Saturday, 27 September 2014

Raucous Reviews: Elminage Gothic

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I'm not usually the type of person to play an old-school dungeon crawler like Ghostlight's Elminage Gothic. Hell, anyone who knows me will know that I barely go near JRPGs, with Pokemon being my furthest venture east. Still, I gave said crawler a whack, so here's my thoughts on it...

Elminage Gothic is, after all, a localisation of a Japanese game, so I was expecting a bit of a difficulty curve. What I wasn't expecting was a huge slap in the face by the game, where, after a scene-setting cutscene, I was plunged into a menu with no idea what to do, I clicked around until I went into a tavern and was told to recruit some team-members. 

Now here's where my opinion was split: on the one hand, there was a lot of information to go on in terms of choosing the right teammates. On the other hand? No tutorial or explanatory text meant that, once again, I had no idea what any of the stats were and how they factored into the game. As I randomly selected all of my party members, I was told to go and explore a cave. 

Lots of confused walking around and speaking to characters later, I was well on my way to questing it up in the lands of..... I can't remember! Story is really put on the back-burner in EG, so don't come a-knocking and expecting any kind of deep, Final Fantasy-esque tale: Elminage Gothic's heart is in it's gameplay, and there's nothing wrong with that.

A couple of days later, and I've realized something: half of my time in Gothic's world is spent editing your party. The system is so complex, immersive and important that it almost supersedes the actual battles! The reason for this is because of the insane difficulty of the game: the start of the game is quite unfair, and keeping your party alive is quite a hard task. Not only do you have to worry about the tough enemies and long-lasting, brutal spells, but you'll also have to keep an eye out for traps when you're scouring the labyrinth-like dungeons. Exploring these dungeons are key to doing well, as I found that simply rushing to complete the quests made my party liable to huge (And I mean HUGE) difficulty spikes in the future.

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Thanks to the darkness, the corners and my ability to be scared by the pizza man if he knocks at the wrong time adds quite a horror/suspenseful aspect to exploration, but said darkness can't disguise the grainy, PS2-era textures. Thank god the enemies and all other locations are painted then. Said paintings are beautiful, vivid and most of all imaginative, with colours blending and popping. Elminage Gothic's art is the most beautiful art of all the art. You know it's good when I put an Office reference in there.

If you're looking to ease into JRPGs, Elminage Gothic isn't the game for you. The difficulty, the exploration, the loot, the party system: they all add up to a deep and immersive experience that isn't for the faint hearted. While the full-on experience shines once you get deeper into the game, the menus and lack of storytelling seem to do all they can to stop you from advancing and speeding through the game. At least the art is beautiful!

Beautiful Art Style
                                                                                          Not much story
Immersive Experience
                                                                                           Too many menus
Deep Party System

A big thanks to Ross Brierley from Ghostlight for crawling to us and handing us a review copy!

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