Say what you want about Gameloft, love or hate them, there is no disputing the fact that they bring the games most desired to the iOS platform with their signature Gameloft flair. Eternal Legacy is one of their latest RPG’s to hit the market and will definitely ring a familiar tune. Turn based battles, fantastical future setting, hmmm, might I have played something similar? Probably, since most RPG’s tend to have those elements incorporated somehow. Main character having a bad blondish hair day? Ok ringing more of a bell.
So with all the similarities I would be remiss to mention that all those hints led me to compare this game to the later titles in the Final Fantasy series. Some say copy, some say inspiration, but I say bring it on. This can be good or it can be bad for Gameloft. Good because anyone hoping for a Final Fantasy type game on their iPhone or iPod Touch finally has one. Bad because Eternal Legacy has a very high bar to reach if it expects Eternal Legacy to meet or exceed arguably one of the best RPG’s of any platform.
It’s a mixed bag for me, a lover of the Final Fantasy series. Final Fantasy brings so much to the table so is there any way that Eternal Legacy can match the storytelling, battle system, graphics, controls, anything really. I have to say that in some ways it does and in some ways it does not – all within the same categories. Gameloft has taken the inspiration and then added its own flair to it. So from here on out the comparison to Final Fantasy in my review has stopped.
The main character with the bad hair day (oops sorry, really stopping now) Astrian, has a pretty complicated back story we come to find out. In a, who am I really story line, there are of course the usual – we must save the world from the evil empire – overtones. Several different characters drop in to help Astrian on his quest, including a princess shocked at her father’s actions, a brother sister team that is set on taking on the world among others.
Graphics: The graphics on this game really show how far the platform has come. In a 3D world completely controlled by the touch of your finger, you really feel immersed in Algoad. At times I swore I felt the snowflakes on my shoulder. The graphics really shine during battle. If you run into an enemy and a chest is behind him, the chest will appear in battle. No stock battle screens here which have been common of late in turn based battle games. This is very appealing and makes each battle appear on its own. Not just your run of the mill – insert battle screen here – code. The scenery at times is immersive as you gaze across the country. 360 panning just adds to this experience. You will have a hard time finding something more beautiful on this platform.
Interface: Everything seems to be covered here. There is a Quest Log available that not only lists current quests but has a list of events that just happened. When so and so joined the party is on the list. When so and so left the party is listed. The quest log is so complete so if you find yourself taking any kind of break from the game, it will jog your memory to exactly where you are and what you need to do next. A feature lacking on many mobile RPG’s that render returning to them useless after any lapse in play.
The map is graphically a line drawing, but it gets the job done. Your position is highlighted, even with a beam of light which shows which direction you are traveling. Quest locations are indicated. So in a very simple blueprint of the area you are in, much information is included.
Character information, equipment, inventory is all here. In fact whatever you would expect to find for information is here and then some. A few clicks and your hero is equipped with some new weapons or armor, all quite easily and intuitively.
Battle System, but: I say but here because the battle system is both a Like and a Dislike to me. I really like it because for a turn based battle it really moves. You have a choice to control either Astrian or all three of your characters manually. Or two of your characters can perform in a manner consistent with the role you assign them – for example as the healer or as a thief. There are no pauses in this turn based battle system however and if you snooze you lose as your enemies will continue to pound away at you if you do not make a choice of action. There is a lot of customization possible within the battle screen and that brings a different twist to the typical Turn Based battle system.
Exploration: The world at first glance seems very open. Panning to see what is around you actually affords you with some nice views. Walk over to the ledge and see the vast world below. It’s pretty all encompassing and nothing that you see seems to repeat itself. Again, no stock image panels but a real cinematic experience.
Enemy Encounters: Enemies pace in a predictable fashion and avoiding random encounters, well they can’t be so random if you can see them, is fairly easy to do. But sometimes the enemy surprises you and your best plan of avoidance is foiled and of course you start at a disadvantage with your backs turned to the enemy during battle. Fighting as many enemies as you see however will certainly help with the leveling up and makes boss fights easier. I find that if you do battle each enemy you see then you will be at an appropriate level for where you are in the story.
