tri-ace do not seem to be having much luck with the 360 fan base, as both of their collaborations with Square (Infinite Undiscovery and Star Ocean) have fallen rather flat in terms of sales and quality. However, their current project with SEGA may well turn the tide as Resonance of Fate (or End of Eternity as it will be known in the US/Japan) is shaping up to be something rather special indeed as they were only too happy to demonstrate in this behind closed doors showing.
The overall story is fairly vague at the moment and all we know is that at some point, our world was all but wiped out by a climatic planet wide event, and all that remains is the city of Basle. The city has since been transformed into a multi-tiered society that spirals into the sky, with the super rich inhabitants living amongst the clouds while the not so well off are forced to dwell lower down the spire – perilously close to the planet's ruined surface.
However, Basle itself has a problem that is threatening the very survival of the last human outpost. Mysterious events have been occurring and strange creatures have been spotted roaming the streets – and it is your job to find out what is at the root of the problems besetting your home. At your disposal are three bounty hunters (Vashyron, Zephyr and Reanbell) who, through a combination of odd jobs and bad luck, find themselves at the heart of events.
Obviously the story could have been picked up from any number of other games, but it does at least seem to serve a pivotal role within the unique layout of the game itself. There is no word yet on whether there will be any other playable characters in the game, nor on whether or not you will be able to set foot outside the (admittedly large) confines of the city. However, the bounty hunter background of the lead characters seems integral in pushing the plot forward as you can even pick up missions and jobs from random passers-by, in cafes and shops along with the regular story missions you would expect. The game also has a peculiar mix of modern technology, gothic architecture and clockwork mechanics – the latter of which is due to play a pivotal role in the game according to the developers. The plot thickens ...
The graphics on show were nothing short of stunning, with beautiful character models and fully 3D backgrounds. To be able to see buildings off in the distance that you can actually walk over to and explore is hardly common in an RPG, as all too often you are reliant on linear walkways and vast, empty spaces. Thankfully this game is looking like being a wonderfully interactive experience. The city also benefits from a neat day/night system much like free roaming RPG’s such as Oblivion, so you can expect to find different characters, monsters and quests should you wander around at midnight then you would at noon.
Probably the most intriguing aspect of the game at present is the map system. Basle has a number of vast tiers that make up the city and you will only have access to certain locations at any given time. However, instead of a regular map it is down to the player to decide which areas they will unlock next. Each tier is made up of smaller hexagonal grids and as the player wins battles and progresses the story they will be rewarded with a bunch of hexagons that they can place on the map grid to unlock new areas. Certain story related areas have a specific colour coded hexagon blocking the way, which can only be unlocked by completing a specific event. It is a clever idea and one that gives the player freedom of choice over where to go next while still keeping them away from key areas until the story has advanced to a set point.
The battles are looking fairly unique too, with a distinctly Matrix style theme to the proceedings. The generic turn based system that you would expect to see has been given a major overhaul, and players will depend on a diminishing action gauge in order to pull off the attacks they need. Obviously the stronger the attack then the faster the gauge will diminish, but you can also use the battlefield layout to your advantage. So you can move to higher ground or take cover behind nearby walls and obstacles for protection. It means you are not just forced to stand in one spot and slug it out, though is not quite as real time as other similar titles like Star Ocean.
The combat itself does not have a sword in sight, as players have a variety of guns to dispatch foes with. Different weapons do different damage as you would expect, and one of the styles is known as ‘Scratch’ damage. This is when a weapon deals extreme damage to a foe but does not finish them off, so you will then have to use a pistol in order to claim the kill. Failure to do so will see your enemies gradually regain their health. The developers basically want players to use a wide range of weapons in each fight and have made it tactically encouraging to do so. Most of the attacks play out in gratuitous slow motion to show off the full range of combat abilities and it certainly looks like tri-Ace want combat to be as aesthetically pleasing as possible.
There is still plenty we do not know about Resonance of Fate, but from what we saw behind closed doors in Cologne, it is shaping up to be something very nice indeed. With an estimated play time of 50-80 hours just for the main storyline you can expect plenty of bang for your buck, especially when you throw in the expected slew of side quests and secrets. With the game due to release in the first quarter of 2010, we will not have long to wait for a unique slice of RPG pie.
Resonance of Fate/End of Eternity is coming to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in Q1 2010.