Eternal Poison is Flight-Plan’s latest addition to the quickly dwindling PS2 library. It’s a Gothic-styled tactical role playing game with a dark story that must be played a couple times through to understand in its entirety. The game is split into three perspectives: Thage’s story, Olifen’s story, and Ashley’s story. The same events happen in each story, but the character’s perspectives color the events in different lights.
The battles of this game have many similarities to typical tactical RPGs: movement is confined to a grid, enemies and player characters take turns attacking until one team is wiped out. Unlike those other RPGs, there’s an overkill system. When an enemy (or a majin, as the game calls them) is dealt damage that exceeds its remaining HP, it becomes bound. Bound enemies can be killed by another attack, but a better use of them is to capture them. Captured enemies can be summoned and used in battles (but only once), sacrificed to gain skills, or sold to merchants. Since majins only get a limited amount of turns once summoned, I preferred to sacrifice them to get some additional skills on my equipment.
Other RPGs may have weakness/strength systems based on elements, but it’s been a while since I played a game that so heavily dealt with them. It’s very easy to game over if you don’t pay attention to the elemental strengths and weaknesses of everyone. Unfortunately, each enemy’s strength/weakness menu takes a second or two to show up, which adds up. The elemental system reminded me of Shin Megami Tensei games where some enemies were completely invulnerable to specific attacks.
Combos are another feature of the battle system which differs to what players may be used to. Players can have team members wait on their turn to set up a combo so that the waiting player can then attack at the same time another team character is attacking on. This sets up a nice barrage of multiple attacks on one enemy.
The Gothic style of Eternal Poison was what first piqued my interest in the game. Each character is beautifully detailed, but what really got me were the monster designs. The dark fantasy look of the majins as well as the anti-hero characters gave this game a Shin Megami Tensei vibe. I liked the 2D sprites in the game but the 3D cut-scenes provided a jarring contrast — characters looked so empty and static.
To match the beautiful style of the game, there’s a haunting soundtrack. The operatic vocals and dramatic chamber music were my favorite things about the soundtrack, but some of the techno battle themes provided a nice juxtaposition. I actually wasn’t appalled by the American voice acting, which is definitely saying something.
The battle system, music and overall graphical style of Eternal Poison make the game stand out, but it’s greatest weakness — loading times, made the game incredibly frustrating. The 3D cut-scenes took agonizingly long to load and I had to turn off battle animations entirely to make the game even playable. It took a few seconds to just load a loading screen sometimes.
If you’re a patient person who doesn’t mind listening to their PS2 chug through loading every minute or so, Eternal Poison is a decent albeit difficult tactical RPG to pick up. If you just can’t stand staring at loading screens, don’t bother with the game; it’ll just make you want to throw your PS2 out the window.
Images courtesy of Atlus.