Not having played any of the Generation of Chaos titles before, I was surprised to learn that this is the sixth entry into the series. Twisting the formula slightly from previous titles this game turns itself into a strategy role playing game similar to titles like Fire Emblem minus the grid.
The first thing I noticed when launching up the game automatically is that it is very eager to present itself like an anime, you are greeted by a musical intro introducing each of the characters the game, as they quickly flash up on screen, before cutting away to the main menu. Starting up the game a lot of terms like “Ashen rain” are thrown at you, with near to little explanation for what they mean. This is one of the major weaknesses that Pandora’s Reflection faces; a lack of explanation. Lots of terms are thrown on screen at you constantly, and there is very little exposition into what has happened in previous titles, or why the status quo is the way it is.
Gameplay is broken up into short easy to dive into segments, each episode consists of 2-4 battles which are short and consist of a few objectives. From a top down perspective you can have five units out on the field at a time, you give each unit a path and they happily plod off along their way. This is changed depending on the terrain that the character walks on, each unit has a different way to reacting to this, some are good in cities, some are good in daytime and some are good at night and ignore terrain penalties. Early on in the game this adds a sense of priority of which pathways that you should take but the way the game controls is very counter-intuitive, with characters walking in one direction only with no way to plot curves around the map. Due to this you’re constantly remapping characters pathways since the controls move too slowly to be effective, notably if you are playing on a Vita and using the D-Pad, which is more accurate than the analog sticks.
Most campaigns maps are pretty identical with one or two capture points on the map, as well as enemy strategy points which should be destroyed in order to dwindle enemy numbers. Enemies may also do the same to you as well forcing your own units to retreat, if the enemy manages to destroy all your “strategy points” you fail your mission, so you have to make sure enemies don’t get past certain units, leaving you concentrating on funneling enemies into choke points. As enemies march across the map the terrain you are on starts to take the focus, if you are on a terrain that doesn’t grant you bonuses the enemy will win the first attack. People on higher speed terrains beat people on slower speed terrains. Pretty simple. Combat is reduced to a small rhythm game. Tapping in the pattern at the right speed shown on screen, along with a simple rock paper scissors weapon mechanic. When you successfully beat down an enemy you generate a small knockback, and an area of effect circle. This allows you to continue attacking an enemy by pressing buttons at the right time when they flash up on the screen and then eventually combine your total attacks to deal extra damage.
Furthermore, there are a series of summons. These summons can be used once per fight and are learned as you level up the main character, Claude. Each summon causes a short on field effect such as healing all allies, stunning all enemies or changing the battlefield from day to night. The combat however doesn’t get any deeper than this and starts to feel very repetitive with each battle working out the same way after a while, go to a capture point, destroy enemy points, move into enemy base. Since the mechanics change very little between start and end of the game there is very little challenge between each level and it all comes down to is whether or not your character is a high enough level.
The upgrade system is very simple, at the start or middle of a mission you are given a short break the games currency is called “alchemy points” these can be gained by capturing enemy bases, defeating large amounts of enemies, or converting spare items into them. These points can be used mainly to upgrade characters equipped weapons and transform them; new weapons very rarely drop so you are reliant on upgrading your existing equipment. If a character dies inbetween levels you have to use alchemy points to restore their health, this also acts as a means to heal less severely injured allies mid mission. Further uses are also to level characters, or just add a little bit of extra experience; speeding up the leveling process ever so slightly. You get so few of these points however, that sometimes you may need to enter the free battle mode to grind and battle several times in order to level up characters or to grind for equipment upgrades.
The story in this game seems to plod along at a slow rate, randomly speeding up and down when it needs to and freely introduces and kills off character specific enemies in order to create confrontation as to not get to the end too quickly. Character backgrounds are tossed around pretty casually and are infact overlooked in favour of moving the story on when it is found that the characters have committed some pretty heinous acts – there is no real confrontation between characters and their interactions are lifeless and unrealistic, at the beginning one character decides they wish to join along with you but it is never really clearly explained why they chose to other than to give the player an item.
Pandora’s Reflection isn’t too deep and doesn’t contain much replayability but the journey itself is fairly enjoyable and the pay off isn’t fantastic but for the price and the easy jump in and out style of gameplay there are worse RPGs out there. If you are a fan of the series and have played the previous releases there may be something in there for you story wise but for anyone else you may feel a bit lost or unfufilled.
GoC: Pandora’s Reflection was released on the European PSN yesterday and has been out in the America’s since last month.
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