The “Japan” is strong in this one.
I am new to the Knights of Azure series. I had never heard of the first game, which came out in 2015, and therefore had no expectations for its sequel. Sometimes, zero expectations can still disappoint.
A faction called the Curia, who are religious-leaning protectors, specialize in killing fiends – demonic creatures that have taken over the world. At the beginning of the game, Aluche, a Curia agent, is tasked with escorting her childhood friend, Liliana, to the Moon Queen. The Curia believe that sacrificing Liliana to this omnipotent presence will bring some level of peace or normalcy to the world. Aluche and Liliana accept this burden, but are split up in the process.
Platforms: PS4, PS Vita, PC
Aluche’s main mission from here is to find Liliana – then – to either finish her mission or find another way the save the world. Along the way, Aluche recruits several companions over her journey and even befriends some docile demons which look like Pokémon and are called servans.
Early on, an empty hotel becomes her base of operations, which accommodates all of her companions and servans. This is where Aluche outfits herself, her companions, and the servans with upgrades. It’s also where she sporadically talks to her companions – sometimes at the hotel pool, so the game can have extended cutscenes of our female warriors in their skimpy bathing suits.
The Ticking Clock
When Aluche leaves the hotel, she can travel to one area per day, with 1 companion and two servans. When she returns, she sleeps and a day passes. Every time a day passes the moon gets closer to full darkness. If the moon reaches full darkness, it’s game over. Luckily, accomplishing main missions reverses the effect, but it still does interfere with completing all the side missions that are available.
At the start, there is a time limit of 10 minutes to accomplish what you want to in an area. By the end of the game that was upgraded to over 15 minutes, and time rarely ran out. Each area will have a few teleporters which make travel a little bit easier. Killing fiends can grind out some XP, but most groups can be passed in order to get where is needed to either complete primary or secondary objectives.
Companions have ‘loyalty’ type missions which can quickly upgrade their stats upon completion, but most are as simple as clearing a group of enemies from a specific area. The more missions you accomplish for a companion, the closer they get to Aluche.
▢, ▢, ▢, ▢, ▢
Earlier I mentioned running past enemies. That’s because the combat frequently felt monotonous. After some initial struggles while learning the game, it eventually became clear. There is only one combo that’s necessary. It’s hitting the square button 5 times, over and over again. This attack does decent damage in a 360-degree span and interrupts enemy combat animations.
Only a few other mechanics add to the player’s arsenal during combat. One involves companions. If Aluche and her companion hit the same enemy, or if Aluche damages an enemy that just hurt a companion, a meter will fill up. Every companion has a unique ability which can be used when the meter fills. Companions also have an ultimate ability which have unique animations between the characters, but all do a large amount of single-target damage.
The other wrinkle is the servans who can fill various roles. Some servans enable Aluche to wield a different weapon, some do elemental damage, some fill a support role, and some enable Aluche to get to blocked off places of an area. I always brought along the servans of the last type though, in case I encountered said blockage.
The most fun and unique thing about the game was planning which companions to take as I weighed where my main objectives were, and where I can also get companion missions completed. Unfortunately, this never amounted to much even though I was fairly efficient at knocking out what was in front of me. I nearly achieved max affinity with one companion and didn’t even leave the hotel with a few characters before the game had wrapped up.
Curiosities and Gripes
One thing that I was consistently questioning was if men exist in this world. It’s a valid question because there is not a single one seen throughout. Also, Aluche and the majority of the other characters appear to be attracted to each other so… can they procreate? Is this the world? Or is it an attempt to titillate its audience.
The game was likely built, primarily, with the PS Vita in mind. Time limits for areas – which create easily digestible and short missions – would appear to be a good indicator of that. The game’s mediocre textures and performance on the PS4 would also back up that theory. Human characters are highly stylized and sharp, but enemy textures and environments are very flat and look very rough in spots.
Bosses and enemies with a lot of health can be quickly taken down by spamming servan abilities and doing the very repetitive combos we’ve covered. A “Dark Souls” lock-on system and a block option are present, but those don’t salvage the lacking combat.
With dull combat and less than stellar visuals, the story was the only thing giving the game a heartbeat. Despite various levels of confusion throughout, I ended up liking and rooting for the characters by the end. One thing that will receive universal praise by me is the music, which frequently had me humming along, and at certain times beautifully added weight to a cutscene.
Knights of Azure 2 was not an awful experience, just a thoroughly mediocre one. Combat is dull and simplistic; game performance lacks; many of its systems never amount to much and – its visuals are likely held back by the Vita, a device that westerners forgot about 5 years ago.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.