Lost in Transmutation – Alphadia Genesis may be casting too many kinds of spells.
RPGs, as we all know, are particularly unpredictable beasts, and should be treated with extreme caution. Unwary gamers may find themselves ensnared 20 hours deep in an RPG without even noticing their own state of peril. Signs of RPGs include long-winded storylines, party-based battle mechanics, turn-based battles, and names like Alphadia Genesis.
If you have decided to play an RPG, of course, one must wonder what has become of your poor, addled mind, and what has destroyed your sanity so. Your family and friends miss you. They miss you so, so much. But you don’t think of them anymore, do you? No, your mind – nay, your whole life – has been wholly taken by the kingdoms of Archleign and Augustine, by the magic powers of Energi, and by genetic clones running rampant in a medieval world of fantasy. A devil has consumed you, and it has a name. That name is Alphadia Genesis. But is this game really worth the devotion of your remaining time on this mortal coil? A war could be fought on whether or not Alphadia Genesis is even really worth all the time and effort that it, as its genre dictates, demands of players.
Alphadia Genesis takes place in a world that combines swords and science. You have knights, castles, and kingdoms, with a magical element called Energi that was abused to the point of causing a war years before the story begins. At the same time, science has moved far enough along to allow cloning to become a reality, with said clones becoming facets of modern life. Clones are obedient and subservient, so when a group of clones becomes wildly aggressive, tensions quickly begin to run high.
Players start out taking up the role of Fray, a guildsman by trade. Handy with a pair of large knives (that are clearly full-fledged swords, let’s be honest here), Fray is a tournament-winner and renowned fighter. The king would like him to become a knight, but Fray wants to work by himself and for himself. This gets harder to do, however, when the king summons Fray and his sister, Aurra, to serve as an investigation team into the phenomenon of clones going berserk.
The investigation, and the real meat of the game, begins with the characters heading off to a laboratory near the kingdom to hunt down any clones in danger of becoming a threat. Aurra is a scientific researcher, a stark contrast to her lax sellsword brother. Soon they are joined by Enah, herself a clone whose presence brings up quarrels among the group as two more, then later a sixth, join the party.
Combat is simple at first. Battles are turn-based, with attacks divided into three types; normal attacks, break skills, and Energi. Break skills and Energi both use up EP, with the former being special weapon-based attacks while the latter is standard magical fare. Some characters will already have Energi of certain types – fire, water, and light – but all characters can wear special rings that will give them powers of one of those types. Light rings include some offensive power but are mostly for healing and status maintenance, water is a balance of offense and stat-raising, and fire is mostly raw offensive. Each character can only wear one ring, so finding the best combination for one character will affect how your whole team is utilized. Enemies sometimes also have an element attributed to them, but there doesn’t seem to be any sort of trump system between the three. One would think that water would beat fire, but all three elements seem to do about the same amount of base damage to each other.
Team organization takes place across a sort of three-tiered grid. The vanguard takes the brunt of enemy attention, as many attacks from foes can only hit the front line. The rearguard is usually the place for ranged characters, who can hit enemies in their own front or rear guards. Who you put in the rearguard will give some small stat boosts to the team as a whole. The farthest back row is an assist spot, where one character gets placed to dole out bonus effects and the occasional special assist attack. The game gives you five characters fairly quickly, adding a sixth once you’re a few hours in, with only four able to take to the battlefield in the front two rows. Once the sixth character joins, a whole added layer is opened up in deciding who stays in the back to assist.
Enemies will take up a similar grid formation. The number of foes you face in any given random encounter can vary from one to four, in any combination of positions. You might face one enemy in the vanguard directly in front of another enemy, equally aggressive but harder to hit, in the rearguard. Luckily, some magic attacks can hit multiple enemies in different ways; early water attacks are good for hitting foes in vertical lines, while early fire attacks do the same on the horizontal. Different characters have weapons that behave differently as well, both through break skills and regular attacks. Fray, for instance, will make two hits with every normal attack, due to his dual-wielding nature. Aurra just has one weapon, a handgun, which can hit rearguard enemies just as easily as those on the front lines. Another character of note is Corone, whose staff doesn’t do a lot of damage on its own, but gives her a couple break skills very useful due to the status effects they induce. Corone is a mage, so her low attack power is made up for by large amounts of EP. A lot of break skills will cause various enemy stats to be lowered, or effects like sleep or poison to be induced. Some break or Energi skills can also affect party members in a variety of ways.
Now, let’s back up to where I mentioned Aurra’s weapon; she has a gun. She’s surrounded by swords, spears, and a magical staff, and she carries a standard handgun. This, I feel, is a good place to start in the transition into talking about Alphadia Genesis’ presentation and worldbuilding, and more specifically in addressing the problems therein.
