Dark times ahead
What’s a developer to do when they’re well known for cute and upbeat RPG’s but decide to dabble in crafting a game with a much more dark and ominous flavor? You can look high and wide but the answer is probably right in front of you! Japanese developer Gust, known for being the studio behind the saccharine sweet Atelier series, has smartly acquired the services of none other than Keisuke Kikuchi of the suitably sinister Fatal Frame and Deception series, and his dark inspiration is evident right from Nights of Azure’s opening sequence.
That said, by now you probably get the idea that Nights of Azure is pretty dark. This makes complete sense considering at the start of the game the world is threatened to be covered by eternal night. The game’s grim tone blends perfectly with its mysterious protagonist Arnice as she hacks and slashes her way toward saving the world while trying to uncover the secrets of her employers, the Curia, whom Arnice doesn’t completely trust. In my first handful of hours with the game, I’ve been shipped off to an uncharted island where people are afraid to leave their homes after nightfall due to the monsters that search the land looking for anything they can sink their teeth into.
The world of Nights of Azure now is actually not quite as bad off now as it was 800 years prior, when the Lord of the Night reigned supreme and lead his army with an iron fist. A holy warrior eventually defeated him, but not all was won. After the Lord’s defeat, his blue demonic blood rained down upon the earth, poisoning and corrupting everything it touched. The unfortunate humans that were tainted by this blood have transformed into the beasts that roam the land at night. The people need a savior, and this is where you come in as a dutiful Holy Knight. The Curia has hired these warriors to destroy the rabid fiends and collect the blood that has made them transform, as well as priests and priestesses to purify said blood. Luckily for Arnice, the priestess who will accompany her on this mission is none other than her old friend and classmate, Lilysse . Unfortunately, all is not as it seems for the pair. Arnice soon learns that Lilysse is actually destined to become the next Saint, and it’s Arnice’s duty to sacarfice Lilysse to keep the Lord of the Night sealed away for another set period of time. Arnice’s heart is even bigger than her sword, and she’s determined to find another way to keep the Lord of the Night sealed forever.
Sure, the tone of Nights of Azure marks a major departure from what those who cut their teeth on the Atelier games might expect from the studio, but it’s more than the tone that’s changed. Developer Gust has strayed away from their usual turn-based RPG combat and has decided to test the waters with an action RPG. Overall, this shift in direction works well, and is just the thing for players who want a deep story but also feel like they’re in complete control of the action. Arnice is easily controlled with basic strong and heavy attacks, but can also unleash a strong special attack that will consume her SP meter. When the enemies get to be too much of a challenge, Arnice can also summon help from familiar like creatures called Servan. These helpful familiars also have different attacks that can be used when the battle heats up, but also have their own health meters and consume SP. You’d expect to be overwhelmed by following several health meters at once during the battles, but Gust had made it pretty simple to manage, and I haven’t had any issues keeping up with the action.
While I’m just a handful of hours in at this point, Nights of Azure has hooked me fast with its interesting story and mysterious characters. So far the battles have been intense, but a bit too easy. I got a feeling I’m just getting past the basics and things will start to heat up soon enough. Make sure to check back for my review on March 29th once the game hits store shelves.