Eschewing the “action” approach taken by their last release, Frane: Dragons’ Odyssey, Revenant Saga sees a return to what, in my opinion, KEMCO does best… an old skool, retro styled, turn based RPG with anime overtones. And a proper story as well, even if the developers have used almost every one of the cliches from the Bumper Book of RPG Stories this time around.
The Revenants in the title of the game are humans that have somehow been transformed into monsters after a demon’s soul inhabited their body. At the start of the game, our hero, Albert, is an ordinary boy whose parents have been killed by a plague, and whose best friend, Anna, is facing the loss of her family to the same disease. As Albert despairs about what he can do, he is approached by a Dr Moreau (yes, the same as in the novel) who promises him he has the answer to the plague, and that he alone can save Anna and her family from a fate worse than death. As you’d expect, things don’t go according to plan and Albert ends up being a revenant. However, due to the procedure being interrupted at a crucial moment, Albert ends up with a demon called Magnus cohabiting his body, on a kind of time share basis. Albert can only keep Magnus at bay and prevent him from taking over by sheer force of will, and if he sleeps, Magnus can possess him.
As he awakens, all Albert can think about is his revenge on the man who turned him into this. And thus the pattern is set for the rest of the game, as Albert seeks Moreau and recruits companions along the way; as is usual in this type of game. First he finds Esther, a young lady who has been been given a vision and a stigmata by Rystoria, the deity in the world in which they live. Women with the mark usually go on to become Valkyries, the elite fighters in the service of the Order, the organised religion in this world. At the moment she is fighting Revenants for money, and Albert joins her, as the demon inside him eats so much food that he can’t make ends meet.
The next companion to be found is Bruno, a servant of the Order, and he joins out of duty to destroy the threat to the human race. Finally comes Julia, the daughter of Dr Moreau, who joins the party to try and get revenge on her own father, as he has killed so many people, and transformed them into monsters, in an attempt to find a cure for Julia.
So, the scene is set for a showdown between good and evil, and in an ironic twist, it will be the heroes – who are struggling with their own humanity in different ways – who have to save the world. I can’t go into too much detail for fear of spoiling the story, but the heroes have the choice to absorb evil in order to make themselves stronger. The moral ambiguity at the heart of the tale really sets it apart, but does the greater good permit the use of evil means to achieve a good outcome? Or should good for goods sake be enough to see the heroes through? As Julia and Esther have amulets that can vanquish Revenants once and for all, their souls can be used to feed Albert’s pet demon to increase his power. Which course should the team take? I’m a bit disappointed in this moral system if I’m honest, as the actions the team rum along are scripted only; there’s no choice to eat or vanquish at the end of fights. I think it could have been a fascinating balancing act, trying to keep the team largely good, but as strong as possible.
Another balancing act comes with the powers that our heroes possess. Each character has the ability to transform into a demon or angel form of themselves, gaining access to stronger attacks and increased strength. The balancing act is that while transformed, the heroes cannot be healed, so they become a bit of a glass cannon; more powerful but able to be killed easily. Luckily, you can transform back in order to be healed, and this is a good strategy. To be honest though, I’ve barely used the transform ability, as the guys are strong enough in regular trim to batter most of the monsters. As long as you keep upgrading their gear when you can, Revenant Saga can be more or less left on autopilot.
Each fight can be fought in automatic mode too, by pressing the Y button, and as long as you keep an eye on the teams HP levels, even bosses can be beaten using only normal attacks. Add the ability to upgrade weapons, either making them do more damage or by adding extra effects to them, like poison or HP Up, and the biggest baddies go down with nary a whimper.
Exploring the world, having random battles, delving into dungeons and uncovering a story with more twists and turns than the Stelvio Pass has been a very enjoyable ride for me. The graphics are nicely realised, and the effect when going into battle, when the camera swoops around is impressive every time. The monsters are imaginative, ranging from tiny wolves to screen filling dragons, and the Revenants we have to fight all look fairly unique as well.
The music needs a special mention, as it is catchy and I’ve often found myself whistling along with the battle scene music in particular. The rest of the effects are a bit limp, to be honest, and Albert clattering his great big sword into a demon makes a “psssh” sound, which is disappointing.
Another thing that grates is that the weapons the heroes hold, especially in the victory screen, never change, despite what you have equipped them with in the menus. Equipping Albert with a short sword, and then seeing him holding one that is nearly as tall as he is, is a bit weird. And Bruno is armed with a knife, why does he always hold a book?
In conclusion and Revenant Saga on Xbox One is a return to form for KEMCO. A proper story, relatable heroes and a real urge to see the story through to its conclusion elevate this to the higher ranks of KEMCO games. It’s not going to give the Final Fantasy games any sleepless nights, but I’ve really enjoyed playing through this, and if you give it a chance, I think you will too.