Story line: Well, all good Japanese RPG’s are known for their epic story line. It starts off very slowly and that “skip” button is awfully tempting. Had it not been for this review, I am sure that I would have succumbed to its painful allure, but I did press through and found that the story does develop, but sadly too late for probably a huge majority of gamers. By the time the story gets interesting, not too many people are reading it. I am glad that I persevered to get to the intriguing twists, but the story needs to grab you from the start. Since there was no hook in the beginning, the story comes too little too late.
Side Quests: Well, I know they are there, but the main story is so encompassing that you can really miss them. Before long you can forget there are even any side quests to complete. Other than the markings on the map you actually might not know they exist altogether. What is an RPG without some great side quests to boost your inventory?
Holding you by the hand: In the US there is a company Fidelity Investments that boasts 100% guidance in their investments if only you follow their “green line” shown in their commercials. Well playing this game I sometimes felt like I was in the Fidelity commercial and following not the green line but this aqua colored arrow. Talk about encouraging you not to find side quests, not to explore, not to think for yourself. This arrow will most assuredly bring you where you need to go next no questions asked. No getting lost in an area of the map that you needn’t be in. None of that stuff that toughens up a seasoned RPG player. Add portals to the map and perhaps make the one you are headed toward a different color and lose the arrow. That way there is some direction but not the feeling someone is whispering in your ear: “come on, this way, no no not that way, this way” the entire game.
Battle System, but: Ok here is the dislike of the battle system. The game introduces a mechanism that you can “queue” up three moves in advance. While it seems at first to be a great feature – line up your moves and then watch the battle play out, it turns out this is a severe flaw. Once you line up your moves you can not undo them. They are set and if the enemy poisons you, you must wait a very long time before you can administer a potion as your cure. By that time you or a party member has lost a lot of life. Also, as you stare at the screen waiting for your turn to finally cycle back, the screen often fades out into battery saver mode. There is a simple switch for that Gameloft! I don’t like having to constantly tap the screen to keep it lit, especially if I am supposedly watching my own battle!
The balance of the battle system seems off as well. I can dish out a critical attack of 9,999 three times to one enemy while my compatriots add their own damage and the enemy does not fall. Meanwhile the enemy is dealing a measly 100 – 500 points of damage that is in line to my HP. There has to be some kind of equality there. It doesn’t make me feel any better to deal thousands and thousands of damage points to my enemy if he has 1,000 times more damage than me. No worries, my ego can handle it, I don’t want to be needlessly encouraged with inflated numbers.
Fragment equip / unequip: It seems that in order to change a fragment (an item that gives passive abilities when equipped to weapons and armor) you can not remove it but replace it. Once a fragment has been assigned to an item, fragments are there to stay. That is a very inconvenient oversight.
Voice graphics: Well this might be a petty gripe, but when the dialogue is over I expect the character’s mouth to stop moving. There might be three words of dialogue but if you do not press the next arrow your character will keep “talking” as if there was the entire text of “War and Peace” to be recited. Sort of made me think of a Japanese Martial Arts movie with very bad American voice dubbing.
Ultimately, Eternal Legacy by Gameloft is one of the most graphically pleasing RPG’s on the appstore at the moment. It is a well made J-RPG that boasts umpteen hours of gameplay between the main quest and the side quests, even if those side quests are hard to find. If you can overlook the shortcomings of an average at best story and horrid voice acting, then you will definitely enjoy Eternal Legacy. Buried under some of its flaws is a great game. After all, it is very hard to find anything else quite like it on this platform.
Eternal Legacy by Gameloft version 1.0.0 was reviewed on a 2g iPod Touch and a 4g iPod Touch, both with iOS 4.1. It is available now in the appstore at $6.99.
Eternal Legacy HD is also available for the iPad for $9.99.