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Quite simply, one of the best games I have ever played.

As far as games are concerned, I've always been someone who favours a good story over pure technical prowess or puzzles. And one of Love and War's many charms is, quite simply, that it tells an excellent story.

However, to end there would simply give the wrong impression. An important part of any role-playing game is the construction of a believable world: one that the player feels some connection to, and gets to know better. Perhaps, in the "good old days", a plot along the lines of "Adventurers A, B and C from the Kingdom of X defeat the evil wizard Y to save the beautiful princess Z" may have passed muster, but not any longer. We expect to know a little bit more about A's background, about what makes B tick, if Y is truly evil or just a well-intentioned extremist, and if saving the fair Z is the true quest or merely a diversion from a more important mission. The old tropes still work, but they have to be used right.

And it is here that Love and War succeeds, and succeeds quite spectacularly. The opening scenes, which briefly sketch Terra's peaceful beginnings, its war-torn past, and its current truce, are almost Biblical in their scope and elegance. The mysterious prologue, in which the player can familiarize himself with the combat system, provides a glimpse of some of the world's hidden realities, realities that the game's protagonist comes to understand only far later in the game.

Once this is complete, and we move to the story proper - the adventures of Ryan Eramond and his friends - the depth of the author's work continues to impress. An important character is introduced in a simple, funny, yet effective cut-scene, that establishes the pattern of her interactions with the hero for the rest of the game. Visits to a neighbour's library, or to the town graveyard, give you the opportunity to learn as much (or as little) about the game's world, or your fellow characters, as you want. The photograph on Ryan's table - a remarkably effective story-telling device - provides a few brief, poignant snapshots of his relationship with his girlfriend. And that's just the first day.

As Love and War progresses, the meaning of the title becomes evident. The story takes place in two worlds: one of them is the personal world of Ryan Eramond, his friends, and the two young women in his life. The other is the world of Terra, which - 300 years after the Commonwealth brought wars to a close - is slowly slipping into chaos. As the game progresses, and as Ryan and his friends move from doing "RPG stuff" to actually working for their country's government, the intersection between these two spheres becomes apparent. This is done so quietly that the player may not notice it at first, and to make things clearer, there are frequent cutscenes in which the action shifts far from Ryan's world, to allude to the political machinations of the Commonwealth and its many nations. The result is a story that "comes of age" as the protagonist does - by the end, nothing will truly be the same, either for Ryan, or for the world he lives in.

But if the world of Terra is beautifully sketched, the same can be said about the characters that Ryan encounters. Even a minor character, such as Inspector Bosley of Glendale, has an interesting backstory. And all the playable characters - Ryan, Henrik, Armin and Lavie - have depths to their characters that arise organically and believably out of their ages, their backgrounds and the world they occupy. Even the moments where Ryan can choose to make (or break) a relationship are done subtly - despite the obvious nod to Romancing Walker, Love and War goes one step better by making the "relationship moments" part of the story, rather than forced "guess the correct conversational option" puzzles.

There are certainly influences from other works - both classics such as Chrono Trigger and RPG Maker works such as the ever-entertaining Three The Hard Way - scattered throughout the game, but Love and War never feels like it lives on borrowed elements; rather, it uses them to build the story further, as well as in affectionate tribute.

A further dimension to the game is provided by the addition of voice acting for all the main characters. The actors' performances themselves are magnificent, and they are particularly effective in the game's more emotional moments, where the feelings conveyed in a voice augment the impact of the simple written word.

There is much more that I can say, but all good things must come to an end, and this review with them. Love and War is a wonderfully crafted story, whose world is perhaps the best-constructed I've ever seen, and it works remarkably well in simple "gaming" terms as well. Only time will tell what happens in future acts, but a lot has been foreshadowed, and it seems like the best may indeed be yet to come.

Highly and warmly recommended.


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Many, many thanks for the review, Professor Q! :)
"Life is a riddle I wish I had the answer for..."
author=Admiral Styles
Many, many thanks for the review, Professor Q! :)

Always welcome, it's the least I can do! And I notice one boo-boo in what I wrote. I forgot to mention Juno as a playable character. Oh no....

(Professor Q's head goes flying off at an angle.)

Juno: "Fool of a scholar. You dare to neglect the name of Juno?" :-)
Oh, surely it just adds to his air of mystery and what not! He should show more respect to an Academian, surely. :)
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