Alphadia Genesis is honestly something of a mess when it comes to worldbuilding. Its medieval fantasy elements are the most apparent, with nothing in the overworld or towns to suggest that any high-grade technology could possibly exist within the world. Then you go to the cloning laboratory (and later to a couple more), and are immediately met with cryogenic chambers, tubes, and wires, and other things that just feel very out of place. It could work if the science present in the world were directly connected to Energi, but if it is, it’s so thinly done that I can’t even recall where any such thing is stated in the game.
The problem of writing isn’t restricted to worldbuilding, however; the writing is also thoroughly sub-par. Most of the characters are thoroughly trope-y, from the kind-hearted and level-headed protagonist to his sister who is obsessed with food for comedic value, to the guy whose sole character trait is “be as much of a dick as is humanly possible, except towards the girl you like”. Dialogue suffers a lot in translation, with a bunch of sentences coming out…just really weird. A lot of conversations between party members go kind of like this:
A: “Hold on a moment, I think we need to figure out which way we are supposed to be going.”
B: “Do not speak to me like that!”
A: “Why, whatever do you mean? I assure you that I am sorry if I might have said anything to offend you.”
C: “Well, A, I think that in B’s culture, given their status, it may be seen as impolite to say things such as the thing that you said. Is that correct, B?”
B: “Why yes, C, that is actually quite the case. I was offended because in my culture, you would not say a thing as commanding as the thing that you commandingly said to someone such as myself.”
C: “Do you understand now, A?”
A: “Why yes, I think that I do. I am sorry to have offended you, B. I hope that if I ever say anything such as that in the future, you will not hesitate to tell me of my error.”
B: “That is okay, I accept your apology.”
A: “Good. I am glad you accept my apology!”
C: “I am also glad you accept their apology!”
What I’m getting at here is that every conversation feels very stretched out to make characters sound smarter and the conversation longer. Every time any party member opens their mouth, it takes them forever to get anywhere with what they’re trying to say. This is especially infuriating due to the sheer amount of dialogue in the game, with cutscenes dragging on seemingly endlessly at times. There is voice acting, but only in Japanese, and only at certain points. Character voices pop in infrequently enough that I actually found myself startled by them a couple times, having grown so used to not hearing them at all.
To make matters worse, the story that Alphadia Genesis tells is marred by its own nature. It’s a very small story, feeling oddly more like a murder mystery than a sweeping tale of grandeur. There are times where it simply doesn’t feel worthwhile, or where whats going on hasn’t been made clear. The game sends you across the world at a decent pace, but it feels more like you’re doing things “because the game said so” rather than out of a more genuine sense of purpose. Added to this is the fact that a lot of the time the real action occurs offscreen or before you arrive, giving
One nice thing that the game manages to avoid is the grind wall. The first couple dungeons are easy to navigate and fight ones way through, to the extent that I didn’t find myself needing to rely on anything besides standard attacks up until the first boss. Even once the dungeons begin to crank up the difficulty, they still aren’t long enough to make you miserable. Every dungeon has hidden passages to discover, which gradually become more complex as you progress, and yield rewards like special weapons and armor.
Unfortunately, there is a price to relatively short dungeons, and that is that they all wind up feeling like clones of one another. I’ve explored a handful of caves, and at least three laboratory settings that were all direct color-swaps of one another. The saddest part of this is that not only are many of these dungeons not well-distinguished from each other but just not distinguished at all. There’s nothing particularly defining about any of them, and most of the world the characters inhabit winds up feeling uninspired.
Similarly, enemy design isn’t too inspired either. You’ve got your slimeballs, your rock golems, your unusually aggressive avian life, and all the other usual suspects. There are also enemy soldiers and raiders that will attack you, often in areas where it makes no sense for them to be. Why are their a bunch of mean soldiers hanging out in a laboratory that’s under attack by a completely unrelated vaguely-established antagonist? There are so many questions, and so few answers.
Alphadia Genesis has enjoyable combat, but everything around it feels lost in translation. The combat is solid and not without merit, but nothing about it stands out other than the vanguard/rearguard grid. Even then, the grid doesn’t change all that much besides some minor stat advantages. The world is unbelievable, something that may sound silly when talking about a fantasy game, but comes into focus when one understands the cobweb of poorly-connected elements within it. The dialogue is weird and often very hard to sit through, and the story feels way more long-winded than it needs to. The game is at least competently put together, though, and the combat does become a bit more standout by the ten-hour mark. With its relative highs and embarrassing lows all weighed on a great, magical scale, Alphadia Genesis is more than mediocre, but for conflicting reasons.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: Steam (Reviewed), Wii U, iOS, Android; Publisher: Kotobuki Systems, Kemco; Developer: EXE-CRATE; Players: 1; Released: January 12th 2015 (Steam), November 20th 2014 (Wii U, iOS, Android); ESRB: E 10+; MSRP: $9.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Alphadia Genesis provided by the publisher.