Friday, 23 April 2010

Review | Resonance of Fate

The RPG franchise has always been known for its challenging game-play and compelling storylines. Once in a while, a top quality title like Final Fantasy XIII hits the shelves with a lot of promise, but while it succeeds, it tends to hold your hand through the adventure, offering victory at the end of the long road, but not a feeling of satisfaction and triumph. Resonance of Fate looks at the hand that’s guiding you through the adventure, chops it off, throws into a volcano and laughs as you quiver in fear amidst hordes of enemies. There is no doubt that you will make you see the game over screen enough times to have it forever imprinted in your mind every time you close your eyes. Yes, Resonance of Fate takes no prisoners, but it boasts an ever adaptable fighting mechanic that will not let you die cheaply, you will learn from your mistakes, you will come back for more and when the tides turn in your favour, you will come to find out what true success actually tastes like.

Part of Resonance of Fate’s appeal is its rather weird and quirky storyline. The main story revolves around the world being ravaged by the climate and a new population forged in a city in the sky, but it is the seemingly unrelated and menial tasks you are forced to partake in until a considerable amount of hours through the game when the story decides to intertwine and come together. A great example of these trivial tasks would be Roxas’ adventure in the beginning of Kingdom Hearts 2 for those of you lucky enough to have enjoyed that franchise. Fortunately the difference is, the characters are actually likable. Indeed you play through Resonance with 3 party members, Vashyron, Zephyr and Leanne and all 3 have a unique and interesting personalities that can be related to and engaged with. A great job by the voice actors certainly helps develop this bond between you and the characters, along with the innocent and funny banter that goes hand in hand with the serious development and tone of the game’s story and issues it tackles.

Alongside the interesting storyline comes a gun blazing, wild and extravagant combat system. I very rarely find it difficult to put something into words, but Resonance of Fate has stumped me with regards to how to explain how this complicated, yet incredibly fulfilling and fun system works. You are required to plot your characters movements in and around your enemies while engaging in real time combat. The movement is essentially your defence mechanism as it lets you avoid enemy fire while you can concentrate fully on putting as much lead into your enemies as possible, oh and how much lead there will be. You are forced to be very aware of your surroundings while in movement to ensure your character out-manoeuvres his foes. Thankfully, the clever mix of real time combat and turn based offers plenty of time to analyse your chosen paths and how you decide to tackle your foes. Every RPG has one super nifty and unique game mechanic and Resonance is no different. The ever-thrilling Hero Moves allow your characters to be set up to traverse a pre-dictated course on the battlefield and weave their way through it annihilating all the enemies during the process. This is your main source of huge damage and used properly can be the deal breaker between a successful victory and another game over screen.

Resonance of Fate really does not mess around when it comes to throwing you into the deep end, it expects you to be able to swim like a champion because if you don’t adapt quickly to play with the big boys, you are going to be knocked right down. Right from the first battle, the seemingly useless tutorial system does little to nothing to help you dive in, instead you are forced to figure everything out for yourself and figuring out is actually one of the huge thrills in this game. You will find yourself coming up with new techniques, strategies and moves even throughout later stages of the game, even though the games mechanics are openly available right from the beginning. Once you get past the initial shaky stages and the gruelling learning curve, you will soon gather momentum and really enjoy exploiting Resonance’s incredible game style.

The real thrill in Resonance comes from understanding all of the possible counters your enemies may have to your attacks. It is up to you to mount an offence while staying out of range to avoid return fire. You will find yourself almost hunting like a pack throughout your fighting exploits as you try and maintain groups of enemies in sizable chunks to avoid being overwhelmed and outnumbered. Thankfully the game gives you some help in the way of a wide variety of elemental bullets, hand grenades and a few other nifty explosive devices to give you some chance of survival.

The thrilling combat is accompanied perfectly by over the top and outrageous battle scenes. Your party’s assortment of superhero based movements resemble Bayonetta in some ways as you duck, weave, twist and turn your way in and around hordes of enemies while almost effortlessly blasting away with your huge guns, it’s a lot of fun to watch and satisfying since you know it was your clever placement of the characters that created the opportunity to exploit an over the top Hero Move. Resonance does a great job slowly building your ego and then crushing it between the feet of huge bosses that you will encounter. While you may initially have trouble with normal in game enemies, after some time spent perfecting your techniques, they will not pose a big threat. This is when the bosses come in, no holds bar, carnage. Resonance makes sure that the only way you are completing it, is by being good, very, very good at the game. Indeed you will be forced to endure deaths going into the dozens before your timing and execution and skill reaches its peak to topple the towering giants that will block your path to success. For the dedicated gamer, it is these moments of victory that make this game so priceless.

I really have made it quite clear that Resonance is not a push over game and this is true; you will need commitment to get through this adventure. That’s not to say it is not manageable, as the difficulty curve progresses at a decent pace, one that you can stay on top of, if you go through the 16 available chapters and complete all the side quests available in them before tackling the main portions of the game. These side quests provide experience and items that make the main game a lot more controllable and ultimately, not as punishing. Gamers looks for a much more brutal challenge can opt to avoid the side missions, but this is certainly not recommended. Side missions themselves aren’t that much different, if at all to the kind of combat you encounter throughout the game, but with the awesome fighting mechanics and the inevitable thought of not needing to die ten times over a single enemy, it proves to be worth doing in the end.

Technically, Resonance of Fate is not the most impressive visual title, especially compared to the standards Final Fantasy XIII has just set. The character models all look beautiful and actually have different forms of clothes customisation at your disposal. Your enemies and the bosses in particular, are all well designed and very cool looking, but unfortunately the story itself forces the graphics to be below par. Indeed the ravaged and poverty ridden city in the sky known as Basel, is forced to be dull, gray, diseased and disgusting. It is a shame that the games visuals don’t quite match up to the thrilling combat, but this is not the fault of the design, it is the burden of how the game has to look like in order to portray the ambiance of the dying world in the sky.

To conclude, Resonance of Fate provides a very engaging and enjoyable adventure. There’s plenty of action, a story that hooks you until the end, lovable characters without a traditional annoying one (cough I’m looking at you Vanille) and a very rewarding conclusion both in the story and from the effort you put in to get to the end. Resonance offers a compelling 60 hours, boosted by side missions and inevitable amounts of deaths but theirs is plenty here to keep any RPG fan entertained and to a high standard.

Igor Kharin
CeX Contributor
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