PS3 Review: Resonance of Fate

Resonance of Fate is not your typical fantasy RPG as it doesn’t have any fire or ice magic or anything like that. It can be seen as Wild Arms without the magic bit (especially the Western feel).

Time for actions!

The story of Resonance of Fate sets in a kind of post-apocalyptic world where the land was so polluted that people are now living above the land in a giant dish like construction called the Basel. You assume the role of a Hunter trio that goes around doing chores for residents living in Basel and in the process unveils the story behind the God and Basel. Each chapter has its story mission and some chapter missions. Story missions move the story forward and chapter missions, when completed, earn you extra Hunter points to boost your rank in the guild. They also yield you cool and sometimes essential items for the story that have flow over effects to the world of Basel. The story itself is complicated. Even with two beautifully rendered opening prologue scenes, you will still be wondering what’s happening in the first two chapters. However, once you start to learn the ropes of a Hunter’s life, the story starts to unveil in a subtle but intriguing way that keeps you wanting to know more about what is happening. The story is well written and engaging. It could easily beat a lot of other RPGs of the year story-wise and that’s essential as RPGs are about the stories.

Tower of Basel

With Tri-Ace (Star Ocean, Valkyrie Profile) behind the production, you would expect nothing but the best. Unlike a lot of RPGs that use magic and attack in battles, you only have handguns or machine guns at your disposal. Also what you can yield is depending on your load capacity. So if you don’t have the required load capacity, you will need to think about what customisation is possible for your current level to get you through the battles alive. Once you are in the battle, you can deal two kinds of damages – scratch damage and direct damage. Machine guns deal scratch damages and handguns deal direct damages. Scratch damages ‘weakens’ your opponents so when they are followed by direct damage by handguns, a lot more damage is done and also can break enemy gauges easily and stun them temporarily. This puts a huge strategic spin in battles as you have to think about when to deal scratch damages and who would perform the kill. Further, scratch damages can recover over time for some enemies so you really need to think fast about what you want to do in battles. Once you select the target and attack, a target circle will show up and a colour line will start to fill it up. Once it is filled, you can fire. If you are further away from the enemies, the bar is slower and vice versa. So you will need to think about whether you want to risk putting your characters into the frontline and fire faster with more rounds or you want to play safe and take the battle slowly. Your every decision counts as the enemies will not hesitate to wipe you out if you made the wrong one.

Shoot, kill and repeat!

Your actions inside battles are restricted by the number of action points you have. If you run around, a blue bar will show up and start depleting itself. Once the blue bar is depleted your turn is over, action carried out or not. This applies to all your standard attacks (or run and shoot). At the same time you have the option of using your Hero Points for hero actions or tri-attacks that allow you to do multiple attacks while avoiding damages and at the same time recover your scratch damages. There is a catch though. You can only use Hero Points if you have the sufficient number of shards on your Hero Points gauge. Each hero action or tri-attack consumes one shard and once they are depleted you go into panic mode. Once in panic mode you lose accuracy and all damages you took will become direct damage. Panic mode can also be inflicted by the enemies shattering all the shards on your Hero Points gauge. Once scratch damages built up to the same amount as your exact HP value, part of your Hero Points gauge will be shattered and littered on the battle field. It is up to you to pick up the pieces to rebuild it. Once the whole gauge is shattered, you are in panic mode. Worse still, in such panic mode, enemies can pick up your broken shards and heal up – and they will not hesitate to do so. However if you manage to shoot parts of your enemies off (e.g. their hat or parts of their weapons or armour) then you can refill your gauge immediately. This makes using hero points a lot more strategic instead of becoming a system you can abuse.

Tri-Ace hasn’t done away with random battles in the world map but did so inside dungeons. When you are on the world map, you will encounter random battles if you are in dangerous zones such as back alleys, but you know you are safe when you are using the thorough fare areas. Enemies in random battles change even in the same area as the story progresses. This makes leveling up a lot easier but at the same time keep you on edge even when you are visiting old places. This is a different story inside dungeons though. Dungeons are made up of a series of chambers where you can fight or run from enemies (except bosses of course). Battle fields will also have walls and barrels where you can take advantage of if situations get sticky. Each room will be indicated on the mini map on the upper right hand corner so if you had managed to run through the chamber to the next, you can completely skip the battles. This is a good balance to the long complaint about random battles in dungeons. However if you want to get some of the good items in the game, you probably need to clear some chambers so you can open the chests without the fear of death breathing down your neck.

Offense or defense?

