A Worthy Tribute
The tactical RPG has always been a very understated sub-genre in my opinion. Although it had its heyday several decades ago, doing particularly well on systems like the PlayStation and PS2, it never truly had its time in the limelight. To an extent, I understand this. SRPGs aren’t always the easiest to get into. Nor are they always the most consistently stimulating. But there’s something about moving your characters around on a grid as you outwit your opponents one-on-one that just can’t be beat. And, while those kinds of experiences don’t come along very often any more, I’m very grateful that games such as God Wars: The Complete Legend still pop up every once in a while to make sure that they never truly die out.
God Wars: The Complete Legend is the closest thing that I’ve played to a “traditional SRPG” in years. It’s not that I haven’t played other tactics-based games in that time — you can’t forget about all of those Disgaea re-releases that have been coming out lately — but it’s certainly the most old-fashioned. It’s a game that does its best to be slow, thought-out, and deliberate. And, with only the occasional exception here and there, I’m happy to say that it imbues all of those “old-school elements” — and more — into itself rather splendidly.
God Wars‘ narrative is unique in the sense that it caters Japanese mythology closely, but does so in an undeniably carefree way. Occurring during a time when Japan began relying less on nature and more on technology and industry, God Wars’ story follows Kaguya, a young princess who, after being rescued from her lifelong imprisonment — and sacrificial destiny — by her childhood friend Kintaro, sets off on a journey to find her mother, and queen of Fuji, Tsukuyomi. Unfortunately, fate seemed to have other plans. Despite Kaguya’s newfound lease on life, and determination to seek out the truth, there are many others who wish nothing more than to see Kaguya returned to where they believe she rightfully belongs — leaving the princess, and what few compatriots she has, to fight for themselves at every turn.
As sad as I am to say it, I feel like God Wars‘ story actually ends up being its weakest link (which might not be the worst thing in the world, depending on how you think about it). Despite being based on Japanese mythology, this game approaches things with what could best be described as a “mix-and-match” mindset. On one hand, I really don’t mind this kind of thing. After all, you can only tell the same story so many times before it gets boring — sometimes a little mixing does a story good. However, I just wasn’t feeling it with this game’s story. It felt as though, if you stripped all of the characters of their mythological backgrounds, you’d be stuck with something that, while not bad, isn’t particularly engaging. Playing a game revolving around gods and mythology is exciting, but mythos alone generally isn’t enough to carry the entirety of a game’s story all the way through from start to finish — something which quickly becomes apparent in God Wars.
So, what is it about God Wars that makes it feel so “traditional”? Well, the quickest way to answer that question would be to say that it plays incredibly similarly to Final Fantasy Tactics (and that’s probably enough for some of you out there). But, for the sake of the review, it would probably help if I explained things in a little more detail. As I’ve already mentioned once before, the biggest factor that plays into God Wars’ traditional-ness are its pacing and strategy requirements. In order to come out of any skirmish on top, players can’t just blindly rush in and spam all of their heaviest-hitting attacks — I’ll tell you right now that that almost never works. Instead, the player needs to… wait for it… strategize! And, while that might sound like an overly obvious statement to some of you, what isn’t obvious just how much strategizing you’ll need to be doing.
One of my favorite things about God Wars ended up just how much importance it places on strategy. Most levels, especially those later on in the game, aren’t exactly what you’d call fair in terms of numbers, and it doesn’t take long before you find your 6(ish)-man party going up against groups that are twice your size or more. And, while it might be nice to carve through your groups of enemies like the game were some kind of hack-and-slash, I’ve already told you that that generally won’t happen. Instead, the key to victory almost always lies within the player’s ability to metaphorically set up the field. God Wars is very much a game that favors buffs, debuffs, and status effects over raw power, and tends to reward players who figure that out earlier rather than later. Of course, a good strategy doesn’t necessarily guarantee victory — enemies are very much aware that this is a numbers game as well. And, while the AI in God Wars never feels overpowering, it’s certainly quite decent at making the best of any given situation.
Of course, God Wars doesn’t just rely on the player’s ability to set up the field metaphorically — your physical setup on the battlefield matters as well! God Wars, like most great SRPGs out there, places great importance on not only what your characters are doing, but where on the battlefield that they are. Alongside the expected modifiers to (physical) damage and AIM (accuracy) based on the directions that the attacker and defender are facing, God Wars, to my surprise, also throws in additional modifiers based on a character’s height, as well as minor terrain bonuses. Now, truthfully, I never got too much out of these bonuses. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like they aren’t helpful at all, but I couldn’t help but notice that their significance felt diminished when compared to other, more traditional, SRPGs, such as those within the Final Fantasy Tactics series. Still, I’m not entirely sure that I find this to be a bad thing. While I do appreciate having to consider physical placement, it gets annoying when games completely tank things like accuracy just because you aren’t facing the correct direction. And in that sense, God Wars definitely dodges a bullet.
