Continuing KEMCO’s bid for world domination one RPG at a time comes their latest title, Legend of The Tetrarchs. Just for a change, it’s a retro styled, story driven, turn based RPG, but based on the old adage of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, the developers can be excused for sticking with what they know. But is this latest adventure worthy of your time, or should it be left to its own devices?
It turns out that 600 years ago, Jess, the lord of Hades, came to the surface and released a wave of Darkness (yes, with a capital D!) across the world. This Darkness is bad news, as it has the power to turn ordinary people into monsters, if it doesn’t kill them outright. Luckily, the Deities appointed four Tetrarchs to help stop Jess in his tracks. Lloyd, the Tetrarch of Light, Eileen, the Tetrarch of Life, Siegfried, the Tetrarch of Death and finally Ishbel, the Tetrarch of the Darkness. After a battle, Jess was defeated and sealed away, kept in his place by the sacred sword, which was driven into the earth to seal the Scar of Chaos, which is all that’s left of the Place where Jess burst onto the scene. Now, the sealing sword has been stolen, and new waves of the Darkness are spilling out.
In a story that has more twists and turns than a trip across Snake Pass, there is a band of heroes that have to be assembled for various reasons. Len’s brother was killed by the person who stole the Sword, leading him to swear vengeance, Chloe watched her hometown burn and so wants to help, and so on and so on. What this translates to is that there are ten heroes to recruit, of which you can control four at once. The active members of the team can be changed at any time that you aren’t actually in combat, and different people bring a variety of powers, leading to some experimentation until you find the team that suits you. There are healing based characters, some that specialise in crowd control techniques, attacking all enemies in a single turn, and others still that bring the pain to a single enemy, dealing heavier damage as they do so.
The actual gameplay found in Legend of the Tetrarchs is very much as you’d expect, with missions to achieve, and random battles to engage in every few steps. The battles are actually quite good fun, but then I am a sucker for a turn-based game. The battle viewpoint is unusual, being presented in an almost FPS perspective, with the enemies filling the screens and avatars of your characters being restricted to the lower third. The enemies are fully animated and are quite imaginatively designed, even if there is a lot of the “same character model, slightly different colours” effect going on.
Each character can perform a basic attack, choose from a range of skills, or defend each turn. Skills require SP to perform, and a set number of points are regenerated each turn, so choosing which skills to use, and when, really adds to the strategy involved. This is even more important as there are no items to be used in battle, so if someone dies and your healer doesn’t have enough SP to use their revive skill, that character is staying dead until they do. Normally losing a character starts a domino style collapse where the heroes pop their clogs one by one, so paying attention to their HP is incredibly vital. The lack of healing items is very odd though, and while it makes sense from a strategic point of view, it does make some of the later battles harder than they need to be. Around the end game, the difficulty curve resembles the North face of the Eiger, and some serious grinding is required to make the heroes strong enough to survive even the first few turns.
What can help with the battles are two key mechanics. One is the addition of Carminas, battle spirits that can be found in the world which give the heroes they are attached to various buffs. These can be in the form of free revives if they die, having health restored each turn, or they can be more offensive in nature, adding 20% to attack power when an enemy is defeated. Tailoring the Carminas to the fight you’re about to undertake is important. Find yourself up against an enemy that likes to poison the team? Use a Carmina that makes poison ineffective! Each hero can equip up to two Carminas once they have levelled up enough, and they can certainly turn the tide of the battle.
The other mechanism that can help is strengthening the equipment your team carries. Each item can be strengthened up to +5, and the stats of the item change each time it levels up, giving more attack power or extra bonus HP. The categories that can be strengthened are weapons, armour and rings, and you will need a lot of gold to shift any to any great degree. Luckily, gold can be found in the world in containers, or dropped by monsters that you defeat.
Graphically the game is quite lovely in it’s retro style, with very expressive pixelated graphics in the world, and impressive looking bosses and enemies to defeat in the battle screen. Cutscenes are not animated though and in the traditional KEMCO style they are static with an image of the speaker appearing in a text box. This works well, in the main, and while it would be nice to hear the voices of the characters, the personality of each does still shine through. The music and sounds are all very pleasant, with particularly stirring battle music to listen to as you fight.
All in all, Legend of The Tetrarchs on Xbox One does enough to make me recommend it to fans of the genre. The story belts along at a cracking pace, with the requisite number of twists and turns to work through, and there are some very enjoyable battles to engage in along the way. It’s not Final Fantasy 7, but give it a chance and I think you’ll enjoy it, difficulty spikes aside. Strategic thinking is required, and with all the permutations of Carminas and characters, there’s an ideal team to be found and exploited for everyone.
And with a big baddie called Jess, what more could you need?