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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Rondo of Swords

Funny thing that I would complete this faster that I would Baroque... Or FES for that matter. Then again, FES is pretty long (100+ Atlus says... including the first one)

To put it bluntly I would need to refer to something a friend of mine said:
"So basically, it's like drive-by Fire Emblem?"
I can't really break Rondo of Swords down into organized paragraphs now that I've done this, so sorry in advance.

Yes... Yes it is.
As a melee character, you have to use your stylus (or D-pad) to create a path with the available movement counters that you have which will go through an enemy(ies). This also works for your allies as if they run through each other, they can receive support boosts if the ally has it. It's a tactics RPG that utilizes an interesting way to fight. It would make more sense for the cavalier units but less sense for the footmen, unless your ideal game was to have everyone be some super assassin soldier that passes through enemies in that anime style slash (without the delayed death, as they're not all 1-hit kills). But with every Strategy RPG comes magic and bows. They're normal. You just move and then cast in place. Archers get to move and shoot but that's kinda minor. I have to say though, the pathfinding system does negate many strategies where you box in the weakest,yet strongest character making a mobile fortress(there are units with the ability to block movement, but that's a skill).

One thing to note is the AI, and the existence of one. In many other games it was very, very easy to exploit the AI by figuring the very simple algorithm that the developers have programmed.
IE: Fire Emblem enemies always aimed for the weakest character and rigged the critical "probability" system so that it would get lucky shots on healers in range. Disgaea had the enemy deal the most to those with the lowest HP numerically and used Area of Effect whenever possible. When the player's unit lvl passed a certain point beyond the enemies, they ditched the AI and just attacked normally.
In this, if the enemy ever gets into a tight corner, the game pauses. Not because it has to manage every unit, but because it has to manage every unit WELL. But first a footnote. Characters were all assigned a "Momentum Counter" or MC for short. This can be raised or lowered with various skills or raised by attacking/killing. The higher the MC, the more likely the enemy will go for that unit first.

Major things to note were that if there were units that the enemy could severely wound en route to the unit with the highest MC, it would, even if there was a slight detour involved. Meaning? You lag a unit, regardless of their MC, it will be targeted and killed first. If you leave a unit open to die, it WILL die. The computer will focus on removing major threats first as well. Threats involve (from highest priority) MC/HP-ATTK/MAG-MOV. If a healer's nearby, it will split up the gigantic mass of units to aim for the healer while going for the highest MC. The thing is, the MC priority isn't set in stone like the tutorial (which took me a good hour by the way). I noticed the computer "leans" toward the highest MC unit, but is definitely distracted by many other things. I LIKE THAT. You have to actually THINK in this game. You have to prioritize which units to kill first or else it'll come back to haunt you.
There's this one map I was playing where you were on the top right corner of the map and the unit to kill was in the bottom left. A river cut through the map from top left to bottom right, giving you two bridges to attack. So you go left and defeat the small squad of archers and knights or go south onto the wider bridge that is swarming with cavalier, mages, archers, and knights. I went west multiple times only to see my troops get pincered, and cut to pieces on the bridge. Formation is crucial and the enemy actually uses battlefield strategies. When a unit's HP falls below a certain percent they retreat to a larger mass of reinforcements.

In addition, it's never a case where your units can overpower your enemies units and wipe the map with one character (Except for Cotton, but even she has some restrictions). You have to choose your characters wisely and use all of them to get the best results. Of course there will be some that never see the light of day, but that's bound to happen.

The story is well done. It begins with what seems to be a typical Fire Emblem story but the twist comes in really early on. You play as the Crown Prince Serdic, who is escaping your kingdom of Bretvalde as the Grand Meir invades, or so you think. The truth is, you're playing not as Serdic, but his double. He has given you Spanta, the Holy Blade, for it is corrupt and it's your job as the double to to purify it. There's a slight problem. The real Crown Prince has been killed, and his double watched him die. No one else knows that the real prince died. Serdic's double is then forced to be the Crown Prince and restore Bretvalde. No one else knows, not even the Crown Prince's younger sister, Marie. So you play with the notion that at some point he will be exposed but when and how...

This game is difficult. It's not Hoshigami difficult but difficult enough to be FUN. It felt great that this was more or less on even playing field. All the enemies could do what you could do (except the archers, they didn't run and gun) and were capable of moves that exploited your weakness. There was effort put into this and it shows. What I enjoy is that there's usually a target, it's not just "defeat all enemies" and so how long the battle lasts is dependent how how well you can fight.

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