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A great start with some rough edges

  • Seeric
  • 07/28/2012 09:59 PM
  • 257 views
This review is for the Primeforce demo uploaded on 7/20/2012.

The current demo of Primeforce offers an enjoyable and surprisingly lengthy (about 3-5 hours) experience filled with plenty of variety and challenge. However, it is not without some issues, both major and minor.

Primeforce starts with a fairly epic explanation of just what the Primeforce is (it's basically the Triforce), although this doesn't come into play for the duration of the demo. There are quite a few plot threads introduced within the first hour, some of which get explored more than others, but most of them directly involve the protagonist, a 'Skyblazer captain' named Vincent, and/or the other two members of his team, Fayne and Brutus, in some way so most of these plot threads intertwine. There is a strong Bleach influence here as far as the relationships between Skyblazer captains go with many of the captains having similar personalities to those from Bleach and there's some talk about 'wavelengths' and Vincent going through special training; fans of the series will probably enjoy the similarities, but they're not blatant enough nor focused on enough to be an instant turn-off for those less inclined towards Bleach. While no single plot thread gets particularly fleshed out in the demo, there is plenty of foreshadowing with multiple antagonists and rivals introduced and Vincent, Fayne and Brutus all get well-established as characters. Brutus is reckless and often says things without thinking, Fayne's a sarcastic intellectual, and Vincent is a responsible, level-headed captain; these aren't particularly unique characters, but they're all likable, interact with each other frequently enough that players get to know them, and the demo hints at interesting background stories for all three of them which should help to flesh them out come full release.

There are a few questionable decisions with the story with noting. The most pressing issue is when the party leaves a town it is usually impossible to return, but just what actions will trigger the characters leaving a town are not always clear, so even a seemingly simple action such as talking to an innkeeper or entering a certain building can lead to the characters leaving a town and locking the player out of buying valuable weapons and armor. There are also moments where the pacing feels like it could have been handled better, such as at one point when the core trio decide to leave a fourth party member behind, only for said party member to meet up with them after all on the next screen...and then proceed to willingly leave on the screen after that. Lastly, players are sometimes given options for how Vincent should respond to a person or what he should or should not do, but such choices seem to have little, if any, actual impact. The most noticeable of these incidents involves a cup of tea; players can choose to drink or not drink tea belonging to one of the captains, but even choosing to not drink the tea leads to a scene a few minutes later where the captain asks Vincent if he knows what happened to his tea with an 'honest' answer of having no idea leading to the captain berating Vincent for lying.

The battle system is where Primeforce truly shines though. One of the first things players may notice is a rather extensive "ATB Options" category on the main menu which allows players to choose between Active, Semi-Active, and Wait as well as the ability to adjust battle speed on a scale from 1 to 9; battles already move at a very fast pace on the default setting of Active and 5, but the amount of options available means both players who like to take their time and those who prefer super fast-paced battles can be happy. Battles themselves are standard ATB affairs, but the character skills compliment each other very nicely. Vincent is an all-around attack who gets various elemental attacks, some melee skills, and plenty of self-buffs, which means he can generally hit an enemy's weakness and does well against both magic and melee-resistant enemies. On the other hand, Fayne, as a Shadow Priestess, only has shadow-based abilities, but they deal large amounts of damage and her low HP is supplemented by a defensive self-buff and a life-drain skill. Brutus serves as a nice compliment to the other two as he can dual-wield to hit twice with his single attack and he is the only one of the three to get an AoE ability; he also can lower the defense of enemies and boost up the attack of allies, making him the only one of the three to have a buff which is usable on other party members. The fourth and final slot in the party is empty about half the time and is occupied by one character or another for the other half; having a consistent three-character party with a shifting fourth character results in players being able to develop consistent strategies while still having a decent amount of variety.

