I started Resonance of Fate last night, a PS3/360, steam-punk, gun-based JRPG published by Sega, and got 45 minutes in. That is to say, I saw the opening [extremely confusing and vague] cut scene, walked around a town some, and played through the SIXTEEN battle tutorials one of which I had to look up online how to do because it didn’t explain it well enough.
First impressions? Well, if you like complexity, you’re going to love this game. Just based on all the stuff you can do in a battle, you’re likely to love the mechanics. For as complex and “real time” as the battles are, one great shining point is that the controls are not complex at all. I’m going to outline the battle stuff here, partially because nothing I’ve seen online has but mostly because I think that writing it all out may help me wrap my head around all of it:
3 characters in battle, you get them from the get go (no idea if they change or swap or whatever). There’s HP, no MP, and a “reverse” ATB gauge that works similar to Valkyria Chronicles in that regard. Once you start a character’s turn, you run, do actions, etc. and that winds down their stamina gauge. When all characters have gone, then everyone’s stamina gauge refills. You may swap between which character you want to use before you starting someone’s turn. You have 3 major silos for skill level and abilities: Handguns, Machineguns, and Grenades. Each one has it’s own level, and the total of the three comprise your character level. You get 2 slots to equip stuff, one for each hand. That could be one of each type of gun, could be dual wield, or could be item boxes (more on that later).
There’s 2 types of damage: Scratch and Direct. It seems like you can think of them as temporary and permanent damage respectively. If you do some amount of scratch damage, and then deal some direct damage, all of the scratch damage becomes permanent in addition to the direct damage dealt. Machineguns deal scratch damage, handguns and explosives deal direct damage. It seems like a single turn of machineguns will do more scratch damage than handguns would do direct, so it appears like the “build scratch damage and then unleash direct damage” strategy seems to be the most effective.
At the bottom of the screen, there’s some orange notches that apply for the whole party. Hero Actions, which are used for most of the specialized attacks, consume 1 bezel. While you have bezels, you only ever take scratch damage. If you take enough scratch damage, your health recharges, and you lose a bezel. Once you’re out of bezels, you take direct damage and can die/game over. It kind of reminds me of an Energy Tank in Metroid in that regard. You can regain them through different actions: rest at an inn refills all, killing an enemy refills one, and a handful of other ways I’m not entirely clear on. I think that based on some of the special actions listed below, you can have a random chance at regaining one. In the long run, what it really means is that a bezel is used for both offense and defense, so I’m guessing a large part of any battle is going to be dedicated to balancing effectively between the two.
Items and Ammo
From what I can tell, there’s two types of boxes, and each one takes up a hand slot for equipping. One is an ammo box, where you can equip and use different types of ammo. This could be elemental or status related. The other, an item box, is used to throw grenades or tap into healing items. Having only 6 slots (2 for each of your 3 characters), the balance load out you choose is more than likely going to be extremely important.
When you want to attack, you press the attack button and a circular gauge starts to raise. Once it’s filled you can perform an attack by hitting the button again. Also, if you let it fill multiple times before pressing the attack button again, you can do multiple attacks. I believe you’re limited by your overall diminishing stamina gauge, so I’m guessing a larger stamina gauge or an ability that speeds up your charge will help you with getting additional blows in.
You can destroy body parts of enemies. I believe the purpose of this is to acquire items and refill a bezel, though I’m not 100% on that. Different body parts comprise different arcs around an enemy. If you’re in that arc, you’ll hit that body part. Each one has it’s own HP meter. For example, if an enemy is facing 12 o’clock, you might be able to focus on a particular body part by being in the enemy’s 2 o’clock to 4 o’clock perspective (on the side). The HP arc/bar at their feet that spans 2-4 o’clock will deplete as you attack it. If that arc disappears, you’ve destroyed the body part. I don’t think it disables the enemy in any way, I think it’s just for loot and bezel refilling.
Consuming a bezel, you can choose to perform a hero action. When you do this, the action pauses and you have the ability to pick a destination for where your character is going to run to. Once you’ve decided on this, you can hit the hero action button again, and send your character running in that direction in real time. While the character is running in that direction, you can execute a series of attacks and/or jumps for flashy results. It allows you to fit a lot more attacks in a single turn, but obviously comes with the expense of a bezel. It’s definitely the main battle mechanic to focus on because it is also used as the starting point for a lot of the specialty actions to follow.
When you choose to use a hero action with a particular character, you’re able to clearly see where your 2 teammates are in the arena. If you draw an imaginary line in between those 2 teammates, and have the currently selected character cross that line, you gain a resonance point. For every character’s turn where you perform this, you add a resonance point. For every turn where you do not do this, you lose resonance down to 0. From the tutorial, I’m not positive at this point if you lose all of the points, or just 1 at a time.
When you have a resonance point, you may perform a Tri Attack that involves all three characters. When selecting this, the game is paused and it shows a triangle between the three characters. You may choose direction of travel, and which character to control first. When you confirm the Tri Attack, the characters move in hero action style around this triangle, each taking turns at performing attacks. It would appear that this is RoF’s form of a limit break. By using the right kind of positioning and order (i.e. leading direct attacks with scratch attacks) it seems like you could really make this attack count for a lot.
When performing a hero action, while you are on the ground, your attacks have the potential of launching an enemy in the air.
When performing a hero action on an enemy in the air, while you are on the ground, each shot of damage you inflict raises a bonus gauge that represents the chance that a bonus shot will occur. When it occurs, you are faced with a “press the button when the marker is in the acceptable hit area” kind of quick time event. If you hit this, you can perform charged attacks at a greatly increased rate. It would seem that it’s a goal to raise this meter during normal hero actions to help get extra attacks for “free.” I believe loot and additional bezel(s) may also be a reward for doing this.
When performing a hero action on an enemy in the air, if you can jump so that you are higher than the enemy, your attack has the potential of slamming the opponent into the ground. I believe loot and additional bezel(s) may be a reward for doing this as well.
The Juggle Effect (my own term)
The complication of the special actions pretty much means that you’ll have to be making some major decisions about positioning, and how to effectively use hero actions. I’m not going to pretend to know what the best formula is 45 minutes into the game, but there’s definitely some techniques that seem to be common ground which I’ll call the juggle effect. The enemies fall from the air fairly quickly, so you’re likely going to have to have made the decision of what type of hero action you want to do before you start. If you want to build resonance and your bonus gauge, you probably want to pick a path that will set up proper position and plan the order of Start Hero Action -> ground attacks until Launch -> repeated ground attacks to build Bonus meter. If you want to take advantage of a Smackdown or to get into position, you’ll probably plan the order of Start Hero Action -> ground attacks until Launch -> jump -> Smackdown if positioned properly.
Perhaps needless to say, thinking a few steps ahead while balancing all of these gauges/abilities seems to be a key ingredient in doing well at this game. On top of all of that, there’s some other things that I really don’t get yet: Guard Breaking, there’s some enemy meter thing, among a couple other things. Like I said before, if you like complex, difficult [and probably extremely rewarding] battle systems, then this is probably for you.