Vay (Sega CD) review
"Like many RPGs, Vay begins with an ancient legend, told in full voiceover, that is sure to become relevant to the main character’s goals as he struggles to overcome insurmountable evil. "
Like many RPGs, Vay begins with an ancient legend, told in full voiceover, that is sure to become relevant to the main character’s goals as he struggles to overcome insurmountable evil.
Long ago, in a forgotten corner of the universe, a fierce battle was fought using mechanized technology so destructive, it laid waste to an entire solar system. A lone mechanized warrior, his guidance systems damaged and pilot dead, shot away from the turbulent battle space, destination unknown. After untold ages, the berserker entered the space of a planet abundant with unsuspecting lives and ignorant of technology. Programmed only for death, the machine set about destroying everything in its path. It took the combined resources of the five mightiest wizards to divide and seal the power of the fearsome weapon. The damage inflicted on this small world was great, and many details of the assault were lost. However, even after a millennium had passed, people still spoke in awe as they recounted the legend of the armor, and the five magicians of Vay.
And yes, it does become relevant. Especially when an army of metallic giants storms into your medieval kingdom, wipes out your defenses in a heartbeat, absconds with your bride and leaves you, your royal family, and every last member of your castle for dead. On your wedding day.
Prince Sandor wakes up on the floor of some hideous cellar, barely coherent and overwhelmed by the near-instant annihilation of Lorath, his kingdom. He charges into the throne room. His mother, the queen, is already dead. The king is clinging to his last breath.
“Goodbye, my son… Turn to your duty now… I know you… will not fail… Go…”
“Father?... Father!?... FATHER!”
If you think this is the last major death in Vay, don’t kid yourself.
Sandor is our protagonist, and he is a prince, placing us far closer to the conflict at hand than many RPGs of Vay’s time. Sandor has just seen his kingdom invaded, blown up, torn to pieces, utterly destroyed right in front of him. And now he has inherited that kingdom. Damned if he won’t personally head out there and fight to avenge his people! And maybe he’ll just rescue his fiancée, Elin, in the process.
We know these “metallic beasts” as robots, yet the residents of Lorath know nothing of machines. They are ignorant of guns and bombs and rockets. A local wizard wonders how these iron giants are capable of such supernatural acts of violence when he sensed no presence of magic within them. Sandor is, as they say, in over his head. His only solution is to match their power by breaking the seals of the five great magicians and commandeering the legendary armor that once caused so much destruction. He’ll take his kingdom back one piece at a time.
Our prince is at first armed with a mere sword, yet overpowered mechs are not the only adversaries willing to provide a fair challenge. Even the common thieves, the standard beasts, and the obligatory undead warriors will hammer Sandor and his allies with powerful attacks that will send reckless players running for local inns. The traditional turn-based combat means players will have to rely on party leveling to progress – a tactic any experienced gamer will recognize instantly.
Vay’s difficulty ramps up at a sharp rate, often times without warning. The overworld allows for extensive exploration, but walk too far and your party will face opponents too powerful and too numerous to overcome. Many RPGs limit you with story-based tricks. Vay limits you by kicking your ass if you step out of line.
My first plot objective was a punch in the gut that really sent me a message that Vay requires commitment. I was tasked with taking back the fortress of Gilan, a vital strategic point if I was to overcome my mysterious enemy, who I learned came from a region called Danek. The place was tightly guarded; running in through the front entrance would be suicide. I had to find another way. Luckily, a resident of a local village knew of an underground side passage that would lead right to the heart of Gilan.
That tunnel was packed with monsters more fierce than any I had yet faced. I fought constantly, not just for experience, but for money to buy the best equipment I could find; I knew the worst was yet to come. And even after I was able to pass through the passage in the blink of an eye and charge into the center of Gilan free of fear, I was still not prepared for the challenge that yet awaited me.
The mastermind behind the attack predictably ditched the scene and left me to tangle with his “pet,” an enormous mantis. The monster pulled all of the traditional RPG boss tricks, right down to attacking twice in one turn or pulling some sort of “super attack” out of its ass without warning. When I finally overcame this monstrosity, my fighters were drained of their magic and their healing items, and just barely holding onto what little life they had left. Then the words flashed across the screen:
FORTRESS GILAN HAS BEEN LIBERATED
A more satisfying message I have rarely seen. At this point, I was already starting to suspect that Vay would surpass my minimal expectations, and this piece of dialog, spoken by a nameless NPC, seems to hint that there are greater things at play here:
Long ago, before there were monsters, men built towers of glass and metal. Every town had many schools and the strongest magic was “science.” People zoomed around in armored wagons or flying ships faster than a sparrowhawk. Everyone had a magic window that let them see across the whole world. We never believed Grandpa’s tales, but these new Danek machines… Well, it makes me wonder…
Indeed, Vay is a place where the most intriguing things can be found in the most unexpected places. What other fascinating developments are there to be found in Vay? I leave it to you to find out.
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