Those busy beavers over at KEMCO have released yet another RPG from their seemingly endless back catalogue. The latest, Alvastia Chronicles, was initially launched back in the summer of 2018 on Android and iOS platforms, and now that it has made its way to Xbox One, those roots are certainly showing. With a very retro, pixelated graphic style and many hours of gameplay in store, can this game make a successful leap to the current generation of consoles, or should it have stayed in the past?
The story this time around follows the exploits of Elmia, a young 14 year old Priestess, and her brother and protector, Alan. The world of Alvastia is protected by four pillars, which seal the power of the Archfiend Valhyt away, keeping the world safe. These pillars contain crystals that act as a focal point for the prayers of a Priestess. One day a crystal is broken, and monsters begin to swarm the lower world. Luckily, the other three crystals are safe at the start, and so the Archfiend can’t touch the world directly, but his generals, the Tetrarchs certainly can. One was responsible for the deaths of Alan and Elmia’s parents, and since that day, Alan has lost the power to speak. Alan and Elmia therefore decide that the world would be a better place if they were to take out the Archfiend, and the story of Alvastia Chronicles is their quest to gather a team of like minded fighters and take the fight to the bad guys.
Interestingly, the characters in Alvastia Chronicles form the backbone of the gameplay. With over 100 characters to find and recruit as you travel the world, choosing the right combination and their associated jobs makes a real difference to the fighting that happens. With certain combinations of jobs forming bonds, special attacks can also be unlocked to help defeat the more powerful enemies.
This fighting takes place in the battle screen, where you are tasked with controlling up to 13 characters at once; three teams of four and Elmia herself, who acts as support. Elmia controls the Burst attack, and when her bar is full, choosing her allows whichever of the teams is up to attack to use four of their special skills in one turn. These special attacks can be any combination of attack or healing skills, and as you can imagine, they can turn the tide of a battle.
Random battles are almost annoyingly frequent, and seem to happen with every three steps you take in the dungeons and in the world map. This is made more frustrating by the fact that the control method is based only on a four directional input – with no diagonals possible – and it is surprisingly hard to make any real progress. Lining up with a small gap that you have to walk through is very hard, and as you spend your time wandering around trying to get to where you need to be, this triggers fight after fight. On the plus side, by the time I beat the last boss I was running around at well over level 45, seemingly way too powerful for anything in the game to hold me back. This is however where my only real issue with Alvastia Chronicles comes – these annoying walking controls.
The story is compelling, with the journey to the final confrontation full of twists, turns and double crosses. The story and conversations are presented as text windows on the screen, and do a good job of letting you know why you are going off on this journey, and what you are up to. Graphically it is appealing too, with a real retro style like the early Final Fantasy games. In fact, there are echoes of those games in the job system here, and the depth of the customisation is amazing.
With more than 100 characters to use, and power up, there’s an almost infinite array of combinations to choose from, and finding a team that works for you is very easy. Using Hope stones to strengthen your chosen teams makes them much more powerful, and with a weapon crafting system to get to grips with, Alvastia Chronicles on Xbox One will keep you engaged for a good period of time. Sound wise and it all works perfectly as well; swishing swords and swooshing magic effects fit the action perfectly.
This all means that if you are in the market for a retro styled RPG, you could do a lot worse than consider Alvastia Chronicles. Collecting all the characters, finding all the weapons, and exploring the depths of the character screen alone will keep you busy for many hours, and with an extra chapter to unlock after you have defeating the Archfiend, there’s plenty of content to get involved with. Apart from the dreadful walking controls, this is a game that I can recommend to fans of the genre.