Like Conception II. this was a game that I picked up without knowing anything about it. I was looking to build up my Vita library and found a used copy cheap, and decided to pick it up. And I didn’t play it for a while. Looking for something to play after finishing Lost Dimension and Persona 4: Dancing All Night, I gave it a shot.
The game is set in a big castle that’s been turned into a prison, and you are a spy for a great Empire that wants to find a great treasure that’s supposedly hidden there. So far, that’s about as much of the story as I’ve gotten, except that your past is hidden from you and gets revealed as you go along. For all I know, all of it has been revealed already. At any rate, the story isn’t exactly thrilling me; there’s enough there for me to sit through the cutscenes, but not enough there to make me, you know, actually want to play through the game just to see how it turns out. So it’s middling, at best.
The gameplay is rather simple, a real time battle system with a full — and pretty large — party that’s called a “clan”. You can get clan members in two ways. First, you can create them through the same character creation mechanism that you created your character with, or alternatively you can recruit fully created characters from the Talent Agency, who are also mostly leveled up. Taking this party out into the world, you get to kill a number of creatures and enemies in order to gain XP and take their stuff. The interesting part is that if you sneak up behind them, you can hit them without triggering the combat and so can take sometimes take them out without them ever hitting back. This works best for creatures and worst for actual human enemies (generally, other clans). The best part is that you get double the XP for killing them this way, but for human enemies that means that you don’t get the XP for killing the rest of the party.
The combat can be difficult at times. The game loves to toss you into battles — and ones that have repeated enemies — without any warning, which means that you’ll probably party-wipe if you’re underleveled, under-equipped or unprepared … which is pretty much me most of the time. One fight went from “party-wipe” to “You mean that’s it?!?” simply by my actually equipping my party with the best available weapons and armour. Who knew? The party AI is also incredibly bad. I took on another quest to kill some slimes, which turned into a multi-battle swarm of slimes. All of my party was wiped out except my mage, and once I took control of her I … wiped out the last two swarms myself, single-handed, by spamming “Wind”. If she’d done that just a little more often in the first fight we might not have all died.
If you die, they let you start over from this point with only the items you consumed in the battle lost … oh, and the party dead, meaning that you need to pay to revive them. As someone who is always cash strapped in games like this, that doesn’t work that well for me, meaning that I have to be careful how I take on battles, and so I run old quests over and over again to build cash, and generally take my time leveling. Fortunately, grinding in the game doesn’t feel as grindy as it does in other games, although I can’t think of any reason why it shouldn’t, other than that you generally do it to complete quests and so always have a goal, and so break up the monotony with returning to town to turn the quest in, take it again, and then head back out.
One thing to note about this game is that it’s the most fanservicey game I’ve played in recent memory. While fanservice was a big part of Conception II and overblown in Dungeon Travelers 2, here it’s really a deliberate and large part of the game. Pretty much every shopkeeper you meet is an attractive and scantily clad woman that you can give gifts to, which increase their affection. If you do enough business with them, you get “Sexy Time”, where you have to rub the screen in the right places to turn them on, and if you manage to get through all of the stages in time you get a ranking and, if your affection with them is high enough, an item. Once. While you could ignore it in the other games, this game really puts the fanservice, er, front and centre. I don’t mind it myself, but find that the “Sexy Time” mechanic is too difficult for what you generally get out of it — an increase in affection — for it to be a good mechanism. Supposedly, after you manage to “date” one of them — which is a small quest that you go on alone with her — there’s some kind of inn scene, but I haven’t seen one of those yet. Personally, I’m hoping to complete that with Martina because I want to recruit her into my clan, which you can supposedly do if you max out their affection.
If you don’t like fanservice, this is not the game for you. You’d be better off with Dungeon Travelers 2.
That being said, in line with my comments on Sarkeesian’s videos, this is a game that lets you play as and create female characters, and in general there’s no difference. Even the “Sexy Time” stuff is the same, as the game and the shopkeepers presume that you’re interested in women as well. That being said, this does give you the ability to create an entirely female clan, which is, in fact, what I’m planning on doing. But I don’t really think this game counts as a feminist game [grin].
Ultimately, so far the game is entertaining enough to play while, say, watching baseball, and so has been worth the money. I think I’ll try to finish it, but Dragon Age 2 might have something to say about that. That being said, there are definitely better games in this space.