Unlike a lot of other RPGs, where the the world opens up to embrace you and your adventure early in the game, you need to open up the world map progressively and in order to just this you will need to acquire Energy Hexes.  Energy Hexes come in all shapes and are formed by four hexagons attached together. Some areas require specific colour hexes to open up but you will eventually acquire them through the story. Opening up the world map in such manner could be tedious, but then Tri-Ace threw in a few surprises to keep you going. A number of hexes, once opened up, yield special items. So you would want to open up everything to just see what’s on offer next. Also certain hexes will erect special terminals once opened up. These special terminals, once the conditions are met, will yield special effects to the areas (including dungeons) they covered. That could be a special status bonus, faster recharge rate of the target circle or increase rate of status ailments you can inflict on the enemies. The good thing is these effects can be “spilled over” to the next floor as long as you have the required hexes to bridge them over. All these just make the open world a lot more interesting than just opening platforms after platforms.

God! How many levels does Basel have??

Character development applies the same experience point system but with a slight tweak. You obtain experience points with the number of actions you take but you don’t “level up” as a character just by performing actions. Experience points are actually assigned to your weapon skills, so if you stick with one weapon for too long, you will take longer time to level up as compared to switch weapons around. Also if you perform actions on stronger enemies your weapon skill will level up much faster. Each character has three sets of skills – machine guns, handguns and throw (grenades, Molotov cocktails etc.). At first you might want to stick with one weapon but eventually you will discover that it is essential to move weapons around so that you have enough levels (especially HP) to face your opponents in the story and side missions. As your weapon skills level up with your character level, they will provide different effects for that skill that enable them to do more damage or recover faster etc. While there is no limit to bullets used (except when you use special bullets with your machine gun case) throw weapons are limited to the stock you have. So keeping an eye on your stock is essential before you venture into any dungeons. Cos once you are inside, you can’t change the configuration anymore.

Since you are using the same characters throughout the whole game, it is essential to keep you interested in those characters. This is where the costume play element of the game comes in. You can change the look of your characters in any way you want – and they will be shown in the main game. That provides a bit of variety and also an incentive for collectors to just do another few missions to get a cool piece of outfit that pleases their eyes. It also sprinkles a bit of variety for the main characters and make them less boring. On top of that, the game provides lots of customisation options for your weapons. In Resonance of Fate, you improve your weapons by customising them with different parts. Customisation, although improve your weapons, at the same time increase the weight of your weapons. So you need to make sure you have the capacity to use the weapon before you buy or make parts for customisation. Also you can create ammo and weapons according to what you get in battles. I must say making Molotov cocktail has never been such fun.

Hm...what should I get? What should I get????

Graphics wise the game is beautifully crafted. There were complaints about the blend mechanical environment of the game but in my opinion the design fits perfectly with the story. Also the background is not static as in most RPGs but changes according to the time of the day – even the clouds in the sky moves slowly! The environment is dynamic though mechanical although I would prefer a bigger number and variety of people in towns to give it a more vibrant or robust view. The character models are down to the finest bit of details such as leather texture and fine strings of hair. The voice over in the game is great and is one of the few games that you don’t need to turn off the audio to enhance your experience. There were corny bits here and there but on the whole the voice over is full of character and brings the characters well to life. The music score is a bit repetitive most of the time although it does do its work in some areas.

Resonance of Fate is an unforgivingly hard game and death is the norm. Throughout the game you will be wiped out again and again, mostly because you made the wrong decision, performed a careless move and cancelled out your hero action or even just because you did not pay attention to your equipment. However frustrating it sounds, it is a game that you would say “Yay! I finished that friggin battle” with pride when you manage to finish an arduous fight. The experience is rewarding although the efforts are demanding. If you are looking for a game that you can just rush in and kill, Resonance of Fate is not something you should attempt. However, if you are looking for something challenging and engaging at the same time, you should definitely check out Resonance of Fate as the sense of accomplishment that comes with this game is beyond anything I could describe in words.

Not just a pretty face :)

Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆

About the Author

Level up freak. Level 99 is a norm not a goal. Love my JRPGs and RPGs in general. Also love my platformers and puzzle games. Was addicted to Zoo Keeper, Magnetica, Animal Crossing, Disgaea DS, Dragon Quest IX and White Knight Chronicles. Prefer to spend my time away from gaming as an actor although do have a full time job that keeps my mortgage going. But generally love anything creative. And if anyone tells you gaming is a waste of time, tell them you have great eye, hand and brain coordinations that they will never have!