Game Review: God Wars: The Complete Legend [NIS America; Nintendo Switch]

If you have spent much of this summer in ravenous desire for a new tactical RPG to delve in to, then I must inform you that you may hunger no longer- Kadokawa Games is here to fulfill your appetite. From the same company that brought us Lunar: Silver Star Story, comes God Wars: The Complete Legend, a tactical RPG set in a fictional version of ancient Japan. God Wars tells the story of Princess Kaguya, a young maiden on a journey across the land to find her missing mother.  The opening sequence of the game shows Queen Tsukuyomi, the ruler of one of the three great nations in the land, sacrificing her daughter to calm the anger of the gods. Thirteen years later, the queen’s other daughter, Kaguya, is kept safely in captivity in case she must one day be sacrificed to appease the gods. Kintaro, Kaguya’s childhood friend, breaks her out of her prison and the two of them set out to see the world. Upon learning that her mother has disappeared, Kaguya journeys to the other two great nations to find her. Along the way, our heroes face bandits, soldiers, wild animals, and even pirates. Oftentimes, our heroes will get help from locals who end up joining their party, including princes from the other nations. This happens more often than not, giving the player a large cast of characters to choose from to meet their playstyle.

God Wars is a tactical RPG where a lot of the story is told in dialogue during combat.  Battles take place in grid-style maps with various terrain such as rocks, bushes, and water, which offer advantages and disadvantages depending on which characters are being used. The terrain height of an attacking unit in relation to the defender is important, as is the direction a unit is facing when it gets attacked, so it’s vital that the player is thinking several steps ahead during battle. The game features a class-based system, where each character has a list of jobs to choose from including fighter styles, tanks, healers, and ranged spellcasters. In addition, each character has its own unique job that grants special skills only to that unit. This allows for broad customization options to suit various combat situations and playstyles. Combat is turn based, with each unit on the map acting once per turn, and the “speed” stat dictates the turn order for all units.  There are two things I found interestingly unique to God Wars. First, there is a stat called “impurity” that all friendly units have. The higher a unit’s impurity, the more likely an enemy unit will target that character and the stat increases each time a unit damages an enemy or heals an ally. A more familiar term might be “threat,” or “aggro,” and I have yet to see that mechanic in a tactical RPG. The other thing I found interesting is how the negative status effects work.  For most of them, getting hit by a status effect while already affected by the same effect actually enhances the effect. A good example is the “slow” effect. “Slow” limits the number of spaces the affected unit can move, but if they get hit with it again before it wears off or is cured, it becomes “stop,” rendering that unit unable to move at all until the debuff is removed. While I’ve generally seen stat buffs and reductions in other games stack on each other, I had never seen it applied to negative status conditions, until now. Due to all the variables in combat, victory depends highly on strategy, cunning, and resourcefulness. A final note about the combat system: there is no perma-death in this game. If a friendly unit falls in combat, they have a set number of turns to be revived before they flee from the battle, but none of the characters actually die if that happens. This is a much welcome reprieve from the hardcore nature of similar games in the genre. The player will be able to use that character again once the battle is over, as many of them are heavily involved in the game’s story.

Although much of the story takes place during combat, there is plenty of the story between battles as well.  It often happens as simple dialogue between characters, but during major events, the story happens in full anime cutscenes.  Additionally, God Wars implements a unique style of manga, or Japanese comic, where the panels move and replace each other as the story is being told.  Often, the manga scenes flow into the anime scenes, which is immediately shown in the opening scene. Despite the impressive art direction, the actual storytelling during the game leaves something the be desired. Oftentimes, the dialogue is choppy and the context is lost- I chalk it up to a translation issue. The cutscenes do a better job gluing the story together, but as they are uncommon, I found myself reading the expanded story in the game’s menu to piece it all together. Also, the names of people and places in the game are heavily based on Japanese folklore. As a result, some of the longer names tended to blend together as I got further in the game. (The “summary” section of the menu really helped keep me on track, in regard to the story).

The graphics of the game are pretty much what you’d expect in 2018. Nothing feels “dated” and the visual effects flow well. The spell effects are simple, yet elegant. Each battlefield is vastly different and is shadowed by different landscapes in the background. It is not uncommon to find old temples and cherry blossom trees on the map; Mount Fuji is also there. The anime cutscenes work well with the art style of the game, but we’ve had these kind of cutscenes in video games for the past 20 years, so it’s nothing new. However, the manga scenes do help with the flow of the game when going into the cutscenes. The characters are drawn very well and the creatures were designed by one of the artists who worked on 2006’s Okami, for the PlayStation 2, which becomes apparent when encountering some of the larger creatures in the game. One final note about the character design: There are several “stereotypical Japanese” tropes to be found amongst the large selection of characters. Yes, there is a girl dressed in a bunny outfit; yes, there is a guy trying to look like an oni; yes, there is a guy with cat ears and whiskers.  Despite all that, the characters tend to be very cute and often made me laugh!

The music in God Wars fits the game well. Many of the tracks have East Asian undertones and the soundtrack is not in your face, nor does it hide in the shadows. They give us just enough to add flavor to the many landscapes in the game. One thing I did love was the sound effects from the various attacks and spells- nothing got me more excited than hearing “THWACK!” as one of my units struck an enemy. With that being said, the voice acting in God Wars was mediocre at best. The game can be played with either English or Japanese voices and while the English voice acting gets the job done, don’t expect Studio Ghibli quality actors. The Japanese voice acting fits the style of the game much better, and the dialogue actually matches the movement of the character’s lips, but one word of caution: while the gameplay dialogue does appear on the screen during typical character interactions and battles, there are no subtitles during cutscenes.

Truth be told, I’ve been looking for a new tactical RPG for a while and God Wars: The Complete Legend certainly satisfied my hunger. The graphics and audio are nothing to write home about, but they’re definitely not bad. I would say they’re exactly what they need to be for a game designed like this. Sure, much of the game is cliché, and the storytelling needs work, but the combat system is truly superb. Whatever got lost in translation doesn’t affect the fun and challenge of the battles in this game. (Justin Singh; Game Reviewer)

5/10 If you play it for the story; 7/10 If you play it for the battle system

Review code provided by NIS America, reviewed on the Nintendo Switch.

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