I don’t have a funny one-liner, but the main character’s name is Sol Badguy, and that’s amazing
It’s been a weird couple of years of old games coming out on new platforms. The Final Fantasy XIII trilogy came to Steam, Fable: The Lost Chapters saw a remaster as Fable: Anniversary, and even Dead Island — a game which I can’t fathom re-releasing on new platforms which are home to Dying Light — is getting the HD Collection treatment on Playstation 4 and Xbox One. It’s a weird time for video games, a point which is cemented by the fact that Guilty Gear 2: Overture, the nearly-decade-old sequel to Guilty Gear which released as a critical (and likely financial) failure, is now on Steam.
Let’s get out of the way the fact that Guilty Gear’s backstory is fourteen kinds of crazy. At some point in the distant future, humanity develops an infinite energy source that they call Divine Power. Eventually, because humans are stupid, nations began to want more power than other nations, and they all start developing biological weapons called Gears. One of the Gears, named Justice, eventually realizes that humans are weak and fragile and easy to murder, so they command the rest of the Gears to turn on their creators. Thus started the bloodiest war in history: The Crusades. Eventually humanity developed human weapons to fight the robotic weapons (because that always works so well), and The Crusades came to an end. None of this is actually relevant, though, because the storytelling in Guilty Gear 2 is on par with a bad anime, and the voice acting is worse still. I ended up skipping most of the cutscenes in the story because they tend to be bland and entirely too long for the point they’re trying to make.
All that said, the real question becomes “How does the damn thing play?” which is kind of complicated. A weird mish-mash of real-time strategy and hack-and-slash, GG2’s “standard” mode consists of capturing points — called Ghosts — littered around the map, which generate mana, which you use to summon units from a device called an “organ” that you can then order around. Your ultimate goal is to use your troops to destroy your enemy’s Masterghost, which is a super cool name for the ur-headquarters featured in most strategy games. It’s a pretty simple gameplay loop, and is not entirely dissatisfying, although the combat gets extremely stale in the single-player, because you’re never forced to use any special moves and instead can just hammer on the attack button to win. In addition, the single-player attempts to shoehorn in a number of other genres’ stereotypes — scavenger hunting is the most common — going so far as to make a brief wink to top-down shooters. It’s bizarre, and none of it is executed particularly well. The combat is bland, the real-time strategy elements are interesting but not well fleshed out, and the story is only there to appeal to hardcore Guilty Gear fans. The old adage “Jack of all trades, master of none” comes to mind.
Guilty Gear 2 has a problem with interface. In combat, the camera locks into a close view while numbers and effects are flying off of everything, and in larger battles, it becomes impossible to see anything. Often, I would take my left hand off the controller and just hit the attack button, hoping that all the enemies around me died. It’s absurd. Locking onto an enemy main character helps, but not much. While we’re on the subject of visuals, it’s a travesty that the gorgeous art, backgrounds, and effects from Guilty Gear didn’t translate better into 3D. I have a feeling there’s a way to do it, but this isn’t it. Even for a game originally released in 2008, textures look chunky, the backdrops are bland, and almost none of the personality from the original game is present.
The multiplayer is where it really shines, given that you’re into the game to begin with. Competent players will utilize their character’s move-set effectively, dashing across the battlefield before locking into a duel with you. This was perhaps the most exciting thing in Guilty Gear 2, because when other humans are in the mix, the game feels infinitely deeper than playing against the A.I. which I was able to routinely stomp by the end of the game. I would even go so far as to say I actually had fun with the multiplayer, something that couldn’t be said for most of the rest of the game, despite it mashing up two genres I am notoriously a fan of: The Musou series (and games like it) and real-time strategy.
Guilty Gear 2: Overture is a difficult game to recommend. The individual elements aren’t well executed enough for fans of either genre (or even both genres) to get much out of it; on the other hand, there’s definitely something here: It’s just weird enough to be a novel experience, and the multiplayer is engaging enough that if the community holds up, it could be a good time. If you’re just looking for a fun single-player experience to knock out over a weekend, though, I’d look elsewhere.
FINAL VERDICT: 2.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), Xbox 360 ; Publisher: Arc System Works ; Developer: Arc System Works ; Players: 1-2; Released: March 31, 2016; Genre: Action, Strategy; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review was written based on review code supplied by the game’s publisher, Arc System Works.