One thing the party lacks is a healer as, aside from Fayne's life-absorb and a semi-optional fourth party member late in the demo, none of the characters have any sort of healing capability. This isn't a bad thing though as healing items are frequently dropped by enemies and are fairly cheap to buy, although party-based healing items are both rare and expensive. Enemies themselves hit hard and status ailments can be very dangerous while most bosses have at least one hard-hitting AoE attack. As a result, fights, especially boss fights, frequently require players to constantly be aware of the party's health and quickly decide between dealing damage, tossing a heal or revive to a party member, or expending one of the rare and valuable party-healing items; it gives a remarkably frantic energy to fights and the lack of a clear healer means they never devolve into a repetitive slog.

Experience rates also tie into the combat system nicely as certain level milestones will have a noticeable increase in required experience while the amount of experience gained per fight noticeably increases between dungeons, so each dungeon usually has a flexible 'level cap' of sorts for when players fight the boss and skills appropriate for each boss are generally gained within the boss's dungeon. For example, unless a player does an excessive amount of grinding, Fayne will learn her poisonous Corruption skill, which deals percentage-based damage, shortly before an encounter with a boss with a large amount of health who also happens to be susceptible to Corruption while Vincent will probably learn freeze in time for a fight against a fire-based boss. There are a few downsides to the combat system, but they are relatively small; ATB bars get in the way of buff icons and bosses sometimes (though rarely) will spam their AoE attacks twice in a row, which in some cases can instantly wipe out the party and will hopefully be rebalanced for the full release.

Aesthetics are generally a strong point for Primeforce, but they are also where the majority of its issues lie. On the plus side, the intro is nice, towns and even some dungeons have lots of 'stuff' in them, and dungeons themselves have a large amount of variety in terms of appearance and length, with encounter rates seeming to be adjusted accordingly and both a consumable items merchant and a reusable crystal which restores the party's HP and MP usually being placed close to boss fights. Graphics seem to mostly be RTP-based with the vast majority of enemy sprites coming from Final Fantasy games, but the game looks nice both in and out of battle. None of the music seems to be original, but it comes from a wide variety of games, many of which aren't particularly well-known, and usually adds a nice sense of energy to the game.

On the other hand, there is no flavor text in the game; players will encounter plenty of bookcases, suits of armor, boxes, drawers, and other objects, but none of it can be interacted with unless it has an item in it. There are also some severe layering issues as Vincent can walk through or on top of all sorts of things which he clearly isn't supposed to be able to, such as shelves, pillars, suits of armor, some walls, and so on. At other times, movement is blocked by things which should be below or above the player, such as the top of a building closing off a seemingly accessible street in the first city and pretty much anything which only takes up the top or bottom half of a tile (such as the bottom of a fireplace) stopping Vincent in his tracks well away from the actual object. Spelling errors are also fairly common and can hurt some otherwise well-made scenes, with perhaps the most noticeable errors being 'thought' consistently spelled as 'taught' and 'strength' as 'strenght', leading to odd phrases such as "I taught I was a gooner". There are also a few transparency issues where on at least two occasions Vincent briefly appears in the middle of the screen before disappearing and Vincent's hair seems to change colors remarkably often (brown most of the time, blue in a flashback, and reddish on the title screen), but these are very minor issue.

The current demo of Primeforce also has a few significant bugs near the end. The battle sprite for the fourth boss as well as a song that is supposed to play before the final boss fight of the demo are both missing, so players will need to substitute their own sprite and song to prevent a crash; this could have potentially been a more damning issue, but it's honestly easy for current players to get around and the creator has already stated that it will be fixed in an update within a few days of the time of the writing of this review, so it won't be an issue at all in the very near future. However, at at least two points during the third and final chapter of the demo trying to backtrack to a previous room causes a cutscene to replay; the first of these incidents feels sloppy, yet players can still backtrack after the cutscene plays out, but in the second of these incidents the cutscene triggers whenever a player tries to leave a room, effectively preventing players from backtracking to pick up missed items and to buy consumables.

Despite its shortcomings, Primeforce offers an energetic experience with a great battle system, likable characters, and an interesting plot, so I would highly recommend giving the demo a shot.

Posts

Pages: 1
Indeed. With polish, this could be a great game.
Pages: 1