Relayer Review – Mech SRPG? Count Me In
Developer: Kadokawa Games
Release Date: March 24, 2022
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: Clouded Leopard
Tactical RPGs are insanely addicting. Throw in some mechs, and you immediately have my attention. I’m pretty sure that’s why Kadokawa Games developed their newest game, Relayer. We get to experience a sci-fi adventure through space from the developer of God Wars, but while the systems were created by a team who understands this genre, the writing can often fall flat.
The story of Relayer unfolds in layers, not even trying to make a joke there. First, you have these twins, Terra and Luna, who were separated after a disaster. Terra seems to have lost most of her memory and hangs out with her AI partner, Yodaka, who is kind of a jerk.
Anyway, Terra finds out she’s a Starchild during an invasion as a strange girl named Himiko explains it all. Humanity is under threat by a group known as Relayer, and the Starchildren are the only ones capable of piloting mechs that can stop them. However, normal humans don’t know about this, and the government hides a bunch of stuff from everyone. You see, layers.
The relationship between Terra and Luna is important because Luna is working with the Relayers. However, her reasoning is rather pathetic when you find out that she’s just mad Terra let go of her hand during the gravity disaster. Still, this evolves somewhat with the help of some shady government meetings, since it seems everyone wants a piece of these two, along with a powerful mech known as the Original One.
Listen, I can get as deep into this as you want, but for the sake of this review, I’ll let you know that it is dense. The writing is wordy and mostly unimportant. The game wants you to know every detail about these characters, including the slice-of-life bits that don’t matter. Although there is a great Japanese audio track, the English performances are stilted due to a lack of direction. The characters are all whispering for some reason, even when they are in battle. However, credit where credit is due, there’s a ton of voiced audio in this game, and you can easily leave it on auto and enjoy the story as you would an anime.
Still, I should point out that the late game chapters become intense. The slow build-up of these character relationships does pay off in multiple ways, and I couldn’t help but feel attached to their resolve. It’s a powerful lead-up to the conclusion, but sadly, it’s built on a foundation that you probably won’t care about.
While the story is a massive part of this game, the SRPG systems are just as prominent. Characters are highly customizable through multiple job class trees. Players have agency over the type of crew that they want to build with numerous passive and active abilities to unlock. Using units in battle is all that’s required to earn experience, currency, and ability points to create a party that fits your playstyle. Equipment has been streamlined to allow you to try on items before you purchase, but I felt more auto-equip options could have been available.
Each character specializes in a specific job class, but that also evolves as you choose which route you want your character to take. Buffs and debuffs are just as crucial in a match, which must be understood in later chapters as enemies become more challenging. I enjoyed the level of depth with which you’re able to fine-tune your party, as it’s not overwhelmingly sim-like, but it’s also not simply surface level. This was developed by a team that enjoys this genre, and it shows in the various systems.
During battles, players can move units through a grid. Some maps are a bit boring, as they all seem pretty flat with a few obstacles in the way. However, many of the backgrounds are impressive, especially ones set in space. Rushing into fights has only gotten me killed, so it’s essential to plan a strategy. Each unit has skills they can use and a few special attacks. Each attack is accompanied by a really cool animation that I actually didn’t get bored of during my time with the game, but it can still be skipped to speed up the fights.
If you are a fan of this genre, I would encourage you to play on harder difficulties. Normal is fine, but the game has so many accessibility options that you will surely become overpowered, even if you fail missions. This is due to the game-saving your level even after a failed mission. I found this to be very gracious of the developer since there are also sim battles that can be played to raise your level further. With enough time invested, it’s possible to breeze past the campaign missions.
There’s a decent level of diversity during battles that you see in the later chapters. Rivals are established, and you build contempt for specific characters. It builds up naturally for those invested, but you may have a limited experience if you’re not up for a heavy narrative. Still, that may be difficult with rival characters named Little Prince, but push through all that and enjoy this extremely anime story that concludes nicely.
Relayer is an exceptionally niche SRPG that may slide under your radar if you aren’t explicitly looking for it. I would say it’s a game made for fans of the genre, but the mechs and sci-fi narrative open it up to a broader fandom. The SRPG features are accessible, and the systems for customization are deep enough to enjoy, no matter how familiar you are with these games. However, the narrative and pacing are weak, which weighs heavily on the enjoyment as it requires a level of investment that you will likely never have.
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