When I saw Children of Zodiarcs on Kickstarter, I was intrigued. Their descriptions brought to mind classic RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics and Ogre Battle, evoking memories of the Strategy RPGs that so many of us loved as kids. They then mixed that with promises of incorporating the dice and deck style mechanics that board game aficionados are so familiar with, bringing together two seemingly disparate playstyles to create a happy family.
An ambitious goal. Not only in taking two completely different genres and tying them together, but also breaking into an already-niche genre dominated by well-established heavy hitters like Final Fantasy, Disgaea, and Fire Emblem as an indy game. Could a small studio pull this off? Could they live up to the Kickstarter promises or would this be just another example of a Kickstarter promising more than they could deliver?
The Persona series’ Velvet Room has always defined each game. In Persona 3, the room appeared as an elevator representing one of the game’s core story themes. In Persona 4, it is a limousine shrouded in fog signifying our protagonist’s current transient state. Persona 5 ups the symbolism a notch by making the Velvet Room the prison that is meant to be a window into the lead character’s current peril.
Within the first hour of your time with Persona 5, you’ll come to the realization that the story here is not light-hearted. For all that the music is extremely up-beat, what we’re dealing with her is a story of misfits ground down by the world and trying to strike back – to reclaim some sense of life for their lives. In Persona 5, our protagonist – known by the code name Joker – forms a group of thieves known as the Phantom Thieves of Hearts and seeks to right the wrongs of the society that has failed him by stealing the twisted hearts of the wicked who are preying upon the innocent. Sounds simple, right?
A few years back, one of the most unique games I’ve ever played came out… a strange gem called ‘Nier’. Nier was not a great game, but it had such charm that it was hard not to love it. It featured gameplay ideas from a wide variety of genres, numerous endings, awkward mechanics, and an amazing soundtrack. Somehow this mix of disparate ideas, awkward implementation, and amazing music created one of the most interesting and memorable RPGs I’ve played, even if the game was nowhere near perfect. And as interesting as it was… it did not sell well.
Given that, you can imagine my surprise when SquareEnix announced a sequel coming, developed in conjunction with Platinum Games, a developer notable for great, unique action games – surprise, and excitement. When thinking about the strange and wonderful ideas the Nier team had to begin with, and matching those up with the polish Platinum is known for… it really felt like the chance for Nier to shine how it deserved. The big question: Did it live up to these escalated expectations or did it disappoint?
Let’s be honest… Tales of Zestiria was a huge let down. Bandai Namco (or Namco Bandai or whatever they’re calling themselves this week) had done a fantastic job on the series recently, making some of the best JRPGs I’d ever played and then Zestiria came out with its anticlimax of a finish, awkward combat, and disappointing core protagonists, reminding us all that what goes up must come down. Then I heard about Berseria, I saw trailers of it and it looked promising.
I kept hearing tidbits about the game that seemed good. It has a darker tone? Intriguing. The protagonist is female? Nice change of pace. But my hope wilted when I found out it took place in the distant past of Zestiria. I began to fear that we were in for another let-down. I still wanted to believe it would be good, that we would be going back to the greatness the last installments had featured… but I had my doubts. Now, the question then becomes: were my doubts realized?
Early last year, I wrote a review for a digital card game who had just made their official ‘release’ called Hex. I rarely do these sorts of review updates… but sometimes it proves necessary. My initial review cautioned people to not get suckered in by their promises as the game’s non-standard elements were still very much lacking, while offering strong praise for the game’s competitive elements – the more traditional things that make a ‘TCG’ run.
Almost a year has passed since then, and Hex Entertainment has been busy. They have released a plethora of new cards, and are on the verge of releasing another set as we speak. They have revamped their tournament structure, taking strong advantage of the digital framework they’ve built to explore new territory. They have expanded their free to play offering, revamped the difficulty curve, and significantly enhanced the reward structure. So, given all of the above… how does the game look now?
This review will utilize some TCG jargon without explanation. If you’re unsure what the terminology means, I recommend looking here as the definitions are fairly good.