I was trying to play through my other games in my backlog. That was the goal of taking some time off. And I actually started to do it too. Then a week or two passed by and an email arrived. Azure Saga: Pathfinder looked like a possible mix of the old-school RPGs that I enjoyed with a bit of an upgrade, but not too much. The art also looked borderline close to a style that I really don’t appreciate, but not quite there. Despite my reservations, I took the hook and dived in. I was not expecting to like it as much as I did, but is it worth picking it up for anyone else. It seems like a fairly solid yes, but let me break it down for you.
I always come into an RPG with hopes that I will enjoy the story. I’m always hopeful. I don’t think it will always come to fruition, but there’s the chance. If there isn’t a good story, there’s the hope that exploring the game world will be as fun as possible and have good combat (like Skyrim which had fun combat and exploring, but a “meh” story). Azure Saga basically of delivers somewhat on both fronts, but mostly on the story. I’m loving the story so far and some of those twists had me so surprised with what the twist was, but not with the characters it dealt with. That’s a plus, I hate when a story is going somewhere and then *Poof!* Captain America is a nazi! It just seems to easy rather than put in some twist about… I’m bordering on spoiling stuff. I’m going to stop right there. I’m really enjoying the characters and how they interact with each other. The only disappointing thing story-wise would have to be the main character Synch coming off as randomly selfish. He seems alright in whole, but the more he talks, you can see his flaws as a person. They don’t set him up to be this way with the majority of the discussions, but sometimes the things that come out of his cake-hole bother me.
I mention the exploring bit kind of missing the mark because it does. There’s something to it with the bright aesthetic they went with. All the level maps are sectioned off into a grid based system and something about it strikes my nostalgia bone just right. It’s a joy to run around in and fight every now and then. The problem is that while there is stuff populating the screen, there’s not much to touch and the fights don’t happen all that often. It’s mostly about filling out the map and finding that random one item. It’s neat and fun, but at the same time, not completely satisfying. How does that work? I’m not really sure myself. I guess I’ll take what I can get.
I’m glad that the fighting doesn’t happen every few steps though. At times I’m able to maintain my health and mana with all of my units without using potions (because I really am against using those unless I’m in a boss fight). When you attack and when you get attacked, you raise your FURY bar. If you play it right, you can run around and level grind without using much money… I mean potions. Azure Saga strikes a great balance with difficulty between the characters and enemies being mostly on par with how I feel it should be happening. If you’re doing well, be warned, the boss fights don’t usually go as smoothly. That’s where the bulk of my potions go if I need them. Most of the time you can see them coming and you can build up your super moves ahead of time, but there are area baddies as well and that caught me off guard (quest mobs, but still… surprise!).
As with many RPG’s there are some other elements here too like crafting and leveling up. They are fairly simplistic in implementation. I’ve only come across one crafting station and while it was neat that I was able to craft something out of all of the garbage I had picked up, it wasn’t entirely useful to my playstyle. The crystals were sort of useful because those could be made into a level three potions which is over-kill with the amount of health some of the characters had, but it’s still nice. (That and: potions.) There is no control over the leveling either, all your stats go up with pre-planed-out efficiency. You won’t be using the wrong stats on mistake or stacking only strength on your fighters as fun as that my be at times. Equipping gear almost feels the same. I like the stat boosts they provide, but depending on how well your taking to the combat system, you may not notice until fifteen hours in that most of you party has no gear on. Go figure. Oh… if you can though: poison protection. That’s probably the most annoying debuff in the game. Get some protection for it when you can.
The only disappointment I had was in the writing. The grammar, at times, was “hard to read” bad. This is coming from someone who has to self edit most of the time and I know that I’m not perfect. However, this will only be a blurb because it’s only in parts and I’ve been informed that they know about this issue and that they will be patching it. In that, I’m fine. With as much love and detail put into this game, I have no doubt that this probably bothers them and it will be better. *Edit* I’m not sure if they have already patched it, but I’ve not caught many errors for a while now and it simply helps enjoy the experience all the more.