Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time Playtest – Stands The Test Of Time

By Yusouf . July 29, 2012 . 4:30pm

Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time takes place 2000 years after the arduous battle between humans and angels. Once at the pinnacle of technology, now mankind has fallen from their former glory. Spells are just a myth. Angels are now legends. Still, humans still have not learned from their mistakes and war is as common as ever. Were the angels correct in attempting to exterminate humankind two millennia ago?

 

War and politics are the central themes in Growlanser games, and can be found throughout the story. Your friends today could be your enemies tomorrow, and the opposite statement holds true as well. Changing alliances and betrayals are treated like some sort of a game. Meanwhile, the angels are perceived to be mankind’s greatest threat but with the history of civilisation long gone, no one knows for sure. Although the theme of war and politics sounds a little too deep for a game, you can rest assured that Growlanser does not delve too deep into the specifics. It spares players from feeling like reading a boring history book and only shows the most important and enjoyable bits. Simply said, the pacing is near perfect and events are meaningful.

 

The main character in Growlanser is Crevanille, a mercenary from the famous Alten Schwart mercenary brigade. Due to some unfortunate circumstances he’s lost the people dear to him and now is on a quest to exterminate the angels by his late boss’ wish. Crevanille is a silent protagonist, but you can choose different replies when prompted in such situation. Your choices will not matter much to the main story aside from specific plot points, but it will affect other character’s affection towards Crevanille. This is especially important if you’re interested to see a specific character’s ending, so be mindful of your manners.

 

Joining Crevanille’s quest is his mercenary friend Remus who was also in the brigade and Frayne, a ruin child which was saved by the heroes in a mission. An interesting aspect about the characters in Growlanser is that they have their own motivations and reasons to believe in the path that they’re heading in. They might not be memorable as nothing really stands out personality-wise, but the interaction between characters in the game are believable and natural.

 

At its heart, Growlanser is a strategy RPG. You choose commands from menus that pop up and your characters will follow the instructions that are given to them. What Growlanser does differently is that the battles are played in real-time, and movements are not confined to a tactical grid like most SRPGs.

 

Although the battles are played in real-time, any other action aside from moving and charging spells will halt the combat on screen and plays the corresponding animation for said action. The game will also pause automatically when the menu screen is brought up to issue more commands or to just take a breather from being assaulted from all sides by the opposing faction. This meshing of RTS and SRPG elements makes battles more intense and is a great middle ground for those who find turn-based strategy RPGs too slow and the hectic pace of real-time strategy games too fast.

 

Actions in battle are determined by the status of the ATW gauge. This gauge is directly affected by a character’s ATW stat and it determines the amount of time that needs to elapse before the gauge can fully recover, similar to the concept of cooldown. The difference is that any kind of action will cause the ATW gauge to increase, bar moving and casting spells. Getting attacked while a character is idle will also increase the gauge, further delaying the character’s actions. The implementation of the ATW gauge adds a sense of tension especially in grand scale mission battles where the party is outnumbered and squeezing every last bit of the gauge is required.

 

Contrary to normal actions, spells must first be charged before they can be cast and the caster will be vulnerable and take extra damage until the charge is complete. Spells come in several levels and higher level spells take longer time to cast. Surprisingly the amount of MP needed to cast a low level spell and a high level spell is similar, leading to some very difficult choices of casting low level spells repeatedly or to just take some punishment until the charge for a level 5 spell is complete. Later in the game, the party will have access to combination spells which can deal devastating damage and most importantly, area-of-effect spells, which can be a lifesaver.

 

Battles in Growlanser are divided into two groups: random battles and mission battles. Random battles are not really random as enemies appear on the map at all times and can be engaged at will. These battles are done in small scale and are useful for grinding levels or to gain ARP (Action Role Points). The type of monsters also changes depending on how far you are in the storyline by replacing the weak low level monsters with threatening beasts.

 

Mission battles, on the other hand, are the ones which will advance the storyline and test the player’s wits and patience. In comparison to random battles, mission battles take place on a grand scale.

 

Early mission battles have simple objectives such as defeating all the enemies on screen, but the later missions involves securing an escape route while fending off enemies and to defeat the enemy general while being bombarded with high level spells. It’s fair to say that the mission battles are indirectly portraying the despair and hopelessness of war by pitting the party against insurmountable odds. Some battles can be tricky, but with the right strategy even an under-levelled party is able to turn the tides on their side.

