The Alliance Alive shares many similarities with its spiritual prequel, The Legend of Legacy, and the two games are undoubtedly going to be compared quite a bit. However, I found these two games to be very different in several regards, especially regarding the accessibility of the battle system.
Putting aside The Legend of Legacy’s lack of story, the battle system was downright confusing to learn and not very engaging for the uninitiated. After getting used to Formations and Stances, players still needed to spend countless turns forming contracts with different elemental spirits just to use spells. Spells in itself were another form of grinding, in order to get a character to learn the spell permanently.
There was also the abundance of hidden elements to the battle system, such as how each character would have better compatibilities with certain weapons. It limited customization, especially with an already small 3-person party, and was frankly not very fun.
On the other hand, accessibility is what I felt The Alliance Alive excels in. Though admittedly it is done at the expense of the average difficulty of normal battle encounters, I found the battles in the game to be much more engaging. This is because The Alliance Alive removes the spirit contract system, and instead doubles down on the Formations and Positions.
Because the player now has up to five characters in each battle, characters don’t feel like they are always relegated to one particular role in battle. For example, I could have Galil and Azura alternate between blocking and attacking and healing roles, depending on the state of the party.
The Formation system also now includes different rows that represent the front and back of the party, with each row having easy to understand effects. The front row increases the chance that the enemy targets your character, the middle row increases the power of Moving Attacks, and the back row lowers the chance of being targeted.
On the other hand, strong, close range weapons such as the Longsword suffer from lowered damage in the back row. The Lance line of weapons feature a variety of Moving Attacks, so they are best used in the middle row to capitalize on their extra power. The game encouraged me to experiment with weapon combinations and Formations that matched well, instead of requiring me to contract spirits in a way that sometimes felt like playing a different game.
Instead of each character having an Attack, Guard, and Support level of their own, each character has their base stats, which are fixed and can only be affected in a minor way through equipment. While this might seem like it makes characters predisposed towards having certain roles in the party, I didn’t find it as limiting as it looked. This is because the growth system lets characters grow into their roles instead.
In this game, HP and SP are the only true stat gains for characters to increase in battle. Each attack unlocked through battle instead has their own Attack, Guard, and Support stats that affect their output, and grow based on what position the character is in when it levels up. So naturally, a Shield-using character put in the Guard position will level up the Guard rank of the blocking skill, increasing the effects more than how base stats affect the character.
By fighting battles, characters also earn Talent points to spend in the Talent menu. The effects of Talents can range from increasing the chance of increasing HP or SP after battle, reducing aggro rates of enemy symbols, or weapon-specific Talents. Because characters in this game don’t have affinities for weapons, instead I could customize preferences towards a weapon by reducing SP costs for skills for that weapon, or improving the rates of Awakening a new skill or increasing the Position Level for those weapon skills. Meanwhile, Magic (for Daemons), and Sigils (for humans) are mostly bought from specific vendors, or from the appropriate Guild, instead of needing to hold particular items.
Finally, there is the Ignition state, a boosted state where the Final Strike can be used. This usually activated for me when an ally was downed, like it was an emotional response. I was decently surprised at the number of Final Strikes that were in the game, as they are different for each weapon. Some of them also had additional effects, such as conjuring Poison magic, which was helpful in the late game when skills can nearly reach the same threshold of damage. However, Final Strikes were game changers for me up until then.
The downside to using a Final Strike is that the particular weapon will be temporarily broken, until repaired by the Blacksmith Guild. While it’s not a big issue as each character can hold two weapons, it’s sometimes risky, especially for characters using two types of weapons. For example, I had Galil using a Shield and a Bow, and losing either weapon could make or break a battle against one of the tougher bosses. The Final Strikes really make you think about how long you perceive a battle might last after the use.
In The Alliance Alive, it was easy to see how the developers thought about making all the battle elements more transparent and accessible to the average player, compared to The Legend of Legacy. These changes, plus the flexibility in customizing characters, had me hooked the entire way.
The Alliance Alive will be available for Nintendo 3DS in the West on March 27, 2018.