Monday, August 28, 2017

Resonance of Fate (PS3)

Resonance of Fate is a JRPG developed by tri-Ace, most notable for their Star Ocean series.  Resonance of Fate is set in a steampunk world of the future, where Earth is nearly uninhabitable.  Therefore, humanity created a giant tower called Basel which was built to sustain life via purification of the surrounding land.  Eventually, humans moved into the tower itself, and throughout the game, you get to explore its various levels.  The graphics are passable.  Coupled with the dark gloomy colors to evoke a post-apocalyptic world, it can look quite drab and doesn't do much justice to the game.  The biggest highlight, and the most unique thing about Resonance of Fate, is the battle system.  Known as the "tri-Attack Battle System", there are three characters to your party, and presents a mix of action and turn-based combat.  During each character's turn, you can run around the battlefield to position yourself.  There are various environmental objects scattered from drums that can explode if you aim for it, bunkers to hide behind and protect yourself, and elevated platforms to avoid enemies.

The main form of dealing damage is guns.  There are two types of guns, the handgun is used to deal Direct Damage, and the machinegun is used to deal Scratch Damage.  Scratch Damage is not permanent, but when you mix it with Direct Damage, it will make permanent the Scratch Damage already done.  The caveat is that the handguns are much weaker than the machinegun and thus you need to alternate between the two.  While you can stay in one position and gun, this is not recommended and is a surefire way to lose.  Along the bottom of the screen are a row of Bezels, which allows you to perform "Hero Runs", a tactic where the character will run and charge their guns without interruption to gain multipliers and additional benefits.  However, once you use up all the Bezels, you will enter Critical Mode, which is something you want to avoid as you are severely crippled in this mode.  Performing "Hero Runs" where it cross the other two characters' paths will allow you to accumulate Hero Points, which is used for "tri-attacks", a devastating combo where the whole team perform Hero Runs simultaneously.

Additional abilities include knocking enemies into the air and smacking them back down for additional damage, stunning enemies and destroying specific body parts.  Your own characters can take Scratch Damage and Direct Damage.  Once the Scratch Damage is higher than your HP, then you lose Bezels and will eventually go into Critical Mode.  The battle is confusing at first, so doing the optional tutorial is a must.  If you just charge in without doing these tutorials, then you won't be exposed to any of the more nuanced mechanics.  Once you've mastered it, or at least have a good handle, it is immensely satisfying with the strategic element, yet with the blend of action.  The experience system is very interesting.  It is earned based on the damage from each weapon used.  Therefore, each of the three weapons (handgun, machinegun and grenades) has a separate level, which combined, is the total level for that character.  This means you often rotate the weapons around to gain levels quicker, benefiting from the boost in HP.

As you mainly just gain HP during level up, your increase in attack power comes from the customization of your weapons.  Each gun can be customized via connecting parts on a gridlike system.  It's a bit like a puzzle and very fun as you try and work out the most cost-efficient way to create the most powerful weapon you can using the parts that you have.  You can easily spend hours trying to create the perfect weapon.  It can be annoying when you need to farm monsters for their item drops to purchase specific parts, but on the whole, it's surprisingly well balanced.  The world map, which represents the 12 levels of Basel, are comprised of hexes.  All enemies drop hexes which you are required to place onto the world map to unlock a path to various destinations.  Dungeons are a series of rooms, where in each room you take part in a battle before going to the next.  This is a unique take on dungeons and can be difficult since you cannot swap weapons or equipment unless you exit from it completely.

The story feels unfocused.  It starts off with Zephyr saving Leanne after she jumped off with the intention to die.  Two years later, we are shown that they have joined up with Vashyron and became Hunters, which is basically a small mercenary group, doing odd jobs for people.  Although it tells the backstory of the trio, you don't know where the plot is going towards and as such, you feel disinterested by the story.  The story is easily the weakest aspect of the game, since the majority of the game doesn't advance the main plot, but rather each chapter focuses on each particular job the Hunters are completing.  We are treated to a slow reveal of Leanne's background in the last few chapters but the pacing is too slow and disjointed to make sense of the plot as a whole.  The characters are likeable from the beginning and there is great chemistry between them.  There are scenes where the atmosphere isn't too serious and so the dialogue can be very funny.

The story also likes to pull one or two characters out of the party.  When you're left with one or two characters in battles, it doesn't allow the same extent of strategic options or fun as you cannot perform tri-attacks, which is the crux of the whole battle system.  On the other hand, it means you cannot get complacent and must ensure even levelling of your characters.  While generally, Resonance of Fate has balanced difficulty, there are a few difficulty spikes, especially if you don't come in prepared.  You can always retry battles using money you've earned but later chapters have annoyign enemies who spam status ailments at your characters.  They do this mid-dungeon so you can't change equipment unless you jump out and then redo the dungeon again.  The game also gets tedious when you're forced to fight numerous enemies in battle after battle, since they aren't quick affairs.  Travelling between the levels is also time-consuming.  Going back to the main city is fine since you can set up instant warp points, but the problem is that these points are one-way only, you can't jump from the main city to other places instantly.

In total, there are 16 chapters plus a prologue, which can take anywhere from 40 to 50 hours to finish.  However, if you skip all the sidequests, you can probably finish in around 20-30 hours but it will be much more difficult as you'll be at lower levels.  There is no postgame since once you beat the final boss, the game ends.  However, there is an optional dungeon that opens up at the very end of the game which presents the toughest enemies there is plus some good equipment.  There's also an arena with 500 battles!  The arena is excessive and a tedious grind if you want to complete it fully.  There is a New Game Plus option with higher difficulty or if you play on the same difficulty, you get to effectively keep everything, which is sweet.  Overall, Resonance of Fate is a fantastic JRPG with a strong battle system and progression system.  The story is the weakest aspect however, the characters help keep you interested as they each have a lot of charm.  With English and Japanese voiceovers, you're given plenty of options.  Resonance of Fate is an overlooked JRPG gem for the PS3.


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