 

Weapons in Growlanser’s world come in the form of magic rings. The type of weapon that materialises depends on the user’s personality. In gameplay terms, these ring weapons provide stat boosts and 3 slots for equipping spellstones for party members.

 

The ring system is very enjoyable in the versatility it allows. A spellstone can have varying effects, ranging from increasing the movement rate by 20% to having 50% resistance towards spells. This allows characters to be moulded in ways you think is suitable for them, whether to be a teleporting harbinger of death or a jack-of-all-trades to adapt in any situation. In case that the equipped spellstones are not suitable for your current battle, it is also possible to switch everything up on-the-fly. There is a lot of fun to be had in customizing characters so that they operate at maximum capability in the limited range of 3 spellstones.

 

Aside from providing specific perks to a character, spellstones also provide valuable skills that can be permanently learned. This system is slightly reminiscent of Final Fantasy IX’s ability system, but there are no limits to the skills that can be used by a character in Growlanser, aside from being limited by class. Each stone carries a specific latent skill which starts at level 0. By actively participating in battles, party members will gain ARP which are automatically allocated to the skills. Once a skill levels up, the character will learn it permanently and can swap the previous stone to learn another skill.

 

Another mention that can be made about the ring system is that the stat modifiers and slots are random. Stronger enemies will drop better rings, but the random nature is still apparent. Some rings might have multiple high level slots but weak stats, while other rings can have amazing stats, but poor slot levels. On one hand this is not really an issue since it is possible to level up ring slots, but it will take quite a while especially if one of the slots on a nice ring starts at level 0. Fortunately the game designers were kind enough to allow shops to sell an item which can increase a ring’s slot level by 1, but this option is only viable late game.

 

Overall, Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time has a very well written story and is at a great pacing. the characters are enjoyable and the game throws enough gameplay variations to remain fresh. Aside from the main gameplay mechanics outlined above, there are also sub mechanics like the Familiar system and Furlough, where you can increase friendship points with your party members.

 

Food for thought:

1. Once enough friendship points are built with your party members their status portrait will change from indifferent to happy.

2. Status buffs are best applied before battle to save precious casting time and actions in battle.

 

4. Allocate around 400MB for the install data. The game has some slowdown problems during battle and item management unless data install is used.

5. There were several animated scenes present between story segments and they’re gorgeous. It would be amazing if there were more of these scenes.


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  • Testsubject909

    Well. I have my pre-order handy…
    Just waiting… just a bit longer now…

    edit: By the way, whatever did happen to Gropersowlansera 4: The Golden Wayfarer of Time? Never did see more news about it since that teaser long back then.

  • MrKappa

    Forgot this was coming out and had to preorder it on Amazon. Not that I have any time right now to play it…

  • Herok♞

    Ok before I was only mildly interested, now I am really interested.

    • Testsubject909

      Ever played some of the previous Growlanser games?

      • Herok♞

         No, so is this a good place to start once I stop being broke?

        • Foofin Around

          Someone said on the OT that this one had the best battle system, story, etc., so I’m assuming yes.

          Edit: Well, the way the person described it (compared to others) seemed nice to me at least.

        • Testsubject909

          As good a place as any.

        • Ladius

          Growlanser WoT is completely stand alone in terms of narrative, and it’s the best, meatiest game in the series in terms of contents and systems. So yeah, this is definitely a good place to start, and I’m sure you will love the game once you give it a chance :)

  • Crimson_Cloud

    Thank you for the input Yusouf. Hopefully this will open even more eyes to the PSP owners. ^^

  • Rudy Soto

    Damn you Yusouf, tempting me further to purchase the game.

  • http://twitter.com/ifarah12 Gren

    We should ask if he likes men.

  • xavier axol

    well i’m ready and so it’s my vita!.

  • 猫 黒

    Better than Gungnir? My psp is collecting dust.  As excited as I am about these new PSP games, they’re beginning to grow stale, just more of the same stuff.

    • Vampiric

       you cant be serious

      • Oscar Alberto Abrego Suarez

        Yes he is, one of the bigger Growlanser fans i have ever seen.

        • DaveyD

          Nm

          • Oscar Alberto Abrego Suarez

            Oh sorry, by the way do you know who i am?

            Hint: add Krat to my first name.

