Do you remember those old RPGs from back in the day? You know, the hardcore ones that usually had a first person perspective while the game provided a massive wall of text telling you how the battle is going? Those were the good old days. Well, get ready to time travel back to those days when you load up Unchained Blades. The old school formula is here, but FuRyu has added in some rather unique twists.
You play as a band of adventurers looking to meet a goddess that can grant a person their heart’s desires. Of course, getting to the goddess is a trial that requires wish-seeking adventurers to explore and conquer dungeons in the form of titans. Each character is from a different tribe of creatures. While children, they are human, but when they become adults, they transform into their respected tribe’s from. There are dragons, golems, phoenixes and other mythical creatures.
The game is essentially a first person dungeon crawler where you move forward, back, left and right while filling in a map that shows your location. The game is much like Etrian Odyssey in this sense. While in dungeons, you will have to solve simple puzzles and explore to find items. You may also run into random battles.
During battles, you can chose to attack, run, use skills, defend and unchain. Unchain is an ability that is only available when certain conditions are met. You must have an enemy’s health below half, and while weakened it can be unchained to add it to your party. Each main party member can have followers that will aid them in battle by both defending and following up with attacks. Skills use up MP but allow for stronger attacks by setting up subsequent attacks by the party’s followers.
Not only are there traditional first person, turn-based battles, but the unique aspect of the game is the special fights that take place during trials. These battles utilize all the monsters you have unchained and pit them against another army of monsters. The more you have, the easier the fight. During these fights, directions will be sliding up to the middle of the screen, much like Dance Dance Revolution. Hitting the correct inputs will keep your army pushing. If you ever need a boost in your ranks, you can use special items that can increase your attack power.
There is also a crafting system in the game that will let you create almost anything from items to weapons. You can purchase crafting items in a shop or harvest them while in dungeons using tools. Items, weapons and armor are scarce and expensive, so you will need to rely on crafting to get what you need.
While in town, you can rest at the inn, shop for items or take on special quests at the tavern that, when completed, will offer up some nice items and crafting materials.
The leveling system is a mixture of Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XIII. You gain 2 points to spend when you level up. These points unlock nodes on a large skill map. You must connect nodes to each other in order to progress. Nodes represent increases in stats and new skills to use in battle. It’s a nice system that always has me excited to spend points in the grid.
Other games like Unchained Blades usually don’t focus on the story very much. Unlike those titles, Unchained Blades features a very competent story with some impressive voice acting. Each character has a colorful attitude that plays off the others well. The overall presentation, mixed with the anime art style is really well done. The other impressive thing is the fact that none other than Nobuo Uematsu helped compose the soundtrack, and practically every tune in the game is catchy and well done.
Now, as hardcore as the game is, there are still some problems. First off, the unchaining of creatures in battle seems to be randomized. So even though you might weaken an enemy with both attacks and stat debuffs, you still have to wait for the unchain option to pop up. Then, sometimes the option will pop up while your party members are still carrying out their attacks, killing the enemy before the next turn. So you miss out on that monster. This wouldn’t be all that bad if the big army battles didn’t require a big group of monsters from your party. Because of this, you’ll end up losing these battles until you get more monsters. Because this is such a tricky chore, you end up having to spend time leveling and collecting monsters. The game is very much a grinding game that will require the player to put some time into it.
Unchained Blades has some rather impressive things going for it. The story is interesting, the combat is decent and the voice acting and presentation are top notch. It’s a long game that will last you well past the 30 hour mark if you do it. The game is rather difficult even from the beginning. Money is something you don’t really gain much of, and a random battle can leave your party hurting pretty badly if you’re not careful. It can put off new players, but for those with some patience looking for a good challenge, you will find a decent RPG here.
Review copy provided by publisher.