Rise of the Third Power Review ― Nostalgia Cubed

    Title: Rise of the Third Power
    Developer: Stegosoft Games
    Release Date: February 10th, 2022
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: DANGEN Entertainment
    Genre: Action, Adventure, Indie, RPG

The 16-bit and 32-bit console eras were widely acclaimed as when RPGs truly first thrived. So why not take what all those games did right and combine them into a single experience? Well, in any case, let’s give a warm greeting to Rise of the Third Power, and let us “rise” to the occasion. (I’m SO not sorry for that pun.)

The story of Rise of the Third Power takes place 15 years after its predecessor title Ara Fell. The main characters, Rowan and Corrina, are tasked with kidnapping the princess to stop a civil war from sparking. However, they run into some roadblocks until conking their heads into the castle’s bell. Yeah, not exactly a bright way to kidnap someone. After which, you change control to Princess Arielle, who will then continue the story from her perspective.

The story has to be one of the game’s strong points. It has just the right balance of comedy and tragedy because it keeps you interested and engaged on every corner, making you not want to skip any of the dialogue. From the throwaway jokes by Rowan to Princess Arielle’s pouting, you’re bound to get a laugh or two. The fact that you also change character perspectives midway also provides further immersion.

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Combat is a significant part of this retro-inspired adventure and features a turn-based system. Each character joining you has a niche that can be exploited. For instance, Rowan can taunt enemies to attack him, and can also increase his ATK and heal his HP an infinite amount of times with his Booze skill. There’s also Corrina, a thief who can easily remove the defense buff of enemies and put them to sleep, in case you ever need a few extra turns.

Later in the game, as you get more characters, you can perform team attacks that deal enormous damage to either an AoE group of enemies or a single enemy. But, again, knowing when to use those properly is the key to winning the battles because characters are stuck to only one class the entire game, and do not evolve. This means that there’s a severe limitation on your battle strategies early game. While the simple nature of combat is somewhat remedied as you get the rest of the characters, but all in all, this does not make it particularly stand out. Furthermore, you might get bored after fighting using the same method that might not even need a change, leading to a situation where the player just puts the game on Story Mode to skip the combat altogether.

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Crafting is also introduced, which is the primary way you acquire new weapons and accessories. But once again, it is very straightforward, with each ideal weapon and accessory already allocated to the best character automatically. While you can buy some additional accessories to put in the empty slots, most of the weapons just ask that you have the necessary materials. Honestly, if it means I don’t have to worry about which weapon to buy, then so be it. Not that it was ever an issue for me in other RPGs, but hey, I’ll take anything that makes my life easier.

There’s a layer of simplicity in the narrative that might not be for someone looking for a complex game full of twists and turns. The entire adventure feels familiar and predictable, and while that is a valid design choice, it, unfortunately, puts Rise of the Third Power in heavy competition against other JRPGs, even including the ones it was inspired from. Sure there are a few memorable moments, but those are few and far between.

Even with this approach to design, the developers did a great job of providing a classic JRPG experience while incorporating a modern take on the genre. There’s a noticeable level of care put into the adventure to make each interaction and narrative beat flow naturally through the entire runtime. It also seems the team has taken feedback from the previous entry to fix the overall pacing and UI. Battles tend to not overstay their welcome and boss encounters push your strategic knowledge of the systems to provide a nice dose of challenge.

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Rise of the Third Power is a wonderful 16-bit adventure that offers a charming world to uncover. It’s nostalgic to the core, but it may be a bit too familiar for hardcore fans. I was hoping for more diversity in the narrative themes and environments, but as a package, this is one adventure that I couldn’t step away from. For those seeking a retro-inspired experience, you can’t go wrong here. I was going to make a math pun, but decided against it.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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