Now, let’s get to the good stuff — the jobs! As everyone who knows me already knows (which, now that I think about it, probably isn’t anyone reading this), I absolutely adore a good SRPG job system. And I’ll tell you this right now; there’s plenty to adore when it comes to God Wars’ job system. When it comes to jobs, things work pretty similarly to how they did in the Final Fantasy Tactics franchise (once again), with players being able to equip each of their characters with primary and sub jobs, as well as up to three passive abilities (which are acquired through the jobs themselves). Each character’s perspective job pool is small in the beginning, consisting of basics like “Priest” and “Warrior”, characters quickly gain access to new and better jobs as they accumulate JP (Job Points) and level their current jobs up. These new jobs, are much more diverse in terms of skillsets than their more basic counterparts and, in turn, offer a huge incentive for players to swap jobs around as much as they can. Just be careful about swapping around jobs too liberally, though. Primary jobs not only determine, to a certain point, a character’s current stats, but also their permanent stat growth when they level up (a mechanic which I wasn’t entirely sold on). Because of that, I’d recommend that you don’t keep your physical attackers as healers (and vise-versa) for too long, just for the sake of trying to have every character learn every skill possible. That’s what sub jobs are for!
Additionally, each of the game’s characters (did I mention that they’re all pre-set in this game?) come with what are known as “Unique Jobs”. That’s right folks, we’re talking three jobs per character (woo!). But what, exactly, do Unique Jobs do? Well, without getting too complex, they’re basically hybrids of pre-existing jobs. Although most unique jobs do have their own one-of-a-kind skills, many unique job skills are just re-named variants of pre-existing ones found within normal jobs. At first that might sound like kind of a bummer, but I’ve actually found it to be the opposite. By allowing characters to always carry a certain set of skills with them, they’re generally better prepared for combat regardless of their current job setup — especially if they have a unique job that comes with healing and support skills!
New Friends, New Foes
Being the “Complete Legend” and all, one might expect this version of God Wars be bulkier than its Future Past counterpart in terms of content. And you would be right on that! Unfortunately, you won’t be seeing much of that content until you’ve conquered the main campaign. Titled “The Labyrinth of Yomi”, this all-new piece of content follows Kaguya & co. as they venture into the (surprise!) Labyrinth of Yomi. While I’m not really going to go into the story (lest I accidentally begin tripping over one spoiler after another), I can tell you that it’s definitely worth the time that it takes to get there. While not quite as lengthy as the main campaign, The Labyrinth of Yomi essentially ends up being a miniature sequel, offering a new story — complete with multiple endings — the ability to recruit Momotaro and his posse (finally!), and plenty of new dungeons — all of which will inevitably end up doubling the 100+ hours that you will have most likely sunk into the original story.
As for the main story… Well, not much has been added. Not much except for Orihime, that is! The “Future Past segment” of God Wars stealthily adds a shrine into one of the beginning areas known as “Orihime’s Shrine” which, after being visited, allows players to engage on a small (as in like 5, or something) series of relatively easy quests that, upon completion, grants players the opportinity to recruit the Myriad God Orihime herself into their party. Well, technically it’s her proxy, but why split hairs needlessly? While (obviously) nowhere nearly as content-packed as The Labyrinth of Yomi, more party members are always nice. Plus, she can float! How cool is that?
The Gods are Pleased
God Wars: Future Past already did a great job of offering almost everything that I could want when it comes to classically inspired SRPGs, and the new-and-improved version that is The Complete Legend only ups the ante even further. Offering tactical gameplay of both high quantity and quality, ridiculously appealing character customization options, and essentially tacking a veritable sequel onto itself, there’s no reason to not pick up God Wars: The Complete Legend if you consider yourself to be a lover of the oh-so-wonderful tactical RPG.
FINAL VERDICT: 4/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), ; Publisher: NIS America, Inc. ; Developer: Kadokawa Games ; Players: 1 ; Released: September 4, 2018 ; ESRB: $39.99 ; MSRP: T for Teen
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of God Wars: The Complete Legend given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.