Title: Caravan Stories
Developer: Aiming Inc.
Release Date: September 10, 2019
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Aiming Inc.
Gacha Hero games get a lot of adverse reactions due to the way the genre relies heavily on luck with not a lot of reliance on skill. It often comes down to how much money you are willing to spend to get ahead in the game, and many times it isn’t worth it due to the lack of depth these games tend to have. However, there are Gacha games out there that are more than just an empty pay to win money sink, and this is what I found to be the case with Caravan Stories, Aiming Inc.’s free to play MMORPG for the PlayStation 4.
Caravan Stories’ beautiful art style, interesting characters, and variety of mechanics make it stand out from the other games of its genre. However, due to it being a port of a 2017 mobile game, some features don’t translate well to console, which significantly hinders an otherwise enjoyable game.
Starting with the positives, Caravan Stories features a beautiful art style enhanced for its console release. The world is vibrant and full of color, and the pencil sketch textures used for the characters and environment were delightful to see. The game also features some well-made cutscenes contain a decent amount of voiced dialogue, which added to the overall production value of the game. Additionally, all the characters and stories enhanced the world-building and played a significant role in my immersion and enjoyment of the game.
Gameplay in Caravan Stories features a lot of the typical mechanics found in other games of its genre. While it is called an MMORPG, there are very little to no elements that resemble an ordinary MMORPG, and you can play a majority of the game solo. The game has you create a team of characters that vary in stats, abilities, and rarity and use them in battles to level them up, complete objectives and collect items. Like other Gacha games, there is a large variety of characters to collect and add to your team. Still, Caravan Stories goes one step ahead by having each character come with its line of story quests to play through, which gives the characters personality and life.
Additionally, when you collect certain combinations of characters, they interact with one another and share more stories and dialogue between themselves. I found this to be a nice touch as it changed how I usually view characters in games like these. Often, characters are only as good as their stats or how good the character art looks. Still, in Caravan Stories, I found myself focusing more on the character’s personalities as opposed to their combat prowess.
The characters also changed how I approached playing the game. Certain characters are unlocked by following a specific story path, and I found myself going out of my way to do quests to unlock particular characters. On top of the story characters in the game, you also have a chance of recruiting creatures and beasts after battles such as bats, owls, imps, and ghosts. These units can be added to your team to round out your composition and fill in the gaps where power is lacking. Each of these units has their stats, abilities, and traits and add the already large pool of units available in the game. While other Gacha games have “garbage” units like this, these units seem to be more useful than other games where they are usually scrapped to level up and evolve other characters.
Another big thing that separates Caravan Stories from other games in its genre is the caravan itself, which is a mechanical mobile home tank like construct that acts as your home base and menu screen. Inside the caravan, you can spend currency on building various stations that unlock additional game mechanics and generate passive resources. Opening stations allow you to fuse lower level equipment and create stronger ones and enables gear enchantment with runes to make them more powerful. You can also generate gold and gems to used to purchase items and upgrade characters. The exterior of the caravan also has additions like armor and equipment since it doubles as a unit to assist in battle. You can outfit your caravan with different weapons and armors to not only give it a specific stylized look but also to increase your overall power in combat.
There are genuinely a lot of little details and intricacies that make Caravan Stories enjoyable, and the amount of depth brought by the combination of all these small elements makes the game more attractive than other Gacha games out there. However, as with many other Gacha games, there are a lot of mechanics that slow down gameplay, which can add unnecessary tedium and frustration to the overall experience depending on how quickly you want to progress. I feel this is because it’s centered around gaming on a mobile device. Gacha games, for the most part, tend to have mechanics that allow the player to engage with the content in either a leisurely pace for free or pay real money to progress faster. Stamina mechanics that limit the amount of prolonged playtime, automatically generated currencies, timed events for necessary resources, and wait times on upgrading things are all elements found in Gacha games in general, and Caravan Stories is no exception.
In the game, your units have stamina that gets used up with every battle, and you need to swap out your teams to recover the stamina of your exhausted characters. Do so, requires you to not only have a large pool of units but also to have a large pool of suitable units since you will be hindered in your progression in the game otherwise. Additionally, all the things you upgrade in your caravan take time to build, and this can range from minutes to hours.
The order in which you prioritize enhancing things is essential; otherwise, you will slow down your progression dramatically. Your caravan generates gold and crystals over time, but there is a cap on how much gold and crystals you can store, which requires you to upgrade your capacity that can take hours depending on the level up to enhance. There is also a clash of clans type game mode, which you can competitively rank against other players. So, you to have a suitable team of units which unevenly benefit those that have the money to spend on raffle draws.
All of these elements can be negative, depending on what you are trying to accomplish and how fast you want to achieve them. Gacha games are a grind, but Caravan Stories has mechanics such as auto pathing and auto looting, and combat consists of your units automatically attacking and casting skills. While this makes the grind a bit easier, however, the main negative thing I see about Caravan Stories is that it is on the PS4. Playing a game on a console takes up a reasonable amount of time and physical real estate. You have to dedicate a TV or monitor and also your PS4 to playing a game, and you want the entertainment value to match the amount of time you are committing to the game.
The reason Gacha games work on mobile devices is that you can pick them up and put them down whenever you want and can play regardless of where you are as long as you have your phone with you. Caravan Stories, on the other hand, requires you to sit and play in front of your PS4. For me, that doesn’t offer a good enough return on investment when I consider the other things that I can be using my PS4 and TV for or other things I can be doing instead of sitting and watching auto-combat. There isn’t a way to have Caravan Stories as a background game since you still have to be present to set up the auto pathing to the next objective/questline. The combat and auto-loot features are only useful if you need to grind certain mobs for a quest or item. Even then, this still requires you to dedicate your PS4 to actively be running that game in the background, which I feel is asking a lot.
Taking everything into consideration, Caravan Stories is a good game but greatly suffers due to the immobility of it being on a stationary console. Those that don’t mind all the potentially frustrating and negative aspects of the game will find a lot of enjoyment in the beautiful art, character variety, and fun stories. However, those like myself that find these aspects to be more on the tedious side will probably benefit from choosing to play something else.
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