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Old-School RPG Himeko Sutori Could Be Great, But Is Not Quite There Yet

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Himeko Sutori

Everything old is new again, so the saying goes. That trend is evident in recent waves of remasters and, now, remakes, but the past also emerges in homage. Himeko Sutori, which launches in Early Access today, owes a clear debt of gratitude to classic RPGs, but still requires considerable work before it can hope to be considered as a worthy successor.

At the heart of Himeko Sutori’s ambition is the large-scale, strategy-focused battle system. With enough money, players can recruit hundreds of soldiers to the cause, range them into small groups, and send them into combat. The scope of these skirmishes is impressive, yet the need for strategy is underdeveloped at present.

In general, battlefield layouts are straightforward, offering few opportunities for players to be creative in their movements. Flanking manoeuvres or phalanx formations are simply unnecessary. Furthermore, environments are free of hazards or other special tiles, resulting in the battles more often seeming like thoughtless brawls. Another major issue at present is that each enemy type has only one battlefield, meaning that, before long, the conflicts become rote and unexciting.

These issues are compounded by the lack of direct control. While each formation (or lance, to use the game’s terminology) can be tailored to the player’s liking, the nature and target of their attacks cannot. This design choice means that characters, with some exceptions provided by passive skills, strike enemies at random, often undercutting any attempt to strategically dismantle adversarial lances.

Nevertheless, the ability to build lances at will provides room for tactical play. Striking a balance between offensive and defensive units is essential, and that is where Rockwell Studios’s robust character customisation mechanics come into play. Through branching options provided when leveling up, soldiers can be assigned to one of dozens of classes, though the distinctions between some of them could be clearer. For example, multiple classes use strong melee attacks, so the choice of one over another can come down to aesthetic preference.

Therein lies another issue affecting the current build of Himeko Sutori. The game features dozens—perhaps even hundreds—of different items, armours, and weapons, but classes are limited in what they can equip. However, other than when actually equipping items, no clear indication exists as to who can use what, which is particularly problematic when attempting to outfit the party. The lack of clarity about game elements extends further to the effects of the upgrade options offered with each new level, the role of the colours embedded in each character’s statistics, and even the questlines.

This latter area is one in which Himeko Sutori seems woefully unprepared for even an Early Access launch. At present, beyond the first few missions, the journal is blank, the story unwritten. Even were that in place, the narrative feels unoriginal. Players step into the shoes of Aya, youngest daughter of House Furukawa, who one day finds her kingdom at war, overrun by enemy soldiers and demonic creatures alike. Alongside her sisters, she sets out to find a way to bring peace back to the world.

The storyline is incomplete, but reeks of the kind of epic fantasy already written and played in dozens of games across the years. Compounding this sense of been-there-done-that-ness is the quaint visual style that combines sprite-based character models with a 2D overworld. The pseudo-3D stylings of certain locales is a novel twist, but not enough to override the boredom inspired by yet another pastoral, pseudo-medieval fantasy setting.

Rockwell Studios predicts Himeko Sutori to remain in Early Access for six months, but that seems less than is necessary to take the game from its current shell state to a full-fledged, engrossing RPG experience. Of course, the developer is free to take longer than predicted. However, most importantly, the core gameplay loop of combat is solid and enjoyable. The shortage of clarity and diversity that stand out as Himeko Sutori’s most egregious faults can yet be remedied, and, once they are, the game could well stand shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the greats of the past.

Damien Lawardorn is an aspiring novelist, journalist, and essayist. His goal in writing is to inspire readers to engage and think, rather than simply consume and enjoy. With broad interests ranging from literature and video games to fringe science and social movements, his work tends to touch on the unexpected. Damien is the former Editor-in-Chief of OnlySP. More of his work can be found at https://open.abc.net.au/people/21767

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Cat Quest 2 Stands Out as the Cat’s Meow

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Cat Quest II

EGX Rezzed was filled with bright and brilliant playable demos, but the latest project by The Gentlebros really stood out as the cat’s meow.

Cat Quest 2 is a sequel to the original Cat Quest which debuted in 2017. The first title was met with critical acclaim among fans, receiving positive reviews. Cat Quest would arrive on console later the same year and has since won several awards.

The biggest and most pronounced change for the sequel are the inclusions of dogs and co-operative gameplay. The added co-operation is the real bread and butter of the game, as the combat and game mechanics work purrfectly when a pair is playing. The game can also be played entirely in single player, as well as co-operative with the option to switch between the two characters.

The EGX demo proved that working as a team is the best way of dealing with enemies. For example, a small spiked enemy will use a charged attack when provoked, which allows for one character to run in and bait the enemy to attack while the other moves in to land a blow. Timed dodging and parrying seem to be the best approach, as running in ham-handed will result in a swift K.O. Should the character receive a lot of damage during battle, players can rest up and recharge at several glowing stones by taking a quick nap. Playing as part of a team is not always as simple as it seems, however, with several traps designed to not damage the first player, but rather the one slacking behind.

Several other improvements have been implemented since the previous title, including new enemies and a complete overhaul to the inventory menus. One interesting feature is that the loot found throughout the levels is shared among the players, meaning if a particularly swanky new armour piece is found in a treasure chest, only one person will be able to equip it at a time.

Fans of the previous game will be pleased to hear that the gorgeously designed map is returning, as well as the treacherous treasure-filled dungeons. The design of the world is one of the game’s stand out features; players wander across an actual map complete with location names and, during combat, battle lines that prevent the characters from leaving a certain area. Another returning aspect that some may be thrilled about is the pawful pun-filled script, which often brings a quick smirk to the player’s face.

The helpful Navi-like sprite, Kirry, guides players along the vibrant and whimsical landscape and provides helpful hints throughout. Another returning character is Kit Cat who acts as the game’s upgrade and armour specialist. Players can visit Kit Cat to level up their gear via coins. The mage guild also makes a comeback and acts as the means to level up a character’s magical abilities. Other new characters include the villainous Lionar and Wolfen who have usurped the thrones of the two playable characters. Not much is known about the motives of the villains, but in-game clues suggest a Sheriff of Nottingham-esque villainy with sudden tax increases.

Cat Quest 2 is looking to be a must-have for RPG fans searching for a fun and fanciful adventure. The game will be arriving on Android, iOS, PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One in 2019. Stay tuned for more Cat Quest news and other EGX coverage by following our FacebookTwitter, and YouTube. Meanwhile, join the discussion on our community Discord server.

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