I’d recommend Resonance of Fate to anyone looking for a solid turn-based RPG with great character development, a very unique world and precise, innovative combat.
2010 was a great year for J-RPGs,especially for the experimental kinds. Between Nier, FF XIII and Resonance of Fate everybody tried to do something different with a genre that obviously still has a lot of untapped potential.
Resonance of Fate is made by Tri-Ace, the developper behind Radiata Stories and Valkyrie Profile, and it draws elements from both games. From Radiata Stories, it keeps the light-hearted humor, lovable characters, living (albeit small) world where each NPC has his own evolving routine around the different towns. From Valkyrie Profile 2 : Silmeria, it mainly keeps the strategic combat and the advanced character/weapon customization. Everything is thrown out in a gray postapocaliptic steampunk world to offer a very particular take on the gun-rpg genre.
The combat system may seem at first to contain a lot of action, but it is actually mainly turn-based and asks for very little reflexes. Much more complex than a mere Valkyrie Profile with guns, the game does unfortunately a pretty bad job at explaining the controls. While Radiata Stories introduced each feature of the combat system progressively as you advanced through the story, Resonance of Fate (like Star Ocean : the last hope) throws everything at you right from the beginning – just like the critics wanted – and it does not work at all. If you add to this that the game seems to boast no exploration and to have no story whatsoever (especially during the first chapters) , it would be easy to dismiss Resonance of Fate after a few hours of play. But as soon as you take the game on its own terms and understand how the combat really works you may just start to have the most fun you ever had in recent years during your random encounters.
One thing that is very unique about the battles in Resonance of Fate is that if played right most can be ended in a few turns (even against the biggest bosses) and, in turn, a single mistake will generally mean the battle’s over for you. Conveniently, there is a restart combat option (like FF XIII) that you will probably use a lot. While in Valkyrie Profile endgame battles could last forever with enemies boasting millions of HP, Resonance of Fate does a great job at representing, in turn-based form, fast action-paced gun battles. The fact that the combat system is very complex is now an upside, as it helps you not get bored by doing a hundred battles. The game is very challenging and demands nothing but perfect mastery – you will have a lot of “Eureka” moments when you find a new strategy that works particularly well against a new monster. And that sensation of learning and mastery is very rewarding.
Resonance of Fate also takes a very unique approach to storytelling.The story itself is pretty simple and could easily be summed up in a paragraph or two. It is not your typical “young hero saves the World from a gigantic power hungry demon”, and its casual, non-epic nature is refreshing. Don’t get me wrong, some pretty serious stuff happens (most of the time in flashbacks) but nobody becomes too emotional about it – and the overall plot is not really predictable.
The strength of Resonance of Fate‘s story lies in its characters. A small party of three, that you will learn to intimately know as they try to survive in the dystopian city-tower of Basel. Always laughing, never complaining even when faced with their tragic past, Vashyron, Zephyr and Leanne make for a lovable cast. Like in Deadly Premonition and Xenosaga, casual scenes such as eating breakfast and jaw dropping plot twists go hand in hand.
Now the game is far from being perfect, but in my experience the pros exceeded the cons. As a disclaimer, I’m not particularly bothered by reused assets and, like Nier (another great J-RPG of 2010), Resonance of Fate was obviously built on a budget and reuses a lot of enemies and environments. Reused assets are kind of a deal breaker for critics who would rather power through the twenty games they have to review each month, but for me that just means more way I can spend more time enjoying a game I enjoy. Granted, optional missions sometimes ask you to battle the same enemy three or four times in a row but if you like the combat system then you don’ t mind spending a lot of time in it – especially when battle is an opportunity to hear more dialog between the characters. It also helps that the game has a very non linear structure so you can keep a mission for later if you’re tired of a particular boss. Apart from the tutorial that could have been much better, one can also regret the game’s deemphasis on exploration – a part Valkyrie Profile had really nailed with its 2D dungeons. The unlocking system of the World Map (yes, there is a World Map !) is pretty addictive and replaces the traditional exploration of dungeons and other battle areas. But it’s certainly not the same. Finally, the postgame is pretty disappointing especially coming from Tri-Ace who practically invented post game dungeons.
If you like turn based, highly strategic and precise combat, and are not afraid of a 18 pages tutorial, Resonance of Fate could keep you entertained for 80+ hours easily. Tri-Ace made a really unique, inventive and experimental RPG that manages to create a very special atmosphere while leaving a lasting impression.