|PS3 / XBOX 360||USA|
By Spencer . March 23, 2010 . 5:32pm
Resonance of Fate opens with a dramatic cutscene where Subject 20, a girl fated to die when she turns twenty leaps off a building, head first into a city. Zephyr, a teenage hunter, grabs a rope and swings over to save her. The rope snaps and both lead characters plummet towards the ground before having a “Peter Pan” moment.
What happens next? Hold that thought. Resonance of Fate begins in Vashyron’s home where he lives with Zephyr and Leanne, a cheerful girl Zephyr saved. The three of them are mercenaries living in the distant future where Earth is so polluted people can only survive in Basel, a tower-like machine rooted deep in the ground. It just so happens Basel is also inhibited by monsters, mobsters, and other unfriendly fodder, which is why the wealthy citizens hire Vashyron’s squad for fetch quests.
Resonance of Fate is broken down into missions, some are required to complete a chapter and others are optional. You decide which order to do them in. Missions are posted on a bulletin board inside the guild with a picture of the client. Why a picture? Vashyron has to track clients down Where’s Waldo style by running around Ebel City to talk to them and eventually claim his reward. The town (yes, there is a town) has a neat aesthetic, which is part clockwork-punk and part Victorian. Ebel City isn’t vastly populated, but there are shops and townsfolk to talk to. However, the average city dweller only speaks generic greetings like “hi” or “hello there.” They say a lot more in silent text boxes, though.
Leave Ebel City and you can explore the world map. Elevators take you to different levels of Basel and “dungeons.” But, wait you can’t go to those yet because you haven’t built a path to them. Resonance of Fate has a puzzle-like system where the World Map needs to be filled in with energy hexes. Once you rotate and plop an energy hex down you can move on that
square hexagon. Sounds simple enough, but you’re given all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors. The last variable is particularly important since colored spots act like barriers by preventing players from passing until someone gives them a hex with a matching hue. Most energy hexes are earned from fighting enemies in random encounters.
And Resonance of Fate has a lot of fighting done with an original battle system created by tri-Ace. Resonance of Fate doesn’t have swords, magic, or menus. The “tri-attack-battle” system is something like a mix of Valkyria Chronicles and Star Ocean. Each character (Vashyron, Zephyr, and Leanne) have action points shown as a life bar-like meter. You use these to move and charge for a shot. The closer you are to a target, the less time and action points it takes to charge. After one full charge you can attack. (You can charge more, if you want.) Rat-tatta! [Blue damage points popup.] Those are scratch damage points. Technically, you didn’t “damage” the enemy. Scratch damage, dealt from using machine guns and other rapid fire weapons, naturally recovers over time and can’t defeat an enemy. You need to deal direct damage from a handgun or throwing weapon such as a hand grenade to hurt a thug or robot. Direct damage also converts all scratch damage to a permanent wound. Scratch damage hits harder than direct damage so you typically want to spray bullets with a machine gun and then close with direct damage.
That’s only the beginning.
Resonance of Fate adds another layer of strategy with bezel points and hero actions. Players can set a route for a hero action, which Vashyron runs on until he reaches the end or bumps into a solid object. While moving, Vashyron can shoot enemies with flashy moves like sliding past an enemy in slow motion and flipping in the air while firing a pistol. You can also leap over enemies and walls, which other party members can use as makeshift cover. Since time slows down during hero actions, players deal way more damage and can hit more enemies while using a hero attack. The catch is each hero action consumes one bezel. You can restore bezels by destroying enemies, critically wounding them (like shooting an arm off a robot) or wining a battle. Bezels also act as extra lives. If Zephyr is daydreaming in a corner and a gremlin knocks his HP down to zero you also lose a bezel. Run out of bezels and the entire party enters critical condition. Leanne trembles when she fires her gun in this state. Why? Because the game ends if a single party member gets knocked out. You can, in theory and personal practice, enter critical condition by using too many hero actions in a row. On the other hand, if you don’t use any hero attacks, your party can be overwhelmed. There’s a clever risk-reward relationship when it comes to bezels.
And we’re still in the shallow end of combat. Tri-ace added more maneuvers like resonance points, which you earn by running through the other two characters. These are used to trigger an all out tri-attack where everyone runs in a triangle blasting bullets. Then there are smackdown moves, air-juggling bonus shots, and body part targeting. Resonance of Fate is complicated, especially in the beginning. This is one game where it pays to run through the tutorial at the battle arena. Especially because you’re going to spend a lot of time fighting. “Dungeons” (note the quotes) are really long battles. Each screen has enemies and after you clear them you move right into another enemy filled hex. This continues until you leave or battle a boss.
All of these battles are rewarded with a ton of experience points, which are poured into your weapons. Resonance of Fate calculates each character’s level by taking the sum of their individual weapon (handgun/machinegun/throwing weapon) levels. So, if you bring handgun up from level 1 to 2 you get a whole character level. Trading weapons is a handy way of building up your characters fast. Weapons also grow when you customize them. Players can tack on parts like scopes and clips by placing them on a Diablo-like inventory sheet. Vashyron (and his squad) can also be customized with various garments, hairstyles, hair colors, and even colored contacts at the boutique. These changes stick during story sequences since Resonance of Fate uses models instead of pre-rendered movies.
In the beginning, Resonance of Fate’s story doesn’t feel like it has direction. Why did Zephyr save Leanne? How is Vashyron so well connected? What happened to the Earth? Tri-ace, in a way, says don’t worry about those things now – here’s Leanne dressed with funny facepaint. Oh, and go give this person knives. The plot doesn’t pickup for awhile so Resonance of Fate feels like The Misadventures of Vashyron’s Hunter Squad at first. Each chapter acts like its own sitcom episode for the first half of the game. You get to know the cast as ordinary people first rather than a group of heroes with flashbacks to their regular lives. I found this aspect of Resonance of Fate refreshing.
The game also progresses as quickly or as slowly as you want. You choose when its time to move on to the next chapter. Speaking of time, Resonance of Fate is time-friendly. It’s a console game with a suspend save. So, you don’t need to search for a save point or race to Vashyron’s house just to take a break. Suspend saves vanish after you load them, but they’re great for long games like RPGs. (Developers take note of this!) Also, if you lose a battle, even a boss battle, Resonance of Fate doesn’t reset to the title screen or warp you to a church after taking half your money. You can have a second (or third, forth, fifth…) chance if you spend a small sum of money. It’s enough of a penalty to make you feel bad, but not frustrated.
Tri-ace implemented a ton of ideas in Resonance of Fate, which makes it stand out from all of the other RPGs out in stores this month. Not all of them are perfect, but Resonance of Fate is certainly unique and has more substance than the Hollywood action flick style screenshots imply.