Sunday, September 14, 2014

Game Review: Unchained Blades

Dungeon Crawler RPG; 3DS eShop/PSP (3DS Reviewed); FuRyu; 2012/2013
Okay, back to reviewing games. Hopefully there isn't any more crap coming from the "Feminist" "gamers" anytime soon. Not much to cover going on with me, so yeah this is going to be a very brief intro for the main review, which is a bit of a lesser known game called Unchained Blades, which throws Etrian Odyssey head long into a little bit of Final Fantasy X and a smidge of Xenoblades. But is it any good? Well that's what I'm here for.

Our hero ladies and gentlemen, always a smooth talker for the ladies.
The Goddess Clunea, the goddess of creation for a world full of monsters (who all have humanoid forms until they become "Adults"), grants the wish of any who climb her titans or meets with her personally. No wish is impossible for her to grant, and all in the world hunts the titans to see their wish granted. All save one: The Dragon Emperor Fang. He is the first person to personally meet the goddess in her temple, but not with a wish but a demand: Who is the strongest being in the world? However, Clunea was insulted by Fang's arrogance and thus striped him of his power and his mighty dragon form and sent him back down to earth. Now Fang must journey though the titans in order to seize a chance to meet with the Goddess Clunea again. Joining him is the Phoenix Princess Tiana who wishes to become a dragon, a demon swordsman Lucius who seeks an end to his suffering, and many others including a shy medusa, a golem prince, and a rather dim fox. What lies at the end of the journey for these adventures? Well that's what the game is all about.

Overall the story isn't bad, the characters are fun and likable, even with Fang being the kind of asshole that you just can't help but love, and though the basic plot is very simple it works well as a set up for these characters to interact with each other. I guess my only problem with the story is that it is very basic. There isn't anything really wrong with that, but outside of the unique world they built there isn't much to get invested. I guess it is better than an overly complicated story that just loses players halfway through, but it is a little frustrating when all I can really say is that: It's good. Not great but good.

Unchained Blades is a first person dungeon crawling RPG, if any of you guys have played the Etrian Odyssey games or Class of Heroes then you know what to expect. As you explore the Titans (dubbed living labyrinths by the game), grid based dungeons with pitfalls, teleporters, conveyer-belts, and harvest points for materials to make new equipment are all there. The main difference between Unchained Blades and Etrian Odyssey is that, unlike Etrian Odyssey's fully customizable parties, Unchained Blades have a fixed group of 8 defined characters who level up using a skill system similar to Final Fantasy X except with each character having a unique skill grid and there being actual CHOICES when developing your character. However, Unchained Blades does have several unique things going for it. The foremost thing is the Follower system, each party member can have up to 4 followers with them, and these followers do things like take damage for their leader, do follow up attacks, and unlock higher level skills by having the right types of followers. You gain these followers from unchaining them during random battles. When you reduce an enemy's HP by half or more, they can enter the "Unchained" chance state, at this point you have the "Unchain" command. When you use this command you get a timing minigame which, if successful, nets you that monster as a follower. In addition to aiding you in battle, followers are necessary for a mechanic called "Judgement Battles" where all of your followers are thrown against other enemies, and you, the player, has to press timed direction inputs, hit the face buttons when prompted, mash B when prompted, or just watch as the game runs the calculations as to who is winning. Overall, the game is a pretty standard Dungeon Crawler with a few neat ideas thrown in to make it unique.

"I am so lost."
Unfortunately this game isn't without it's problems and BOY does it have problems and it all pretty much boils down to how unbalanced the Follower system is. First of all, Judgement Battles are a little frustrating because of how unpredictable and unengaging they are. All you do is a timing minigame and even when you are doing perfectly you can STILL completely lose and the only explanation you can get is that you need to grind for better followers. Not that the followers are all that great, the most they can do in battle is be a meat shield for your party members, because even when I am using nothing but the latest and most powerful followers, they are STILL only dealing 1 point of damage to any enemy equal to their level. But even that is better than the Link Skill system. Now the idea behind the system is fine, I have no problem with it. You basically have skills called "Link Skills" which requires followers with particular attributes called Anima to use and skills like Revive and Area Full Heal are link skills. The problem with this system is that THERE ARE WAY TOO MANY ANIMA! There are the anima you except like Fire, Earth, Ice, Heal, Ailment, sure, but then you get, Strength, Strike, Attack, Guard, Charm, Forbidden, Curse, Aim, Speed, Sky, Explosion, so on and so forth. And add to this the higher level Link Skills require 5 different anima in order to use and some anima you just DO NOT SEE from any of the monsters you unchain. Like Explosion I got from two types of enemies I saw in the first dungeon but NEVER SAW ANOTHER ONE UNTIL THE FINAL DUNGEON! Add to this the fact that most dungeons only have at most a dozen enemies (most will have the same anima thanks to being of similar types) and unchaining enemies is the ONLY way to get new followers, and you have created a situation where you dread getting a Link Skill because you will NEVER be able to use it. And last but not least is the controls. Now this is a dungeon crawler and an RPG, so how can you possibly screw up the controls, well on the 3DS version, B is confirm and A is cancel.... Let me repeat that, B is CONFIRM while A is CANCEL! B=CONFIRM, A=CANCEL! I thought it was an established and standardized control set up that A is ALWAYS confirm while B is ALWAYS cancel, but I guess not and it always throws me into a loop when I am going from the 3DS's home menu to this game.

Even with all my bitching about Followers, Link Skills, and that B is confirm in this game, Unchained Blades is a fun game. Frustrating and annoying at times, but still fun. I would call it a solid first effort, but I'm not sure about FuRyu's previous games so I don't know if this IS a first effort or not. Either way it is enjoyable and it's a 60 hour long game that costs only $20, that a solid bang for your buck. However, you have to understand the type of game you are getting into. Unchained Blades comes recommended.

Until Next Time.

-Crescent, I SWEAR I'M PLAYING IT FOR THE GAMEPLAY.... Wait, didn't I already do this joke.

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