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To start, if any are confused by the notion of steam punk, allow me to sum up Steampunk is a genre which came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s and incorporates elements of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history.
The Story centres around 3 main characters and the distopian world in which they live, a tower known as Basel. The characters all meet in rather unusual circumstances and the story of turn-based mercenaries begins. You will spend alot of time in elevators travelling to different floors of the tower which can be quite annoying if i'm honest.
The opening chapter includes full instructions to any unaware of this kind of battle system and teaches the player how to succeed in battle, also with multiple skill levels for the game most people will have a great experience.
The plot thickens as you progress with the protagonist Zephyr (and his partners Leanne and Vashyron) as you find out incidents of long past that will now shape the future of mankind. The team realise that something is amiss and begin to come into conflict with the ruling elite, the cardinals. Towards the end of the game we learn more about Leanne and her relationships to the Cardinals and the secrets she has been keeping. All is answered in the final sequences which i will not spoil for anyone here.
Overall, the story is in depth and shows great characters struggling with their own world. This is a unique game from Tri-Ace (although published through Sega) so any fans of Star Ocean, Eternal Sonata, Final Fantasy ect will be in for a treat.
Another great bonus is the choice of languages, either the original Japanese with English subtitles or you can play with a complete American Audio.
Released just within weeks of the ever anticipated Final Fantasy XIII, nobody knew how well Resonance of Fate was going to be received. However, the latter takes a completely different approach to the whole roleplaying genre and there's a lot more to it than meets the eye.
In the tradition of a typical Tri-Ace venture, the primary focus seems to be the system, this one slightly reminiscent of Valkyria Chronicles, a previous title which pulled out all the stops and achieved to be something else. Resonance of Fate in the same way proves itself to be a very original RPG with a slightly steam punk edge to it.
We're introduced to Ebel City, a town on one of the many tiers of the colossal tower of Basel, joined together by an elevator that links it all together, and if that confuses you, it slightly nods towards Mass Effect, but in a different manner. The tower opens out to be the game's entire world, and although there's not much to explore at the very beginning, you know for sure there's a lot more to come. If you're one of those gamers who won't put the controller down until you've left no stone unturned, you'll be kept very busy.
Resonance of Fate isn't the kind of game you would wish to be shoved head first into, but unfortunately for some, you're pretty much given no choice. It opens up almost straight away, and before anything else you'll probably want to check out the tutorial to get to grips with the mechanics of battle. Unlucky for us then that the tutorial is very vague and will leave you having to do most of the footwork for yourself. The story fails to reveal itself until much further on, though, (maybe even reaching the fifteen hour mark) so it leaves plenty of time to try to get used to things. Seemingly, mastering moves is everything, and things only seem to get harder as you go along, especially with the huge contrast between a normal back alley brawl and an intense boss fight. If you die, and you probably will, a lot, you also end up having to pay (yes, pay!) to retry the whole process over, so I suggest saving frequently, and keeping multiple save files may help too. It can be all a little bit bewildering.
Resonance of Fate is hard. Acquiring the knowledge of how everything comes together is really important, but mastery takes time and a lot of effort and you can expect to die, a lot. Unfortunately, dying also means paying to retry, which isn't all that fair, as you're guaranteed failure at some point throughout. Saving frequently will help in most occasions, and I usually had a couple of save files on the go to cover myself from mistakes. Battles boil down to having to perform a Hero Action, which in other words means setting a waypoint between two characters on the field. During this action, the character moves towards its waypoint attacking as much as they want before reaching their destination. The flashiest move, and probably the most useful, is the tri-attack, a joint attack between all three characters which will probably be the one you'll find yourself abusing most often until you reach victory. Rinse and repeat. Although underlying the battle physics is the usual turn based strategy, combat style leads itself in a semi-real time manner. If you spent time in the training arena, you'll mostly have learnt the basic skills, but even then it doesn't fail to get highly technical, with its many options, variables and rules; including two different types of damage, weapon switching, and more than enough to send your head spinning. Sound confusing? It is.
The world map is made up of a hex system, the vast majority of paths being closed off at the beginning of the game. To unlock them, you have to use 'energy hexes', rotating them and laying them over the area you wish to open. At times, it can get confusing. There are many different types of hexes, and you'll probably end up tinkering around with them for a while, as each kind opens up different pathways. They come in various shapes and colours and most of the time can be won by defeating enemies.
As the story progresses, new parts of the map open up and new locations become ready to be explored. Some areas can only be unlocked by partaking in special missions or using special hexes, but it'll probably become clearer as you go along. Each part of the story is split into separate chapters and one good thing to note is that the main story only advances when you want it to, so you won't miss out on any side quests you still may wish to complete. As hunters, you have to keep checking the notice board at the guild for new missions as and when they show up and then follow up the task required of you.
The visuals in Resonance of Fate obviously don't live up to that of the obviously stunning Final Fantasy XII but they're not really all that bad. The clothing designs were well thought out and the cut scenes attractive enough. Graphics were not going to be the focal point here in any case, and you find yourself not caring too much in the end. The voice acting, with such talent as Nolan North and Scott Menville worked well enough and isn't too painful. However, unlike tri-Ace's previous Star Ocean game, at least they remembered to add in the option of Japanese language.
Like all games, it's not without flaws. They seem minor, but are enough to be noticeable, and each little thing brings the game down a notch. The storyline is the main point of criticism here, with little substance and a lot of nonsensical jargon. In some ways, it lacks where other games have excelled, and you find yourself wishing that maybe they'd given it that little bit extra meaning. Other slight irritations and annoyances are loading times between scenes, which seem to happen frequently and can also be a little on the lengthy side. Something that particularly grates is to forcibly sit through an often-unnecessary cut scene every time you travel in the elevator. Another minor flaw was the dungeon designs; compared to the rest of the world map they appear bland and ugly. The biggest let down of all for me, which although not to my tastes may well be the element that would appeal most to hardcore gamers, is the issue of balance and the game's noticeably huge spiking in difficulty among battles. The lack of adequately comprehensive explanations made acclimatising to everything in terms of gameplay and the point of the story a challenge; I feel the tutorials could have benefited from extra focus. Thus is the appeal of the game though, as maybe we'd be complaining just as much if it was too easy to grasp. Battles easily can slip away from you, and as soon as they do, there's no turning back. If you really hate repetition, then you'd probably want to give this particular title a wide berth, unless you really love battles, and you'd be hard-pressed to love most RPGs if you didn't.
In closing, Resonance of Fate is without a doubt aimed towards the more hardcore JRPG fan; it can be difficult and confusing from the get go, and is definitely for those willing to keep hacking away at it. Those looking for something a little less casual and a little more involving will love it, and the game has a vast hidden depth to discover if given enough time and perseverance. On the unfortunate side, the narrative is vague and the visuals aren't up to par with the big boys, but the battle system is the real winner here, offering players the chance to use their heads and approach situations with a proper sense of strategy and commitment. If you're serious about discovering the potential locked inside this game, then don't pass it by, as it can offer something a little more unique, and it's doubtful you'll regret giving this RPG your time and dedication. So if you like a challenge, why not?