On your travels, you will engage in hundreds (possibly thousands) of battles with the various creatures and other enemies in the game. Combat takes place in a pseudo-real-time manner with a dash of turn based flair on top of it. If you ever played Level-5’s White Knight Chronicles series, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect here. You queue up attacks individually for Oliver (or one of his familiars) to perform and everything acts on a cool down. Throughout the fight, you have full control of your character and can freely move around the battlefield.
Oliver is a wizard and specializes in various magical attacks, but can also send out familiars to fight for him; this is where the combat gets interesting. Each familiar levels up separately from Oliver (of which up to three can be with you at a time) and all have different specialties and weaknesses. As they level up they can metamorphose and learn new abilities, equip items and all the other tropes that go with being part of an RPG. This, combined with the fact that you eventually gain two more party members that also get three familiars each and it is plenty of party management to keep even the most jaded gamers on their toes.
Unfortunately, this does also lead to the game’s biggest annoyance: the AI and speed of combat. The extent of which you can issue orders to your companions boils down to: Attack, Don’t Do Anything and a few variants in between. I was aching for a detailed menu that allowed me to tell them when to use which familiars and which abilities in different circumstances. To make this even worse, companions often blindly wander into a boss’ line of attack or literally stand in a stream of fire without moving or blocking. Check out the video below for some of my impressions with gameplay, it also demonstrates the battle system several times.
Due to the very fast-paced nature of combat, not only is it difficult sometimes to tell Oliver or his familiar to block, but 90% of the time the AI companions would never block when I was hoping they would. It would be nice if there was a way to tell them to just block when I did, or something along those lines because most boss battles involve several attacks that hit all of the party.
These annoyances with the party mechanics aside, combat is extremely satisfying. After about eight or so hours into the game you finally get the ability to randomly capture familiars (of which there are literally hundreds) and each battle becomes all the more exciting. In typical JRPG fashion you eventually get a boat, a dragon and other forms of fast travel, but it would have really been nice to have some form of teleportation early on in the game.
On that same note of old-school conventions, if you’ve never been a fan of this type of game, this one probably isn’t going to win you over. Save points are few and far between in all dungeons, enemies respawn at a ridiculously fast rate, difficulty spikes at boss battles aren’t uncommon and as a result, grinding will occur. However, will all of that being said, this is not only the best JRPG I have played this entire console generation, it’s one of the best JRPGs I have ever played, period. Go play it. Now.
- Incredible production values
- Detailed and interesting characters
- Wonderfully realized world
- Charming and meaningful story
- Old-school JRPG annoyances
- Not very much of the dialogue is voiced
- Party AI can get frustrating
Final Grade: A
This review was conducted on a physical review copy of the game for the PlayStation 3 provided by Namco Bandai.