It’s been a while since KEMCO released a retro styled RPG onto an unsuspecting market, in fact I think these past few weeks has seen the longest KEMCO dry patch I can remember. However, to make up for this lack of RPG goodness, Monochrome Order has arrived onto Xbox One. Want to come with me to a world of swords and magic, of judgments and their repercussions?
Monochrome Order is presented in almost the same way as the rest of the KEMCO games that have been released, with retro styled sprites wandering about the landscape, getting into scrapes and attempting to save the world. This one sees you playing things out as an Arbiter, working for an organisation known as Libra. This organisation has an artefact – the Order Stone – which can detect where Divine Enemies are going to be reborn, and also all manner of other things. As an Arbiter, we are issued with a pendant that is linked to the Order Stone, so we can be kept abreast of the goings on in the world. As a newly fledged Arbiter, we are assigned to a kingdom that is in pretty poor shape, after a Divine Enemy was released during a war 70 years ago. So, having been given our posting, off we pop to try and sort things out.
Arbiters are wielders of a magic known as Judgment; something that allows us to make decisions and affect the world around us, whether that be for good or bad. Normal Judgments affect three parameters in the game: Fame, which is basically how the public perceive us, Peace, which affects how safe the people feel, and finally Economy; affecting items that you buy in shops and so on. There is a definite balancing act to be struck in Monochrome Order, as making decisions that help the Economy can have a negative effect on your Fame, for instance.
The Peace rating also affects how many bandits you will meet when travelling around the world map, with the slight positive being that every gang you wipe out raises overall Peace by one point. The Judgments that you are called to make are actually a fun diversion from the main storyline, as each one requires you to speak to the petitioner and then investigate their story, before finally deciding one way or another. The outcome of these can go deeper than just some points, as the results of a Judgment can lead to new companions being recruited, or potentially missed, depending on what you choose to do. I’m not going to go any deeper into this, but take my word for it, you need to think carefully before judging anything in Monochrome Order!
Every now and then you’ll be called on to make a Judgment that will affect the whole world, and just to make sure you’re aware, a tone will play and sparkles will surround you. As far as I can make out, these important Judgments, and the way you go with them, is what affects the final ending you get. As an interesting aside, clearing Monochrome Order allows you start it again, letting you choose different options to see how the game plays out. Again, the differences can be quite stark, so some experimentation is recommended, if only because each time you clear the game another more dangerous foe is released into the world, which you will then have the chance to defeat.
Gameplay wise, Monochrome Order is very much business as usual, with you being required to visit dungeons full of random battles, grinding to make yourself strong enough to take down the enemies found later in the game. It’s here where I start to have issues, as the progression is very slow. Luckily, having paid for the base game, you do then have the opportunity to send even more money KEMCO’s way by purchasing extra “Talismans” from the “Special Shop”. Ranging from £1.69 to £4.19 in price, these allow you to tweak aspects to make Monochrome Order easier. These include being able to control the rate of monster encounters, all the way through to an item that restores HP and SP at the end of battle, culminating in one that gives you 3 x EXP for each battle. Given how much the gaming public love a microtransaction, this seems a remarkably insensitive move, and with no option to obtain these items in game, you are basically paying to win in the most cynical way.
Aside from the horrid microtransactions though and other negatives centre on the usual KEMCO control issues which raise their heads; it’s hard to walk in a diagonal direction, and it’s sometimes tricky to get through narrow doors and around corners without getting hung up. However, these moments seem to be par for the course.
In conclusion and Monochrome Order on Xbox One makes a decent fist of being an interesting RPG, but then shoots itself in the foot by making it harder to play unless you buy extra things. I can’t get behind this business model, and the good work that the Judgment system does is fully reversed by the inclusion of the cynical microtransactions. Sadly, with this in mind, it’s not a KEMCO experience I can recommend.