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Resonance of Fate (PlayStation 3) artwork

Resonance of Fate (PlayStation 3) review

"For the most part, this battle system works wonders and it lends Resonance of Fate a fair portion of its charm. When you're able to stop thinking about all of the strategy that goes into perfectly executing a massive assault on powerful enemies, you're able to stop and (mostly) enjoy some of the most visually stimulating combat ever featured in a JRPG. You're characters run, jump, flip and whirl through interactive arenas, participants in a bullet-riddled ballet."

Resonance of Fate is a unique JRPG with a lot to offer. Much of that is due to one simple element: acrobatic gun battles.

Combat feels different in a very good way. Though turn-based, the random battles that you'll face in the bizarre (let's call it steam-punk) world of Basel feel more action-packed than many of those you'll encounter in other games that label themselves action-RPGs. There are no surprise attacks in this game. No one gets the jump on anyone else. Mostly, you'll get to go first and you'll see on-screen indicators that let you know which foe is about to mount an aggressive attack. Once you commit to taking an action with a character, he or she will wander around as you direct--and as enemies start taking turns of their own--and you can pause everything to stop and think simply by not moving anymore. Meters will stop filling or draining as is appropriate and you can take as long as you like to decide what you want to do next.

For the most part, what you'll want to do next is launch what the game calls a "heroic attack," a special move that consumes a bezel crystal from your meter at the bottom of the screen. These crystals allow you to initiate powerful attacks that quickly demolish your enemies' defenses, but you have a limited supply of those precious crystals. If your life drops too low, you lose some of them. If you initiate heroic attacks, you lose some of them. Losing too many of them means that you're screwed because suddenly you'll take much more damage and you'll find both your offensive and defensive options severely limited. You'll win battles only by finding a careful balance of vicious offense and cunning defense. There are times when attacking an enemy all-out isn't the best option and there were others where going for broke can pay huge dividends as you land powerful attacks that allow you to refill your precious stock of bezel crystals.

The final twist on combat is the manner in which your two main weapon types come into play. You'll take control of the same three party members throughout the whole game, except for moments where one character or another drops briefly from the group to satisfy plot requirements. Over the course of the game, your characters can carry handguns, machine guns, grenade cases and healing kits. You can swap them out as you wish, with certain folks possessing a higher affinity for one type or another. What's important to know is that machine guns will quickly weaken enemy shields and handguns will convert that temporary damage into permanent harm. You can't win conflicts by simply blazing through with one type of gear. Only a careful combination of the two firearm types will allow you to triumph over powerful adversaries that are capable of blowing you all the way to kingdom come.

For the most part, this battle system works wonders and it lends Resonance of Fate a fair portion of its charm. When you're able to stop thinking about all of the strategy that goes into perfectly executing a massive assault on powerful enemies, you're able to stop and (mostly) enjoy some of the most visually stimulating combat ever featured in a JRPG. You're characters run, jump, flip and whirl through interactive arenas, participants in a bullet-riddled ballet. They duck behind walls for cover, blast explosive barrels to stun their foes and even stumble against footfalls if you're not paying attention when you initiate Tri-Attack moves that bring your three heroes together for a united attack.

The only complaint I can really level against combat itself is that sometimes it can be difficult to target the enemy that you meant to hit. With surprising frequency, I would target an enemy, then go about setting up an anchor to determine where I wanted my character to run while firing machine gun bursts. Then I'd start the move, only to realize that the game had sneakily switched my selected target. I would have to quickly press buttons to cycle through to the intended target, all but nullifying any effects that my offensive maneuver would have had. In other cases, there would be a string of enemies lined up, all about to die, and I'd start a rush. The first one would go down as planned and the game would automatically target my next foe--some scrub completely across the arena that I wasn't even aware of and had no reason to care about--instead of going the obvious route and landing on the weakling directly ahead of me. Thanks, game. I really appreciate that.

Camera issues can be dealt with, however, and those who are willing to forgive them should find that combat in Resonance of Fate is truly engaging. That's good, since you'll be fighting a lot of them as you make your way through the extensive content that's available here.

The world that you'll explore, Basel, is presented in a unique manner. There are a precious few towns where you can talk to NPCs, visit shops and check in at guilds for mission assignments. There's no combat here. Locations are on the small side, but that's just fine because that way you aren't left wandering empty streets and wishing something would happen. You're free to stock up, then venture back to the world map, which is presented as a grid comprised of hexes. To venture anywhere on the grid, you must lay down pieces. Doing so activates new dungeons and terminals, as well as elevators that allow you to travel up and down levels. Basel resembles a massive skyscraper, with its environments connected by elevators and lifts. I'm not quite sure how to make that sound awesome in a review like this one, so I hope you'll just take my word for it when I say that it's quite cool.

As much as I like the manner in which map exploration is handled, though, I can't help but feel that there's some missed opportunity here. For one thing, Basel just doesn't boast enough variety or even enough unique locations. You're exploring a series of dull ruins, occasionally several times over, and all of them are brown and gray in color. It's like the artists at Tri-Ace weren't ready to use any other inks. That can make for a dreary 80 hours, which is about how long you're likely to spend on this game if you take the time to complete the numerous side quests.

Of course, any dreariness that you encounter while exploring Basel is clearly meant to complement a dark central narrative. The problem is that you're expected to bring your own building blocks to construct the plot. The game provides you with general parameters and there are intriguing scenes at the start and end of each in-game chapter, but a lot of what you'll see lacks the context that would most readily make it compelling. You'll probably find yourself wondering why you're supposed to care about a fat oaf who wears a shirt with "Love Me" printed on it. Occasional scenes of comic relief feel out of place, but it's hard to be sure if that's intentional--to make a point about the bleak world ruled by a mechanical god--or if it's just bad writing. I can't recall the last time I had this much trouble deciding just what I thought of the quality and consistency of a game's story. There's no question that Resonance of Fate weaves an interesting tale, but it's so concerned with making each twist a spoiler of some sort that I can't even provide you with a linear synopsis without spoiling half of the scenes in the game. The disjointed style prevented me from figuring out who the final villain was going to be until I was fighting him, and then his sudden change in personality was so jarring that I thought about that more than the strategy that it would take to send him to his grave. Truly, it's bizarre.

Don't get the idea that I didn't like Resonance of Fate, though. I loved it. Despite an occasionally weak camera, the combat is engaging enough to make the game worth a try all on its own. The mythology and world that you'll explore provide a similar delight, even if you have to dig through some bleak and disjointed delivery to get there. Besides that, you can easily spend eighty hours or more uncovering every secret in this massive game and there's post-game content to keep you playing after the credits roll. The end result is one of the most intriguing RPGs yet to arrive on this current round of consoles. It's not for everyone, certainly, but the hardcore genre fan who is searching for something a little bit different could very well fall in love. Definitely give it a shot.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (April 21, 2010)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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