Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Game Review: Resonance of Fate (PS3)

More like Resonance of Crap. This sad misfire (wink, wink) of a gun-focused JRPG tries valiantly to be original, and ends up being frustrating instead. Here’s my litany of rants:

Pointless Melodrama
The opening was typical fare: a fight between two androgynous men, with lots of graceful slow-motion leaping to impossible heights and distances. The cinematic even had the restraint to pan the camera upwards when the kill shots came.

Then it went into a seriously embarrassing scene where one religious leader, the one with bangs and a ponytail, reveals Le Truth to another religious leader, the one with bangs and no ponytail, and bangs-only goes into a tortured whine about how he couldn’t possibly deceive his flock now that he knows that God is a giant, elaborate, gear-driven and presumably steam-powered mechanical device with lots of pretty jewelry. It was so awful that even Fragrant Husband was appalled, and this is a man who will watch cheesy sci-fi and horror movies for fun.

The rest of the cut scenes involving the bangs couple are just as bad. Maybe they got better, but I’m not about to find out.

Steep Learning Curves
The combat style of Resonance of Crap takes some getting used to. It's a hybrid of real-time and turn-based, and is 100% craptastic. First, you have all the time in the world to plot out where your characters will run/walk/leap during their attack. Once they get going, they will shoot like gangbusters and have zero chance to counterattack or defend when they’re done. Some sort of algorithm having to do with damage dealt will restore HP, but frack if I understand it.

It will also take a while to figure out that the world map, where your noble characters are represented by a hovering pin, needs to be “energized” by hexes so you can traverse it. Hexes can be won in combat, and they only come in particular configurations depending on where you fought for them. As a sop to the poor saps who fight endlessly for hexes, developers reward them with treasure chests whenever they energize specific spots, like corners that are completely unimportant. Insert tiniest hurray here.

Scratch Damage
There are two types of gun damage: direct damage and scratch damage. Handguns deal direct damage, while machine guns do scratch damage. So machine guns are basically for “scratching” enemies enough to be killed by pistols. Huh?

Critical Mode
In combat, the characters are hobbled by (1) bezels, and (2) limited movement range. Bezels are little counters at the bottom of the screen that go away when characters perform Hero Actions, which is when you plot out a predefined path through the battlefield for your character to follow, shooting all the way. You often have to do Hero Actions because the enemies are out of range. One Hero Action removes one bezel, and you get three to start with. If you use them up, you go into Critical Mode, which is the single most annoying thing I have ever seen in all my time as a JRPG fan. The characters crouch and tremble, their ability to inflict damage is greatly reduced, the music goes into a frenzy, and the enemies can collect the shards of your bezels to restore their HP.

To avoid this last indignity, I replayed battles as soon as I hit Critical Mode. It costs money, but as a dogged grinder, I wasn’t concerned about funding. Those bezels are mine, frackers.

Prosaic Customizations
You can use items collected in combat to pimp out your guns. How innovative. /eyeroll

You can also change your character’s clothes, accessories, and hair color. /shrug

Creepy Characters
Every major character in this game is creepy. All the Cardinals are creepy, the lead character is a cold-blooded killer, the girl has no personality outside of her pre-programmed shoujo (young girl) archetype, and the youngest group member has terrible posture. Also, I’m pretty sure he got two bullets in his mouth even before the game started, so he should not be slouching around and non-killing enemies with a machine gun.

Jarring Tonal Shifts
The lead characters often do goofy stuff, like walk in on each other during bath time, but their lighthearted antics stand in stark and uncomfortable contrast to the dismal color palette of the entire game, and the darkness of the plot. They just come off as clueless, and not in an endearing way.

In Conclusion
Vagrant Story is an RPG that excelled at combining a steep learning curve, grim color palette, murky villain motivations, oddly-dressed main character, unusual customization options, and the themes of memory, self, and fate into a compulsively playable package.

Resonance of Fate offers so little in terms of engaging gameplay, challenging combat, appealing characters, or interesting story that I, an obsessive completionist, stopped at Chapter Three. I just quit. This is the first game I have ever just given up on, and hopefully it will be the last. May this review assist you in avoiding my mistake.

Fortunately, I have the fabulous Tomb Raider to wash the distaste from my brain.

Until the next post, be well, and remember: guns don't kill people, people with guns kill people.