Resonance of Fate caught my eye a few months back because it still remains one of the few RPGs that exist on the Xbox 360, which is quickly becoming overrun by first and third person shooters. Sure, we’ve got the Mass Effect series, Oblivion and Fallout 3, but a lot of the traditional RPG formula has been removed from these games and slapped into a new, shiny real-time game engine. I can’t say I blame them, what with how poorly traditional RPGs are received in the American market these days, but I grew up with the old school RPGs and you know what? I miss them.
This game, ominously titled Resonance of Fate for some reason, simultaneously caters to and defers from the old school formula and makes something rather unique, in a run of the mill sort of way.
Okay, so here’s the background. It’s the future and the planet has deteriorated to the point where it can’t support human life any more. After watching society die off pretty good, humanity created a massive tower named Bazel, which serves as a system for maintaining and repairing the atmosphere, the planet, and even regulates day and night. Still, people needed somewhere to live, so they moved into Bazel, built some cities, and then forgot how to be competent. By the time the game starts, Bazel has degraded pretty far. The rich live up top in the well-maintained levels, but the poor live in slums near the bottom. Oh, and then people start dying en masse for no apparent reason, which is always a bit of a downer.
Pretty heavy stuff! Luckily, Resonance of Fate avoids it pretty studiously in the beginning of the game. The story centers around Vashyron, Zephyr and Leanne, a squad of hunters who run around Bazel doing odd jobs for the citizens, the cardinals, and themselves while generally making fun of each other the whole time.
Combat, well, this is where the game defers a bit from the standard RPG format. Being in a dark and gritty steam punk world, the three hunters use a variety of machine guns, pistols and grenades to defeat their foes, which are usually thugs, goons, or some goblin-y things that hide in oil drums and have guns in their faces. Damage is based on how many times you charge up your weapon, and you gain more charges as you go up in levels.
Oh, and this part is important: Straight up attacking will get you killed faster than drinking Liquid Plumber. Try some strategy! Hit them with the machine gun first to deal some scratch damage, and then nail them with the handguns before they can recover! …And you’ll still die in the first five minutes. No, in order to be effective at all in combat you need to make use of your hero gauge to perform over the top mad dashes from one side of the battle to the other, while jumping and flipping over your enemy, unloading clips of bullets and punting grenades at them. It takes a bit to get used to, but looks pretty awesome and can clear the battlefield if you can do it right.
You gain skills as your weapons level up, but those are activated if you charge your weapon a certain amount of times. As a result, combat can get a little repetitive, though strangely it doesn’t get boring. If you’re not paying attention and you run out of shards in your hero gauge, you enter a condition critical which essentially ensures death. Also, if an enemy hits you too much in battle, they can shatter your gauge and take you one step closer to death. It’s a bit of a frustrating game until you get the hang of it.
Still, the system isn’t perfect. Precise targeting during the hero actions can get irritating, and it often feels like the game will target the last person you want to be shooting while you’re mid-air and ready to unload machine gun fire into some punk. Also, the game introduces a resonance attack, allows Zephyr, Vashyron and Leanne to run around in a triangle formation and perform a three person attack. This works well in theory, but if they hit anything (including teammates, treasure chests, bunkers, enemies, ect ect) it’s over and the enemy gets to molest you for the next five minutes.
Also, while the three main characters work in a turn based game, I haven’t figured out what determines when the enemies get to attack. Thugs will shoot you every two seconds if you’re not going all gun fu on them, and dogs will eat your face.
As for the rest of the game, well… okay, I really don’t know what’s going on. There’s really two different stories going on here, the first one being Vashyron, Zephyr and Leanne milking the strange and bizarre cardinals of Bazel for doing tasks for them. The second one involves a couple of scenes between chapters where some frown-faced dudes make some mopey schemes and talk to themselves about hope and dreams.
If you haven’t been able to tell, Resonance of Fate is a Japanese game. Here’s where a lot of the game is a bit run of the mill… if you’ve played a JRPG you know what to expect. Vashyron is the greedy, perverted leader of the group, who seems to know more than he lets on. Zephyr is the game’s designated “emo badass,” and Leanne is the exceptionally cute girl with a tragic destiny. Wait, wait… let me try again. TRAGIC DESTINY. There.
Still, I don’t think I’ve played a JRPG with voice actors anywhere near this good. Unlike Final Fantasy XIII, where there were long periods of just watching the characters gasp in surprise, in Resonance of Fate the witty banter between Zephyr, Leanne and Vashyron seems natural and is actually pretty funny. There’s a few moments of groan-inducing dialogue, and some of the humor is a bit… overseas, but generally I’ve really enjoyed hearing the three characters interact.
The mopey schemers, though, are another matter. I have no idea what they’re talking about, but I think that’s mainly because they’re spouting absolute garbage. Whereas the three main characters actually sound like real people, the mopey men seem forced and foreign.
Jeez, this is getting to be a long review. One more thing, then I’ll shut up: the world map.
You spend the entire game in Bazel, so don’t go expecting to see too much in the ways of a scene change. You’ll get an icy zone here or a power plant there, but the whole game is pretty steam punk. In order to move from place to place though, you need to play… a mini game.
I mentioned Bazel is deteriorating pretty good there, right? Well, that’s important. At the start of the game, several areas had degraded to the point where they don’t have power, and are now completely inaccessible. To proceed, the group must find and place energy hexes on the world map grid, finding the right sizes and shapes to open up more of the world. There are colored energy hexes as well, which can be used to unlock new areas and link together terminals that give pretty sweet benefits in battle if you can find enough hexes. Also, placing hexes will net you some sweet loot, so it’s pretty important to open up every locked hex.
About mid way through the game you’ll run out. Hope you like grinding enemies!
Anyway, Resonance of Fate is a good game to pick up if you’re jonesing for an RPG. Just keep in mind that it is a JRPG and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Oh, and remember this: You’re going to die. You’re going to die to goblins and it’s going to be embarrassing.