IGN Review of Resonance of Fate
It's not too often that you get something original out of the Japanese role-playing genre. Tradition long ago turned into cliché and still it soldiers on, bolstered by a group of hardcore enthusiasts that are always willing to tackle the next 40 hour epic. If you've lost interest in the genre over the years -- or are just in the mood for something new -- Resonance of Fate may be just what you're looking for. It comes from so far out of left field that even the most experienced gamers will have to step outside of their comfort zone and learn something new. Resonance of Fate is certainly unorthodox and uniquely Japanese, but not all of the chances it takes turn out to be winners.
The world of Resonance of Fate is a dying one. Humankind has abused the planet to the point of making it inhospitable, and so the people have crafted a massive tower in which they can live safely. Now, after years of further abuse, that tower too is falling into disrepair. Sections have shut down and the machine that once sustained life is now turning it into monsters. This situation is one that is ripe for exploitation, and that's exactly what a group known as the Cardinals has done. The upper class literally lives above their servants, while the poorest scrap together a living near the bottom of the tower.
Our heroes come from the middle class and they make a living as Hunters -- hired guns willing to do whatever it takes to earn a few bucks. Vashyron, the eldest, is the leader while the younger Zephyr and angelic Leanne tag along to back him up. It sounds like a good starting point for a giant tale, but unfortunately Resonance of Fate does almost nothing with this original, steampunk-inspired world and cast. The story is nonexistent through many of the game's chapters and for that reason it is extremely difficult to care about any of the characters.
When the story does begin to pick up, it is told through flashbacks that feel at odds with the current events. Overly dramatic flashbacks -- and I'm fairly certain any villain who claims out loud to be doing evil deeds can be classified as overly dramatic -- are married with tongue-in-cheek, immature humor and wacky situations in the present day. While some may find the quirky characters endearing, many will be turned off. I found myself chuckling at their idiosyncrasies every now and then, but more often it left me cringing. If the idea of mentally disabled Cardinal named Master Pater is funny to you, then Resonance of Fate will have you in stitches.
While the story doesn't ever come together in a satisfactory way, the unique combat system steps up to be the star of the show. There's no magic or plethora of special attacks to call upon in Resonance of Fate. Instead, it's all about guns and grenades. While most people and creatures would be killed with just a couple of bullets or a single grenade, this is a role-playing game and so it is going to take a bit more to do away with the baddies that inhabit this world.
The flow of combat in Resonance of Fate is initially confusing, especially if you don't take the optional tutorial. Everything is at its heart turn-based but this is definitely not the kind of game where you can simply hit the attack button and call it a day. Moving your three characters strategically around the battlefield is a must but so is a careful play between attacks using machine guns and handguns, both of which do different types of damage. Position everyone properly and you can initiate a team-tri attack and then sit back to marvel at the ensuing dance of death.
Even once you get the hang of things, Resonance of Fate can be a difficult game. Battles can last a long time and the difference between victory and death can be as small as a single bad move or a lucky strike. This isn't necessarily a bad thing -- the tension and action are kept at high levels throughout the game and the forgiving retry system allows you to take multiple stabs at the same tough fight to see if you're up to the task. What you'll soon learn, however, is that Resonance of Fate is built for those that enjoy the grind. Large difficulty spikes are interjected every now and then, encouraging the player to venture out and complete a few side quests, work through a few fights at the dull Arena, or explore the world and take on some optional tough fights. Without the gun customization parts and levels earned by chugging through hours of battles, even the best strategies will run into a brick wall.
For a while, this grind and lack of story didn't really bother me. The battle system in Resonance of Fate is strong enough to hold everything together for a long time. The fun peaked at about the halfway point, however. Where most other role-playing games would begin introducing new twists to the battle system or characters to keep things fresh and exciting, Resonance of Fate actually does the opposite. In the latter half entire chapters are presented that strip out a main character, thereby breaking the resonance team attack system for which the game is named. Most games evolve, but this one actually feels like it regresses.
Further adding to the feeling that it all peaks too soon is the lack of variety in enemy types. Many simply level up alongside you, adding in a few new attacks or twists along the way, but this isn't enough to make the grind feel fresh in the long run.
While the dungeons in Resonance of Fate are bland and offer little in terms of exploration, I found the world map to be unique and much more fun than a simple place for random battles. The tower, called Basel, is breaking down and that has caused many areas to become impassable unless you first apply an energy hex. These can be obtained through story events or through battles, which allows you to see the entire map right from the start and yet still have some areas blocked off. If you really think about it, the system doesn't make much sense (what were the people doing in that neighboring town that had no energy until you came along?), but the system is still a lot of fun and adds a great reason to take on some side quests and tackle a few extra battles that you can find scattered about.
Unfortunately, the world map is incredibly plain and boring to look at. Everything in Resonance of Fate feels hit or miss, and that carries through to the visuals and sound. The wardrobe options for the characters are greatly detailed, and yet the world map and dungeons are about as ugly as they could possibly be. The voice work ranges from Nolan North (of Uncharted and Shadow Complex fame) hitting the mark as the main character to some classically bad over-the-top screeching. The same level of polish and care was not applied to all aspects of Resonance of Fate.
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