Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre, and Vandal Hearts are all great games that have set the stage for the tactical, turn-based RPG genre. First they brought us Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, then the famed Shin Megami Tensei series, and now Stella Deus; Have Atlus games not proven their worth in developing games for the RPG genre? Sure, Stella Deus' graphics may not compare to the full motion videos or dramatic renderings of a Final Fantasy, but if that were all you the consumer had wanted, these reviews would be much simpler to write! In fact, it's a game's ingenuity and capacity to captivate that makes it great. Why else would such old games as Suikoden II and Final Fantasy Tactics (before its reprint) sold for close to a hundred dollars? Thankfully, Atlus has proven once again that they know what they are doing, and with such knowledge, have brought us Stella Deus!
First and foremost important to a tactical game such as Stella Deus is its battle system. I can't imagine anyone who would want to sit through consecutive fifteen-minute battles if they weren't having fun! That's why it's so important to make note of all that Stella Deus' battle mechanics have to offer. Whether you're conjuring the magic of the realm known as Alchemy, or unloading a barrage of attacks upon your foes through a carefully planned team attack, your tactics and blue prints for battle are what will see you through safely.
Divided into a number of archetypes, your teammates (and even the mercenaries you accept as allies) are capable of a surprisingly vast array of techniques. Similar in style to many of the aforementioned games, your characters will be subdivided first into archetypes, and then armed with a number of moves distinct to that specific class. For instance, a priest's innate abilities will consist of heals and wards while a swordsman's skill will likely entail a variety of attacks. The game also consists of a number of classes [which I have broken down and deemed to be] archer, close-quarter fighter (strong attack), close-quarter brawler (strong defense), healer, caster, and spearman (who's attack pierces two squares).
Battle itself consists of an assortment of techniques. Teammates who are involved with the story (i.e. not mercenaries) are capable of attempting devastating team attacks, a definite plus to players who prefer to employ only storyline characters. What's more, is the game's excellent AP system. No more, one move, one attack turns. Now, a characters movement and attack costs take into account underlying stats and are then subtracted from the characters overall AP count (100 being max, indicating your turn). Moreover, player controlled characters are able to expend additional AP freely at the end of their turn, allowing for a more tactical approach to battle.
When fate tempts you, you're friends go against you, and everything you thought was right goes wrong. A fitting story for any RPG, perhaps a little over done, and sizably over dramatic, but a good story none the less. Spero's world is being devastated and its savior isn't who he claims to be. Spirits are the final link to the lethal mist that is flowing throughout the land and it's up to Spero, his friends, and an odd assortment of mercenaries to open the Gate of Eternity and save the world. All while battling Overlord Dingus and his malevolent followers who seek conquest and want to do nothing more that spread fear throughout realm.
Unfortunately, as you likely know, all game's have their drawbacks. Missed potential, I refer to it; or in Stella Deus' case, washed out graphics. A personal follower of the brilliant and flamboyant colors usually imbedded with in these games, I was a wee bit let down. So much potential, I keep saying to myself. It's almost as if a layer of mist has been laid out over the screen, though under the HUD (Heads Up Display, or more simply put, the gamer's interface). Along with the game's white washed graphics is a small blue gradient, which for some reason has been coded in to follow and cover the topmost part of the screen for the majority of the game.
Another mention of frustration is the game's voice acting. What ever happened to the player being able to read for themselves? It's too emotional in some parts, and lacking in others. It's almost as if the voices had been taped at separate times, having no idea how or where the other voice actors would attach emphasis. However I can assure you that there is a small reprieve after the game's prologue, at which point the voices will begin to flow considerably smoother.
At the end of the day, Stella Deus is a great game that fans of the genre and many others will most definitely take great pleasure in. The game's battle system allows for some truly 'tactical' confrontation, in which you can win (assuming you play well) when out numbered and out leveled. Its music is agreeable enough and strangely familiar, at time's I had sworn that I'd heard it before. The game itself, though its story is rather cliche, is described best as a pleasant mix of fantasy, epic, and strategy.
If you would like to learn more about this game you can visit the official website at: www.atlus.com/stella_deus