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The Caligula Effect: Overdose

Posted by GG Goblin On March - 20 - 2019

High school students stuck in a virtual world.

I don’t know of that any other generation of consoles has had as many remakes, remasters and reboots as this current generation. In many ways this is great as it gives players the chance to try out games they may have missed previously, or replay favourites that have been improved. The flip side is that it suggests a lack of imagination as developers would rather push out old ideas than have new ones. Fortunately, Aquria’s The Caligula Effect, the latest to have a fresh coat of paint, is likely unknown to most Switch gamers, despite the fact that it was only released a couple of years ago on Vita. The Caligula Effect: Overdose, which has been brought over by NIS America, is a tweaked and polished version of Aquria’s original JRPG for current platforms. The big problem is that the original game was not so well received. Can this Overdose version win around more fans?

tceo1 (Copy)

The Caligula Effect: Overdose has a really interesting premise. The idea is that an AI called Mu has created a virtual world specifically for people wanting to escape their emotional pain and trauma. This world, Mobius, casts these damaged people as high school students. However, a certain group of these students, including the player, realise that this is not the real world and want to leave. The group, known as the Go-Home Club will have to face off against the Ostinato Musicians, another group dedicated to keeping people in the virtual world.

It’s a nice idea, and the game is not afraid to get quite gritty when revealing the traumas that some of the characters have experienced as the player discovers their story arcs. Sometimes the game can get a bit close to the mark with these traumas, but they are still quite involving for the player. However, this side of the game meanders in the early stages, taking too long to actually start moving, and can occasionally lack the sensitivity required to confront such subjects.

The main story is not made up of the greatest writing, but it flows quite well. In addition to the original story, Overdose also adds a new narrative path with the player being able to take the side of the Ostinato Musicians, expanding the choices and playability. This introduces further personal arcs for the player to work through, although they suffer with the same lack of sensitivity as the original arcs.

The gameplay is fairly standard JRPG stuff, with dungeons to explore and encounters to deal with. It has to be said that there is very little about the core gameplay that really stands out. The visuals, although improved over the original game, are unimpressive, and the dungeons come across as downright boring. There is a friendship system in place where the player can befriend, and thus receive quests from, more than 500 characters in the game. Again, it’s a cool idea, but the reality is that the resulting side quests are dull and the rewards, which can include a character wanting to join the party, just don’t feel worth it.

tceo2 (Copy)

The combat gets a bit more interesting. Characters are able to use what are known as Catharsis Effects to use whatever trauma they have as a fully realised weapon. When the player gets into a combat situation, the action is bounced into a 3D area where the turn-based combat begins. What is interesting here is the Imaginary Chain system which essentially allows the player to see how their action choices will play out, and then adjust them if necessary. Characters have a set number of actions each turn and the player can queue them up with amazing precision, and then watch to see how they would play out before actually letting rip. This means the player can create intricate combos between the different characters, causing a massive amount of damage. If this sounds like it makes the game too easy, it actually does. However, the Imaginary Chain is not always correct, and the more difficult enemies can behave differently to the prediction, tearing an epic combo to tatters.

It’s actually a really cool system that, when successful, will leave the player feeling like some kind of tactical god. The downside is that the system takes time as the player painstakingly sets up different actions for each of the characters in the group, and when that has to happen for each encounter, no matter how trivial, it becomes tiresome and monotonous. On the plus side, there is an auto-resolve option for the combat, which can speed through the less important encounters.

Sadly, the interesting combat does little to rescue the game. There are obvious similarities to the Persona series of games, which is fair enough. But the difference in quality between these two titles does nothing but make The Caligula Effect: Overdose come across worse than it actually is. Even the music, which is fine if you like J-Pop, repeats so much that turning the volume off will be necessary for most players.

tceo3 (Copy)

The Caligula Effect: Overdose has some nice ideas that some JRPG fans will be able to enjoy. However, it will take some effort to overlook the less nice ideas and poor choices in the game for most players. For those searching for another JRPG to sink their teeth into, this might be worth checking out. Otherwise, The Caligula Effect: Overdose is difficult to recommend.




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