        • Vampiric

           i was refering to jirin

    • DaveyD

      I assure you that this game is quite different from any RPG you have ever played… Unless of course you’ve played a Growlanser title before. 

    • Jirin

      Gungnir:  Awesome story, crappy combat.

      • Shadow_Raskolnik

        The combat in Gungnir was great, especially since the developers included mechanics not normally seen in SRPGs. My only gripe was that the game felt too short, hopefully the next Dept Heaven title will continue where this one left off.

        • Jirin

          In Gungnir, the way the turn counter worked was whacked.  Enemies got their turn just as soon as their counter came up but you had to wait a certain number of clock ticks between actions even if a particular character’s turn counter was ready, making it next to impossible to form any kind of cooperative strategy between characters. Also all the enemies had such high HP the game was all about numeric attrition and not at all about positional strategy.

          Also, the menu system felt like it was designed in 1998, and was even poor for then.

          • Shadow_Raskolnik

            The turn counter works fine in Gungnir. While it may seem like the enemy gets more turns it’s actually pretty even with your turn coming up several times, not to mention that you could still use a character even if they’re turn counter isn’t ready with the only penalty being that you’ll lose health for moving them early. Then there’s the scramble feature which allows you to resets your counter to 0 and allows you to move before the enemy.

            Moving on to the HP complaint the enemies may have high HP, but so do your own characters and it’s pretty easy to drastically cut or even destroy your enemies through smart usage of the Beat and Boost functions. Then there’s the fact that the game does use positional strategy in that you have to use the terrian and attack some enemies in certain ways in order to defeat them (for example knights are excellent defensive units that if equiped with a shield can pretty much block anything that attacks them head on or on the sides, you have to position your units behind them if you want to have any chance in defeating them).

            As for the menu system, while it may share the same random use of fonts as every other Dept Heaven game I thought it was pretty easy to navigate once you got a handle of it.

    • Ladius

      The two games are fairly different, but imho Growlanser WoT is by far deeper, more interesting and far more original (especially if you’re new to the series) in terms of contents. If you have to chose one, defeinitely pick up this one.

    • Shadow_Raskolnik

      I enjoyed Gungnir quite alot, the gameplay had that signature Dept Heaven feel in that the developers included alot of little elements in the mechanics that while at first seem quite dense and obtuse are actually easy to get a hold of after a short while. As for the story it was surprisingly mature like Yggdra Union and Knights in the Nightmare before it.

      While this game may be good (the only Growlanser games I played were 2 and 3 in Generations and I didn’t find them anything special, but I’m perfectly willing to give this one a chance) I would recommend giving Gungnir a chance.

  • Vampiric

    growlanser is awesome and I hope this leads to a 7

  • Oscar Alberto Abrego Suarez

    Good review toughts whatever.
    I cant believe there are only 3 days to launch, altought  will have to wait one or two weeks for the game to ship, that makes me sad.

  • z_merquise

    Is this game available through UMD or PSN download? I’m interested in this game.

    Like @Cyberninja776:disqus , I never played a Growlanser game so this may be my first.

    • DaveyD

      It will be available as both.  The release date is July 31st. 

    • Oscar Alberto Abrego Suarez

      Do note  will take time until this game can be Vita compatible if you want it on Vita.

      • z_merquise

        How so? I thought every PSP games downloaded via PSN would work instantly in Vita. Or is there something I missed. I don’t have a Vita yet so I just wanted to know.

        • Oscar Alberto Abrego Suarez

          I dont know the details but it has to do with Sony aproving the game to work in it.

    • LynxAmali

       Both, I believe.

      I know UMD for sure.
      Not completely sure about PSN though.

  • Nitraion

    Played all ps2 groelancer game… I say it’s solid SRPG and Feels like playing game with uncertainty like old days RPG and bit hard on char flag and event XD
    Staying alive is a bit hard to for me lol…

  • Jirin

    I played Growlanser II and III and liked them.  Really incredible SRPG gameplay and especially plots.

    Looks like only four characters in battle.  That’s a bit of a shame, as I preferred the massive eight character battles of II.

    Hopefully there’s not as many protection battles as II and III, as it’s almost impossible to defend people due to the unblockability of spells.  That’s the one thing I didn’t like about Growlanser II, waaaaay too many battles where the defeat condition had weird detection conditions.  Firefly, UGH.  Or, ‘You have to defend six defenseless pack animals, by the way, the battlefield is surrounded by archers and mages who are unblockable so you pretty much have to know where they are in advance’.  I’d rather save Rafa than protect more pack animals.

