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Enchanted Arms (PlayStation 3) artwork

Enchanted Arms (PlayStation 3) review

"There are not enough RPGs available on the PS3 for my taste at the moment and when I got my hands on a copy of Ubisoft’s Enchanted Arms I hoped that it would fill this unwelcome gap in my collection. In the end though I am afraid it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Don’t get me wrong, the game is not without its good points but overall it was not the next-gen experience that I was hoping for. Initially I was pleased to see that the game mimics the Final Fantasy style that I like so mu..."

There are not enough RPGs available on the PS3 for my taste at the moment and when I got my hands on a copy of Ubisoft’s Enchanted Arms I hoped that it would fill this unwelcome gap in my collection. In the end though I am afraid it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Don’t get me wrong, the game is not without its good points but overall it was not the next-gen experience that I was hoping for. Initially I was pleased to see that the game mimics the Final Fantasy style that I like so much with a party of characters to look after, an extensive array of skills to develop and plenty of random battles to keep me on my toes. Unfortunately for Enchanted Arms, however, I am a big fan of the Final Fantasy games and I guess I will always judge any similar RPGs which I play against their exacting standards. For a so called PS3 game I am afraid that this doesn’t even compare well when set against its competitors on the PS2. Of course, that makes for a fairly short review, so the least I can do is tell you a little more about the game.

Enchanted Arms is set in a world where humans have learned to control a magic called Enchant. This magic allows inanimate objects to be given a basic life force and, although these objects will never become fully independent, they can be instructed to perform simple repetitive tasks such as juggle as a street performer or, more usefully, attack the nearest enemy. Once these objects have been given life they are known as golems an due to the wide range of applications for which they can be used they have found their way into all aspects of people’s lives; from working in shops to fighting on behalf of the military. It will come as now surprise to discover that all of a sudden these golems decide that they no longer want to play ball and turn on their human masters. Add into the mix that a new breed of super golem, believed buried forever after the end of the golem wars a thousand years previously, has decided to come back out to play and you have soon got a bit of a fight on your hands.

Fortunately the main character in the game, Atsuma, is no stranger to Enchant magic being a student at the imaginatively titled Enchant University. He and his two friends and fellow students, Makoto and Toya, make up your initial party of three characters. There are a few more characters to discover as you progress but more interestingly you can also Enchant your own golems and add these to your army. I say army because with over a hundred different golems available it pretty much ends up that way by the time you get towards the end of the game. New golems are either purchased from shops or, in the case of the better ones, must be defeated in battle in order to obtain their core and then reanimate them without the desire to beat your head in.

With all of these characters and golems to develop the game can initially seem a little stat heavy but for me this is no bad thing. The tutorials are thorough to the point that they become annoying but after you have finally waded through all of that egg sucking there is no way you won’t have a grip on all of the commands and menu screens. To give you a basic idea of how things work here are most important three stats which you need to pay attention to; Health Points, Ether Points and Vitality Points. Health Points and Ether Points are both used directly in battle and when you think about it are fairly obvious; lose all of your health and you will die, lose all of your ether and you will no longer be able to use any skills. Unusually, however, both health and ether are refilled to maximum at the end of each battle. This is where Vitality Points come in. Your health and ether will only refill if you still have vitality so if you run out of vitality you will instantly drop to one health and one ether, making you fairly instantly dead. Vitality falls each time you are hit, knocked out or when three turns pass in battle so it disappears a lot faster than you would like. Replenishing it is a lot harder and can only be done at certain recharge points or by removing a character from your party and resting them. This sounds fairly unexciting I know but it is important to mention as this is the reason you will find yourself tactically swapping your party around and making full use of your golem army.

Nice stats system aside the rest of the game is fairly poor with the exception of the combat system. I will save this for later and get the bad stuff out of the way first as it is always nice to try and end things on a positive note. So, the story is nothing original for starters. That is the bits which I bothered to pay attention to. This has got to be the most vocal game I have ever come across and it is not unusual to find your party getting themselves into a five minute chat amongst themselves. Now character development is all well and good but to be honest I do like to actually play a game from time to time and not just sit and listen to my party bicker with each other. The voice acting is poor and the script is so cheesy that you can smell it. Even as a fan of Japanese anime humour I soon found myself fast forwarding through all of the speaking parts and as a result probably missing the odd gem of plot buried amongst the gorgonzola. Seriously, if I heard Toya (who is one of those characters that knows exactly what is happening at any given moment and could probably have told you the ending of the game in the first five minutes to save you all of the bother) say “If I recall correctly…” one more time my television was going out of the window.

The graphics are not up to the “beautiful cinematic quality” which Ubisoft would have us believe either. A good proportion of the in game environments would probably survive quite nicely on a PS2. There are some impressive cut sequences but these just jar against the poorer stuff and make me wonder; why couldn’t it all be this good? The music is fortunately not too bad. Nothing astounding mind, but then RPG scores are rarely that interesting and so long as they don’t become annoying during the huge number of hours you will be playing this sort of game then I am happy.

On the plus side, as I mentioned before, the combat system is particularly good in this game. Each battle takes place on a field of six by four squares. This field is then divided in two so that each side has its own field of three by four squares in which it can move. You can never cross over to the enemy’s side of the field but that isn’t a problem as all of your attacks have an area of effect. This area ranges from a single square directly in front of you to several squares in a variety of different patterns. You must give all of your orders at the very start of each round so this means setting each character to move and to attack. This makes things very tactical as you can layer several character attacks to cover the same square and so create a combo attack. Naturally your enemy can do the same so you need to try and anticipate their attacks and not line up all of your characters for an easy kicking. It is almost like a game of chess and is both more challenging and more interesting than just selecting an enemy to attack.

Random battles are not as frequent as in Final Fantasy games but that is made up for by the fact that they can become quite lengthy. The game itself is quite lengthy in fact, especially if you want to complete all of the side quests, collect all of the golems and then level them all up in order to make the best party you can. If you do miss anything on your travels don’t despair as you can save the game on completion and then start again with all of your golems and equipment intact. This definitely adds to the desire to play it through again and I wish that more games would allow you to do this. Playing through again with nice equipment is a lot more interesting than just starting again from scratch.

Overall then Enchanted Arms falls somewhere in the middle as far as ratings are concerned. There is certainly no next-gen feel about it as advertised and the plot is nothing new either. That said there is plenty to go at and there are some original ideas in here which deserve closer inspection. A final word of warning though; this game likes loading and how. I have a feeling that this rant is going to crop up on a larger scale elsewhere, but why do games feel the need to tell me that they are “now loading” or show me a little picture of a spinning disc? We all know that games need to load but surely they could just throw up a nice picture or drag out a repetitive animation to cover up the delay. “Now loading” is the mood killer of the century and seriously causes me to pop out of the plot just when I was getting sucked in.

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Community review by OrpheusUK (April 14, 2008)

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