It’s been a while since a classic Fire Emblem game was released. 2015 in fact, with Fire Emblem Fates (And before you ask, Echoes doesn’t count due to the unorthodox nature of Gaiden). In 2018, SPRG Studio was released, a game maker in which one can craft their own low-budget strategy RPGs in the same vein as classic Fire Emblem.
The original creator of Fire Emblem, in fact, Shozou Kaga, decided that he would also have some fun with this game maker, and led a small team to make Vesteria Saga I, which was released in 2019. When you name something with I in the title, you know they’re going for that sequel later. And that’s what this review is about: Vesteria Saga II: The Sacred Sword of Silvanister.
Following some messy relationship drama at the end of the last game, Prince Zade has left his kingdom on a journey of non-descript, in the hopes that said conflict will be solved in his absence. Not only is it not solved, but some evil nobles have decided that now is a great time to start a power struggle, and that eliminating Zade will be a great idea to further this process. There’s also a civil war in another kingdom that will become relevant later.
This game is not heavy on story in the slightest. It’s not heavy on visuals, either. It looks alright, but it’s largely stock resources from SRPG Studio, like an advert to tell you that you too can make games just like this. And this is all about that gameplay.
But I can’t just say ‘it plays like classic Fire Emblem’, and call it a day. So I’ll instead say it plays like Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem. Not enough? Vesteria Saga is a strategy RPG in which you lead a group of characters who find themselves in constant conflict. Be it fending off mercenaries, accidentally strolling into a battlefield before an army invades, or defending a city. Zade and his allies will always have something they’re doing.
Each turn is split into enemy and player phases. During your phase, you’ll drag your units around and initiate combat, with combat allowing both units involved to attack, provided they’re both in range. Then it’s the enemy’s turn to do the same thing with their units. Pretty standard stuff.
Characters have very little in the way of overall character, their appearances generally marked by conversations in their debut chapter and maybe a bonus conversation down the line, and they’ll get to pipe up for a dramatic narrative moment, provided they’re still alive at that point.
To try and keep everyone alive requires absurd planning and copious resets, and if you do, you’ll have an equally absurd number of units in your army who haven’t seen action since you recruited them. This matters surprisingly little, though, since growth rates are hilariously minor in this game, and it’s not surprising when your level up gets you a single point of resistance or the far more malicious “absolutely nothing at all.”
Units will often carry a uniquely named weapon and varied sets of innate skills to set them apart from others. Some needing an optional objective performed to obtain their weapon, and others come for free. This means that everyone is functionally a blank slate with a few key words for you to use to write your own little narratives in the maps, and then you can cry about the character you’ve shoved these headcanons into dying, because this game is a challenge.
Each map is very unique and has multiple ways to run its main objective. It’s important to be acutely aware of the positioning of your units, your opponents, and their equipment. You can’t really grind your way past enemies, so everything needs to be treated as a sort of puzzle. Exploit enemy ranges, try to bait them out, weigh up whether or not you want to use one of that super bow’s 30 uses. Whilst you don’t need the first game to jump into this, I wouldn’t recommend new players to the SRPG genre approach this one unless they have an open mind.
Whilst you can save anywhere, I can see it being very easy for a new player to accidentally lock themselves into an unwinnable map because they don’t want to lose units or overwrite their pre-chapter save, preventing them from properly going back and readjusting. There’s no easy or harder modes either, so there’s not a whole room for error.
Vesteria Saga II: The Sacred Sword of Silvanister is a fantastic SRPG that scratches an itch for fair challenge and minimalism that we haven’t had in a while. It’s definitely for more hardcore fans of the genre and is missing a few things, such as concise or clear tutorials or difficulty options that would let those interested in this medium jump in.
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