    • http://myfigurecollection.net/collection/ashgail Ashgail

      There are still quite a bit of missions like that, but you can equip element null-ing spellstones if you know exactly what kinds of magic the enemy will be using. For animal protection, well, you’ll just have to pray. PRAY HARD

  • Michael Connell

    I have been counting the days since Atlus announced[ in a few hours it will only be one to go…then I have to wait for my preorder to ship, lol

  • http://vindictushots.tumblr.com/ Okuni-chan

    One more glorious day until this game is in my psp and no other UMD shall take its place for a long, long time (✿❛◡❛)

  • Cuticle

    lol, nice font. Definitely skipping this one.

    • Muffum

      That’s the first time I’ve heard someone disavow an entire game for the font it uses. First time for everything, I s’pose.

      • Testsubject909

        “New Times Roman? What is this a high school essay? So not buying!”

        Or something like that would’ve made an interesting comedic overly picky snobbish sort of comment to enjoy.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000405678458 Franco Bär

       That’s… ridiculous…

      • Hraesvelgr

        Even more ridiculous is the two likes it has…

        • Crimson_Cloud

           I have even seen people skipping games because of the cover art. Strange folk out there indeed…

    • cj_iwakura

      I’m no big fan of the font either, but it’s Growlanser IV. It could be Comic Sans MS and I’d still play it. (Also,the JP font is identical, they might not have had a choice.)

    • http://vindictushots.tumblr.com/ Okuni-chan

      Don’t judge a book by it’s font ( ಠ_ಠ)

  • Ladius

    My copies have already been shipped :) This is definitely one of the best jrpgs ever localized on PSP, I really hope everyone here gives it a chance. Jrpg lovers who never played a Growlanser game are definitely in for a big surprise.

    • Mrgrgr and Unacceptable World

      Really loves this comment here. Hoped that many Jrpg lovers there would try this game there even though the art and graphics maybe a bit dated here.

      As this game battle system is surely one of the top notch there and the story there, while quite simple has always been very solid there.^_^

  • Mrgrgr and Unacceptable World

    I have been waiting long enough for this game here.^_^ Can’t wait for the game to arrive here.T_T

    Considering Growlancer has always been my personal classic Jrpg favorites like the Shining series here, i really hoped that this one will sell well here.^_^

  • Ravage27

    I believe you have just sold me on this game

  • http://www.segalization.com/ Kuronoa

    Getting this ASAP, I have Generations and love it so far (playing 2 atm).  Though some later missions are really trollish but fun still. lol

  • cj_iwakura

    Really is one of the greatest SRPGs ever. Anyone who enjoys this, look up Generations as well. II and III are also amazing. You won’t be disappointed.

  • Daniel Morandi

    The game is amazing, a true gem in the psp library. Not only the design are preety, the story is very good the battles are fun, the system is interesting and the characters are amazing. Not because as you said they are memorable but the development is preety good so they don’t become forgetable.
    The game has 40 ending, people usually complain because is too much but it isn’t hard to reach most of them. If you talk about replay value, the game had a caotic route in the new game+ there you have some ending but in the normal route you can reach nearly all of them (as I played the original) so make sure of what characters do you like and not ignore them. In the final talk before the final dungeon (preety obvious event) make a save in a different slot.

    PROTIP: I read that Sirvanele required to save some character (I won’t reveal who cause “spoiler”) but if you want her ending you need to do a great change in the main story as you need to save them and they appear in future events. This is interesting, because is like “another hidden route” in the normal one.

  • http://twitter.com/ChaseBurr Newport Box 100s

    Game looks great . I will order it tomorrow .

  • Blow Society

    Thanks for the review! Wow! This game truly looks promising, I can’t wait to try it out soon. I haven’t played any of it’s predecessors before but I’m definitely looking forward to playing this one. Games with great story + awesome gameplay = Epic

    • Ladius

      Yeah, I can’t wait to play Growlanser WoT, too :) I hope this release sparks more interest for the series as a whole, it really deserves it.

  • rurifan

    This is a great game, but buy a copy and keep it in shrinkwrap. The undub version with voices is the only way to play it.

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