Soul of Deva (Android) review
"A somewhat soulless offering from Kemco. Heh, get it? Soulless?"
Hit-Point is arguably the most interesting of the several groups that design RPGs for Kemco. The publisher's rapid-fire release schedule means most of its development partners stick to a general template. That leads to short, decent games that eventually start blending as their core similarities overwhelm any superficial differences. Hit-Point is an exception, though. Their games feature a variety of styles, even if they're not always particularly original.
Soul of Deva continues the trend. It features a different battle system than I encountered in the other two Hit-Point games I've played. You can only use three of your eventual five party members at once, and you must move them around an 4x2 grid as you face off against monsters. Movement is optional, since you can simply have them stand still and duke it out with monsters if you like, but there are actual benefits to not staying rooted in one place. When moving, a character's attacks cause less damage, but so do those of foes. A lot of really strong physical attacks even miss your guys if they're moving. And you will find a variety of items to help your side, or hinder your foes'. Bombs damage anyone standing next to them, while rocks prevent movement to that square. One sort of statue regenerates the health of adjacent units. Another one grants everyone on your team a defensive boost. This could be considered similar to the battle system in the Mega Man Battle Network games (if those were purely turn-based), but it's different from the typical Kemco fare.
Different doesn't necessarily mean better, though. Hit-Point's big problem is that its teams come up with interesting ideas, but never seem to completely integrate them. Moving around only minimizes the damage of physical attacks, not magical ones, so it's only really useful in certain situations. Against a really large tortoise boss capable of pulling off one-hit kills with a particular attack when you're standing still, movement is a godsend. Against other foes, not so much. Many random mobs are weak enough that I preferred to stay stationary in order to maximize my damage and kill them quickly. Bosses unleash powerful magic attacks that hit most, if not all of your grid, which renders movement meaningless.
The game's plot isn't completely uninteresting, but it also failed to live up to its potential by being fairly predictable. A young half-demon, Shin, meets a pair of wandering women and joins them on their mission to reach the nation of Raglis. Sania, who is frequently referred to as "savior" due to her powerful magical abilities, is being hunted by the forces of the Demon Queen, and Gyok is her half-demon bodyguard. Gyok doesn't trust Shin due to the combination of her overprotective nature towards Sania and his hot-headed and erratic behavior. Even so, the trio forge an uneasy alliance when Shin takes it upon himself to provide an escort after saving the ladies from a local demon thug.
As the tale unfolds, you learn all about how the world is full of prejudice. Humans hate demons because the latter have the disconcerting habit of capturing them to serve as food. No human seems to like half-demons because they're part demon. And to demons, they're inferior because they're not completely demonic. Once you learn about this, your party is joined by Hagg, a peaceful, non-human-eating demon who simply wants to co-exist with others. That immediately shoots a hole in the whole "all demons are evil" concept. A bit later, another half-demon named Jou joins your party, to serve as Casanova-esque comic relief.
So, yeah, Raglis. The whole place is led by a dude named Cassiya and his elite Nirva officers. It's designated as a haven for members of all races to live in harmony. Pay no attention to how Cassiya looks like a stereotypical evil old guy in his character portrait, or the fact that he has barely greeted your party before he orders them to assassinate the Demon Queen (there are no diplomatic solutions for this guy!). You don't want to ruin any big plot twists by noticing little details like those, do you? Besides, it takes well over half the game's duration to even reach Raglis, so you'll have other things on your mind... such as how virtually every demon besides Hagg wants to devour Sania because they will apparently absorb her power in the process. When the game finally gets heavy-handed about discussing how demons are just like humans--with some being evil and others good--it's easy to see how that moral might lack conviction.
Or maybe it simply isn't effective because Hit-Point sucks at actually telling stories. The translation is pretty awkward (witness characters saying "You've got the wrong end of the stick" when they really mean "You've got the wrong idea"), the attempts at humor tend to fall flat and your party comes off as bickering dolts who mainly stick together because the script demands it. Except when it doesn't. There are a couple of times when someone leaves the party for a while. This is somewhat noteworthy because non-active party members get NO experience from battles fought. If you're not prepared for someone's departure, you could be stuck grinding so that your woefully ill-equipped remaining crew members are capable of advancing any further. The first time this happens, it's no big deal because the character who leaves decides to come back after you complete a fairly short dungeon romp. Later in the campaign, though, someone who likely has been a core member of your party disappears for an extended period of time, which could force you to replace that character with one who is 20 or more levels weaker. Not cool!
And then there are the little problems that make me wish that Hit-Point would simply put more effort into minor details that often have so much impact on how much fun a game is to play. As do many other Kemco games, Soul of Deva features side quests. Here, though, you'll find no indication that a particular NPC offers one. You have to talk to everyone when you enter a town, and after that town's relevant plot purpose has been fulfilled, until you (hopefully) find someone willing to give you a mission. There's also no sub-screen detailing these side quests, so if you clear one, you better hope your memory is good enough to remember which citizen to see about collecting your reward.
Such failings are made more annoying because they get in the way of some decent design choices. Your characters all possess weapons known as Soul Arms, which they can power up by spending soul points earned in battle. They can strengthen physical and magic power, improve critical hit percentages and retain more of their attack power while moving. The game also employs a novel take on standard IAP functions. You get some purchasing power (through items called "Atoma Slips") by beating bosses and can gain others through a treasure-picking mini-game that can be accessed every 30 minutes. None of the things that can be bought with your Atoma Slips have any purpose beyond making things easier, meaning there are no additional characters or dungeons hidden behind the paywall. I didn't actually grab anything with my decent-sized collection of Atoma Slips because I found a much better purpose for them. Whenever your party perishes in battle, you can use one to completely restore everyone, while whatever killed you remains at its current health level. Guess how I eventually overpowered the admittedly tough final boss? There was no way I had any desire to grind a few levels to win fair and square, so having more lives than a cat sufficed!
I suppose you can guess that my final verdict on this game isn't all that favorable, not when I'm listing as a positive feature my ability to cheat my way through the final boss encounter. But it's not like Soul of Deva is a horrible game, either. It's just unrefined, which makes it feel somewhat incomplete. When a game has a shoddy translation, a derivative story and a combat system that might be interesting but doesn't feel fully realized, it struggles to maintain my interest. That is a problem I've had with a fair number of Kemco's games. It just seemed more pronounced here. After the combat system's initial appeal started to fade, there simply wasn't enough here to keep me involved, which made the game a struggle to complete.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (June 14, 2017)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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