"They’re all orphans. They all lost their loved ones to war. They all love brooding about it at the slightest provocation. The only person who doesn’t routinely go into a whine-fest is the panty-stealing pervert of the group, Chris, and even he has his moments. Magna Carta is THE game for Linkin Park-listening, depressed teenager, perfect for the ‘emo’ crowd. Boyfriend left you? Failing in school? Not enough hair gel? One or two cutscenes full of angst-ridden hack writing and life will be worth living again, guaranteed. "
The Magna Carta is an English document that dates back to the 13th century, meant to lessen the power of England’s monarchs. Long story made short, King John was the loser that took over after King Richard the Lion Hearted died. He more or less screwed over his family to come to power. He was a lecher, he probably would have been forced out of power if he hadn't died first, and England was in Civil War by the time his rule was over. All in all he was a jerk, but he was a jerk with unlimited power. The Magna Carta changed that, put checks on his power, and is generally credited with starting the trend that led to constitutional law.
Save for the name, Magna Carta: Tears of Blood has absolutely, positively, 100% NOTHING TO DO WITH ANY OF THAT. But if it did, it would probably be much cooler. Keep that in mind.
Meet Calintz, leader of the Tears of Blood mercenary group, fighting a war against a powerful race of Elvin assholes called the Yason. Of course Calintz has a dark and sordid past with the Yason, one that led him to become an orphan and swear eternal, cliché vengeance against their kind. Of course he trained hard, became a sword master, and decided to confound his enemies by looking like a girl somewhere along the line. Of course he goes on a crucial mission one day, and of course it goes horribly, horribly wrong for a mysterious reason that will be used later for a contrived plot twist, but gives him the opportunity to ‘sacrifice’ himself for his friends, falling into a dark chasm. And, of course, his life is saved by a ditzy healer-girl with doe eyes and ample breasts.
Now, if only the girl had amnesia…oh, wait, she does. Perfect.
Now, we throw in a script that’s guaranteed to have you CRAWLING IN YOUR SKIN. Everyone is sad about something. They’re constantly brooding, using every scene to further delve into their horrible pasts. They’re all orphans. They all lost their loved ones to war. They all love brooding about it at the slightest provocation. The only person who doesn’t routinely go into a whine-fest is the panty-stealing pervert of the group, Chris, and even he has his moments.
I've read enough about King John to know that he was pretty much a certifiable bastard. I like him more than anyone in this game.
Assuming you can stomach the fighting long enough to get to the cutscenes, which isn’t the easiest of tasks, Magna Carta will attempt to thrill you with its 'innovative battle system, which borrows elements from, Grandia and Radiata Stories, two RPGs with awesome fights. Against all odds, it manages to mess them up.
Like Grandia, you have the ability to see your enemies in the overworld, engaging them from there, eliminating random battles. Unlike Grandia, Calintz becomes extremely near-sided whenever he enters a dungeon. He has two modes of movement: Running and walking. When he’s running, he can only see about three feet in front of him, making you prone to sneak attacks as enemies magically fade in and out of view, appearing as if some thick, invisible fog had set in. There’s also walking, in which Calintz takes out his sword and walks in slow, controlled (and rather prissy, I might add) steps. Like this, his vision is increased ten-fold, but his speed gets cut in half. So if you run, you spend a long time in the dungeon getting ambushed. And if you don’t run, you spend a long time in the dungeon walking around like a little girl.
Walking is better, though, because if you walk, then you have a chance at avoiding the enemies. You want to avoid the enemies. The thing is, most dungeons only have two kinds of monsters, so you’ll be having many déjà vu fights. A game like, say, Radiata Stories, could get away with that by offering superior combat, but Magna Carta doesn’t have that excuse. Magna Carta uses a real-time system that has you attacking with timed-button presses; you run over to the enemy in real-time and attack when you’re in range. Using a weak attack requires you to hit three buttons with the right timing. Doing a less weak attack requires the same thing. And with a medium attack, and with a strong attack. You have to do the weaker attacks in order to get the strong attacks, but if you miss once, just once, you have to start all over with the weak attack. Plus, the enemies will probably use that time to smack you around a bit.
And what are your allies doing at this time? Absolutely nothing. Because you can only control one character at a time, and while you’re controlling that character, the other two stand around idle and watch, or make statuesque distractions for your opponents. But the enemies, they can move all at once. They don’t have to worry about constantly switching characters, they don’t stand still when you thwack them.
I believe the developers intended for the fights to be intense, maybe even fun. They’re not. When you lose a fight simply because you pressed O when you should have pressed X, intense isn’t the word that comes to mind. Irritating, yes. Stupid, hell yes. But not intense.
Now, keep in mind that all of this, every cutscenes and every battle, looks like crap. Jagged edges plague the screen, sharp reminders of the original Playstation’s ugly days. Character movements are downright robotic; they move more like action figures than actual people. Even the battle animations, things that most RPGs are totally badass at, are screwed up. Piffy little light shows, generic combos, fire magic that looks more like a red smoke than fire…and it’s all made worse by the crappy battle system, which forces you to do the same attacks, constantly.
Boring characters, boring story. Boring enemies, boring battles. Magna Carta employs things like a gift-giving system and item-combination in a last ditch attempt to not suck, but its efforts are futile. Item combination just lets you make somewhat-useful items out of completely useless items, and the gift-giving thing…well, that was just dumb to start with. I can’t stand the characters, why the hell would I want to buy them gifts? I don’t give a shit whether they’re happy or not.
I’d like to say Magna Carta could’ve been a better game with more time and effort, but, really, I don’t think it ever had a chance. It’s just a bunch of concepts, and I’m sure they all looked good on paper, but they haven’t been executed worth a damn. Right now, a game based on some lame king that lived eight centuries ago sounds quite good. They could make it up like Monty Python and the Holy Grail or something. That would rock.
Staff review by Zack Little (December 05, 2005)
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