I love pointing people to RPGs that they might not necessarily have on their radar. It’s something I’m hoping to do even more of in this column. For now, here are three games you should be paying attention to if you’re an RPG fan.
Since its announcement, Indivisible caught my eye. Made by the creators of Skullgirls, the game is often compared to Valkyrie Profile and Metroid. You have the complexity of the former’s battle system featuring breaking defenses and controlling your party via the face buttons, while the platforming and exploration evokes the latter.
Indivisible’s story centers on Ajna, a girl who can absorb the others’ powers and and wants to discover more about her mysterious gift. Throughout her journey, you recruit party members with unique abilities, while platforming your way through areas with skills to slide, break through floors, and cut through obstacles. Later, the powers you obtain through exploration are more varied, such as using a pogo stick for tough jumps alongside an ability which forms a protective barrier out of flowers to traverse obstacles and discover new areas.
Up to 25 characters are available from recruitment, and the variety of the combatants’ skills is one of the most promising features, as you always feel like you have a unique strategy in hand. For instance, Kushi teams up with her giant bird Alton, who she can send to target multiple enemies at once. She can even ride on his back to use his squawk ability, which deals a small amount of damage to a group, but is extremely valuable as it builds up your party’s super meter. She may not have her own super like most characters, but she does have an ability like Final Fantasy’s “Jump,” where she goes off screen to prevent her from being targeted and comes down later to inflict damage..
Another promising recruit is Lashi, my personal favorite. This fluffy blue pup with a bow tie barks to damage enemies. His sleep ability also allows him to take a nap and self-heal, while his collar can shock enemies and shoot lightning. Every character has their perks and vulnerabilities, but when you see them all work in concert, it feels really satisfying. Oh, and did I mention the soundtrack is being composed by Hiroki Kikuta of Secret of Mana fame? I can’t wait to see how the final game comes together when it launches this year on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.
If you’re a fan of turn-based battle systems and charming tales, the upcoming indie RPG Ikenfell is worth keeping on your radar. It has all of the ingredients of classic RPG design, while placing you in an amusing world of students attending a magic academy.
Ikenfell follows a group of troublemakers, who become suspicious when a famous student suddenly disappears. This puts them on a quest to uncover the dark secrets about their academy. During your journey, you explore the school, including the dorms, alchemy labs, and some mysterious and magical locations.
After playing a demo, I can say Ikenfall has an Earthbound-like feel with lighthearted dialogue, bizarre interactions with magical beings, and doing silly things like petting cats to save and restore health. As you trek through dungeons, you solve light puzzles like walking on switches in a specific order to gain new areas and fight against baddies, who can be everything from small rock-like enemies to jeans (yes, pants are evil).
Ikenfell’s bread and butter is its turn-based battle system that’s reminiscent of the Mario & Luigi RPGs. You time your button presses to animations, and timely hits boost attacks and improve defense. The turn order is displayed at the top of the screen so you can make your moves wisely, and there’s an array of spells and cool abilities across your three-member party. For instance, one character can levitate opponents, getting them out of your vicinity to prevent them from striking. But you can also maximize your attack power by timing a button press right as they hit the floor.
Similar to a strategy/RPG like Fire Emblem, each character has a movement radius alongside where their attacks and spells can go. Some characters are long casters, while others need to get up close to pack a punch. The simple system has more strategy than you’d think, as some enemies can self-destruct and you can take additional damage by getting knocked into own your party members from the impact. As a plus, you can also knock enemies into each other with some of your attacks.
Ikenfell seems like it has a solid battle system on its hands with plenty of creativity flowing through it. I’ll be interested in getting to know the different characters and seeing what’s in store for the magic academy and its students. Right now, Ikenfell is coming to PC and Mac, but the official site says other platforms and consoles will be announced as they are confirmed.
Edge of Eternity
French developer Midgar Studio wants to take some of the best elements of both Japanese and Western RPGs and fuse them for its own vision with Edge of Eternity. The crowdfunded project is in Early Access and has been slowly releasing content in chapters, which I’ve checked out.
Midgar Studio’s appreciation for JRPGs is easy to spot, especially in the anime-infused art style and famed composer Yasunori Mitsuda’s soundtrack. The turn-based combat feels right at home, but the developers are also taking a page from Western design by giving the player more choice with how to solve quests and including varying consequences for their actions.
In this sci-fi adventure, strange metal airships touch down on a land called Heryon, bringing gifts of advanced technology. Of course, ulterior motives are at play, and soon the invaders try to take over, mining the soil and stealing powerful crystals. This all leads to a war, where the enemy unleashes a sickness called The Corrosion; it poisons, twists limbs, and warps people into half-organic, half-machine beings. The story follows a brother and sister, Daryon and Selene, searching for their mother, who has caught this horrific disease.
The tactical ATB battle system requires thought, as rushing a turn can be costly. You have your basic attack, magic, item choices, but positioning and timing are also of the essence. Battles operate on hexagonal spaces, and sometimes your best option might be moving to a safer place to avoid getting hit by spells, charge attacks, or traps. You also have an ability to interrupt attacks by striking while the enemy is acting. Random elements additionally influence battles, with crystals that heal opponents each turn and the time of day and weather bringing challenge and rewards. So far, I like the ideas behind the combat, but battles can drag on.
The progression system revolves heavily around weapons. Every weapon levels up, but you also have different branches you can follow for its skills and stat boosts. To take these paths, you need to insert crystals into your weapon, which has its own grid, showing the required crystal element you need to advance. It reminds a bit of Final Fantasy X’s sphere grid, but smaller and tied to individual weapons.
Parts of the game still feel a little rough around the edges, but hopefully, that gets all ironed out in the final release. You can play the game now on PC in Early Access. The full release will hit that platform first, but Midgar also announced plans to release it on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One at a later date.
Kimberley Wallace’s column, RPG Grind Time, is dedicated to examining the role-playing game genre and discussing its latest announcements. It runs bi-weekly on Wednesdays.
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