channeling the player along a certain route and storyline. The system actually works really well and adds an additional layer to the games depth.
The game looks good aswell. Whilst not as colourful as FFXIII, mostly due to the more urban setting, the backdrops and environments are all well detailed and the characters move well and look good. Wandering around a given area of the game is very reminiscent of Final Fantasy VII, but with a much more modern look.
However, when all is said and done, the most important part of any RPG is the combat. The story, graphics, setting or character advancement, all play second fiddle to the combat mechanics. This is where the player actually fully involves themselves in the game and a faulty system will cause the game to fail, no matter how wonderous it is in other areas. So, how does Resonance fare in this area?
It has already been mentioned that the combat system is complicated and that is no lie. The mastering of combat will take most players a long time, and perhaps some will give up and assign the game to the shelf before achieving this. Until a level of competency has been reached, the player will find themselves dying during the simplest of battles. This is made more frustrating by the fact that rejoining the game will actually cost in game currency. But, once mastered, the combat in Resonance is hugely satisfying and well worth the investment in time and patience.
With three characters in your team, the player will take it in turns to control each. Any action will use the limited time that is available. This includes movement, attacking and using items. In order to fire a weapon, the player must first charge that weapon, which again takes time. The time it takes is dependant on your distance from the enemy and the weapon in question. Should you be attacked whilst charging, the charge will return to zero and the time used is lost.
Along the bottom of the screen is the hero gauge. These units are used to perform special, devastating attacks. By moving a character across the intersecting line between the other two characters, players my launch a hero attack and basically fire their weapon as much as they like until the move ends. Repeat this move with the second character, also crossing the intersecting line, and the tri-attack becomes available for the third. This tri-attack involves all three characters and will do the most damage, whilst also providing the player with a magnificent display of acrobatics and gunplay.
They are the basics of the system, but writing them down really does not portray the complexity or the amount of thought that has to go into this. Thankfully, the enemy will not make a move until the player begins their actions, so there is plenty of time to think and consider strategies.
Resonance of Fate offers players a deep storyline that follows a familiar path and a wide range of things to do, although the missions are not as varied as they could be. The well polished setting and characters that gain depth as the story progresses make it easy to become involved in this world. My only concern is the combat system. It is magnificent and allows for some very impressive battles, but the complexity may be its downfall. I cannot emphasise enough that it really is worthwhile putting in the time with this game. Overall, Resonance of Fate is a really good game that may not reach its potential due to the off putting nature of the combat, and the questionable release date.