Resonance of Fate Review

By Jason D'Aprile - Posted Apr 02, 2010

Wild gun-slinging action merges with entirely traditional Japanese role-playing settings to create Resonance of Fate. A labyrinth of rules and techniques and punishing difficulty level put Sega and Tri-Ace's latest in the hands of only the hardcore, but for those who find the hand-holding of Final Fantasy too tedious this might be just the game.

The Pros
  • High-flying gun-play is a refreshing change for the genre
  • An incredibly lengthy adventure filled
  • For Hardcore players in search of a challenge, this could be heaven
The Cons
  • For anyone else, the game is a 60-hour exercise in pain and frustration
  • Mediocre graphics and story
  • Absurdly over-complicated and unforgiving combat system

Releasing a Japanese role-playing game a mere week after SquareEnix released Final Fantasy XIII seems like a questionable move at best. Yet, Sega did exactly that with Tri-Ace’s latest, Resonance of Fate. As it turns out, while both games share the same genre, they manage to hit vastly different audiences.

Resonance of Fate

Gun-Slinger Fantasy

Resonance of Fate starts with an entertaining short cutscene featuring a mysterious young man rescuing a would-be suicidal girl from certain death. Fast forward a few years, and Zephyr, the young man, works with the older Vashyron and pre-requisite dainty cutie, Leanne. The three are so-called hunters (read: “mercenaries”) in the gigantic tower of Basel-- the last refuge for all of humanity. Basel is divided into several levels. The lower the level, the most destitute the locations and populace, while the rich rulers live safely high up.

This sense of classism is key to the story of our hunters with a destiny, as the entire fate of Basel ends up resting in their young, gun-slinging hands. Sadly, the story just isn’t well-told, with absurd attempts at humor mixing inappropriately with somber tones. The plot moves in fits and jerks, and the entire story feels thrown together. The terribly done inclusion of a young mentally-impaired lord is especially tasteless, but the whole story is just completely clichéd.

On the surface, Resonance of Fate offers up a veritable smorgasbord of destructive possibilities. It is an RPG focused entirely on acrobatic gunplay where you upgrade and level up your weapons  with the same detail you normally assign a character. The mix of firearms and otherwise traditional JRPG elements is an intriguing combination, likely to attract players sick of giant swords and sorcery.

Unfortunately, Resonance of Fate ends up feeling more like a proof-of-concept experiment than a game. Granted, it’s a really long experiment, but rife with frustration and torment because of the obtuse and absurdly complicated game mechanics. To put it mildly, RoF is a game for the hardcore, and it makes no apologies or exceptions on the matter. In fact, you can expect to take hours just figuring out how the combat system works -- and that’s after you’ve gone through the dry, mostly text-based, and generally unhelpful tutorials.

Unlike most games of this sort, there’s no gentle ramp up teaching you to use each new power and ability as you gradually earn them. Instead, you can do everything right from the start and RoF just throws you into the cold, bleak waters expecting you to tread long enough to figure it out yourself. In other games, this might be a refreshing change of pace, except that here, the combat system is a maze-like mess. The game is similar to other active real-time systems, but every factor affects every dynamic on the battlefield. Distance, direction, obstacles, range, weapon type, and other elements which tend to stay in the calculation-heavy background of other RPG combat systems rear their heads here at every turn.

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Gunplay for the Savant

Combat is nearly entirely centered on the concepts of the hero gauge, hero actions, and the tri-attack. Normal attacks are useful only for low-level critters, and to do real damage, you need to perform an acrobatic hero action. Select a line of attack, then manually jump and fire in a crazy dance of firepower. These attacks do great amounts of damage, but suck up one point on your hero gauge. Once the gauge is empty, your team is in critical condition mode and you’re all sitting ducks.

Enemy attacks can knock your gauge down as well, and you’ll constantly be struggling to collect points to recharge the hero gauge during combat. The fact that hero actions and the tri-attack -- an overly complicated three-way hero attack -- are essential for even normal battles is part of the overall problem. Pulling off the simple becomes an exhausting exercise. The targeting system is frustratingly unresponsive as well, and it’s far too hard to switch between enemies, let alone focus on specific armor plates of a single target. The semi-real-time combat also means that while you are waiting for your attack to charge up, it’s likely to be interrupted by an opponent before you can even move.

There are two types of damage to dish out in RoF. Direct attacks initially hurt less, but are permanent, while scratch damage is stronger, but will automatically recover. To make matters more confusing, only machine guns deal scratch damage, while handguns and grenades do direct damage. To win, you’ll need to deal both types during combat, and since you are always facing groups of enemies, battles can devolve into a muddled mess  while you try to keep all the elements in line.

Resonance of Fate

Bang Bang! She Gunned Me Down

Given how difficult RoF’s combat system can be to learn, the penalties for defeat truly add insult to injury. If any of your characters fall, it’s an instant “game over.” To continue, you have to pay in game credits -- just to return to combat with partial hit points, while the enemy is completely refreshed. To try the battle fully refreshed costs an insane amount of money.

The rainbow of intricacies that go into Resonance of Fate’s combat system would have been especially engaging and original had the game been a completely turn-based tactical RPG. Certain gamers will absolutely adore all these layers of complexity, but more average players will be highly annoyed.  Another major problem is that all of the truly interesting concepts went directly into the combat system and nowhere else.

Although Tri-Ace’s choice of using combat-won energy to unlock grid points to progress to new locations on the world map is interesting, it also means that you’ll spend hours wandering aimlessly in search of fights to earn more energy. Beyond that, the locations are bland and clichéd. They’re riddled with NPCs that just stand in one place and say the same things. It evokes an old-school PC adventure game from the 90’s, but for all the wrong reasons.

The visuals are also remarkably mediocre. Resonance of Fate could just as easily be a PS2 game as a current-day title. Enemy character models are simplistic, and even your team and major NPCs don’t look particularly refined. Locations have a low-res 2D look as well. The voice acting is generally decent, though the music is forgettable.

Resonance of Fate

Decision Time Again

Resonance of Fate’s ideal audience is hardcore veterans of the genre who want an unapologetically intricate challenge. They’ll want to jump right into RoF’s rocky waters and will likely love it. In fact, JRPG fan who wants a consuming and lengthy challenge may adore the game. Anyone coming off the far player-friendlier Final Fantasy XIII, or most contemporary role-playing games, will be left frustrated and bored. There’s hours of adventure awaiting the most ardent of JRPG fans, but everyone else is better suited investing 60 hours elsewhere.