Title: Empire of Angels IV
Release Date: June 24, 2021
Reviewed On: Switch
Developed by Softstar and published by Eastasiasoft, Empire of Angels IV is the 4th game in a series of strategy RPGs. The last of which (excluding the overseas exclusive mobile MMO) was released in 2002. This title was initially released for PC and mobile back in 2016, but Eastasiasoft has decided to bring it to consoles. More strategy RPGs on the Nintendo Switch? Yes, please.
Long ago, two nations, the Kingdoms of Valkyrie and Mentu, lived in harmony and united to bring down a great evil. This peace was upended when the kingdom of Valkyrie had a new leader take over. She wanted more power and thus invaded the kingdom of Mentu. They fought back with great success, and an armistice was drawn up.
The war wasn’t over; it only took place in the background, secretly. Additionally, a mysterious plague began to sweep the world that turned its victims savage and bloodthirsty. Dubbed Namtar Fever, you play as an investigation team from Valkryie, looking into the mysterious fever and killing its zombified victims.
Combat takes place on a grid in turn-based phases. You move your characters several tiles, make attacks, and then your enemy does. However, it has an interesting play on the regular MP system. You have 100 or more MP, and each action, including the basic attack, costs an amount of it, with 50 or more recovered each turn. This means you always have just enough for a regular attack, and you’ll feel less inclined to hoard your MP and more likely to use fancy attacks, knowing you’ll just need to wait for an extra turn to blast your foes.
The game’s UI is very basic; every menu has this rounded edge with simple colors, patterns, and gradients that don’t really make for an appealing aesthetic, but it works nonetheless. Your options are limited to a simple sound mixer and animation speed toggle. So no quality-of-life additions like ‘ending player phase’ entirely or viewing enemy range are available.
There are three speeds for the animation speed toggle; regular, simple, and off. The animations can be pretty, but they’re also incredibly slow. This is then especially notable on the lots of the basic attack animations, which took way too long for what should be a single movement. Simple barely seems to have any impact whatsoever, so I gave up playing with animations to save my own sanity very early on.
There are mechanics such as purifying foes or summoning mounts added as the story progresses, which can add to the game’s depth. Still, the purifying feature feels like it should be integrated into the story far more than it is. The story is about trying to cure a deadly plague in the middle of a war, and you find a means to do this early on, and you use this in-game to gain temporary party members best used as meat shields. Who came up with this?
When characters fall in battle, they’ll have their clothes stripped for pointless momentary underwear shot, which doesn’t match the tone of what is attempting to be a serious story. It’s weird tonal things like this, that combined with a messy translation fraught with grammatical errors, make the story something I stopped caring about early.
There’s a simple overworld, in which you can go to the next story area or back to a grinding spot on a lined map, which is really just used to give you time to prepare your character’s classes before the next battle. Each unit has one of three base classes; Infantry, archer, and cleric, and you can switch between them at will between maps.
You can carve out your character’s niches, though, with the class tree forcing you to only pick one upgrade path. These paths are your main form of stat-boosting as levels are negligible. This locks your power and helps keep the difficulty curve balanced. I had a lot of fun with the combat, but it can feel prolonged due to large maps, lengthy transitions, and low movement counts. The combat music is really cool and has no right to be as dramatic as it is, but it suffers from the enemy phase using only one song and causes the cool combat song to be restarted after use.
The characters have largely nice designs, but a few will leave you scratching your head. As an aside, it’s amusing that these portraits were used for the character’s final super unique class. Many of which you may not get due to the game’s increasing difficulty. It’s like it’s taunting you….
Empire of Angels IV is a strange strategy RPG with a narrative that conflicts so heavily with the game’s tone. You’ll likely ignore all reasoning for why any of this is happening and just be happy with a clever battle system. With some improvements and added modern options, the next entry could very well be worth the wait, but be sure to know what you’re getting into here.
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