For the first time ever, an Empire of Angels game has come to consoles – hooray! And for those unaware, Empire of Angels games are turn-based strategy affairs, in the vein of Fire Emblem or even Final Fantasy Tactics. The question that I have to attempt to answer though is whether or not these games are worthy of being mentioned in such an illustrious company, or whether the latest – Empire of Angels IV – is just another also ran. And if you’ve never heard of the series before, fear not because a a quote from the Steam page should clear up any confusion about what type of game this is: “… a dramatic, beautiful painting, use full-time vocal and funniest 3D game”. Developed by SoftStar Entertainment and published by eastasiasoft, join me in a world populated solely by ladies, in order to prepare for the fight.
Yes, you read that right, every single character in Empire of Angels IV (and there are a lot of them, both of the good and the bad) are female. Very noticeably female and mostly covered only in skimpy outfits. Surely, if you were going out for a brawl, especially when your foes are a selection of animals or other ladies, armed with claws or swords, you’d want to have layers of armour and stuff between you and them? But no, here in Empire of Angels a bare midriff and push up bra are all that is required.
Aside from the silly premise and skins, the basic gameplay found here is that of a turn-based strategy game. The characters that you control are able to move, and then attack, but not vice versa. This means if you do perform an action, be that attacking or healing another character, then moving afterwards is out of the question. This is a bit of a divergence from other games of this type, and not in a good way. Still, with a bit of adjustment it works well enough and it’s nice to see that different characters can move differing amounts and are able to attack from a variety of ranges, depending on the classes that you assign to them.
The class system is the only form of advancement. There are no new weapons to find or equip, and no additional armour types to worry about. As advancement is made though the characters that you have met, and those who have joined your party are able to choose a new role; a new job if you like. And as you level up, the choices of these roles narrows down, and from a single start point, you can then choose two separate skill trees to pursue. For instance, a magic-equipped character can choose whether to take the path of offensive magic or defensive, healing magic. Similarly, Knights can ride horses or not, and so on and so forth. Each character has four stages to reach with the final stage again being of just the one single choice. It is here that the majority of Empire of Angels IV’s achievements are clustered, involving getting various characters to the maximum level.
Graphically and things pretty much come in two halves, to borrow a football cliche. The cutscenes are beautifully drawn in an anime style, all big eyes and heaving bosoms, with the characters all fully voice acted, which is a nice touch. It’s here where the character who is speaking is highlighted on the screen, and honestly the story is pretty good, drawing you in and keeping you immersed throughout. However, those visuals take a switch with the actual game screen itself – the battle screen if you will. This is drawn in a super deformed style, with the characters all reduced to child-like proportions. This makes it all the more disturbing when, upon defeating a human foe, all their clothes fall off, leaving them standing around in their underwear before disappearing. It was at this point my wife walked in, rolled her eyes and uttered “This was written by blokes, wasn’t it?”. I couldn’t argue with her. But it’s okay as if any of our characters are defeated, their clothes fall off too. So at least it’s balanced…
Deep down, under all the skimpy clothes and comedy nudity, there is a solid game trying to get out of Empire of Angels IV. The story is good, the actual battles themselves are fun, and seeing your ragtag band of ladies become badass through constant fighting is quite rewarding. However, this has to be balanced against the frankly juvenile way that women are portrayed. As another example, you remember when I was talking about changing roles for your team members? To do it, you see a depiction of the character you are going to advance, and again her clothes fall off, leaving her standing there in her underwear, before her new outfit appears in a flash of light. Try explaining that one to your 10 year old son…
It all makes for this being a tricky one to score. As a gameplay experience, Empire of Angels IV is all good with a decent story and engaging combat mechanics, but the outdated depiction of female characters drags things down somewhat. In fact, the good and the bad pretty much balance each other out, leaving this turn-based strategy experience slap bang in middle-of-the-road territory.
Empire of Angels IV brings the series to Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One via the Xbox Store