When it comes to Japanese-styled strategy RPGs the Xbox platform is a little starved for choice. It’s not like Switch or PlayStation where they almost have too many of those games. Rise Eterna has been available on other platforms for quite some time, and while it may not be particularly remarkable especially when compared to the impressive library of SRPGs on those platforms, on Xbox it certainly feels like a big fish in a small pond. In the absence of games like Mercenaries Saga or Fire Emblem, even the most basic game in the genre is welcome on Xbox.
Rise Eterna certainly starts out with a promising setup and premise, with stylised hand-drawn storyboards and a dramatic storyline. The character designs also seem quite cool initially, but when you get right into it the writing is oh so very drab and phoned in. The storyline isn’t exactly compelling with the typical tale of warring kingdoms and the like, and while the game certainly fleshes out a cast of colourful heroes, their development is far from memorable due to the poor dialogue writing and characterisation. Point is, outside of a few pretty images and a basic idea of the story, you’re probably going to be zipping past all the talking bits.
The core SRPG of Rise Eterna is quite sound and functional, and rather than following the Nintendo SRPG classics, the game is largely inspired by genre classics which appeared on SEGA consoles. Rise Eterna takes after games like Langrisser (known as Warsong in PAL regions) and Shining Force (which you can find on the SEGA Mega Drive Classics collection). There is a stronger focus on heroes rather than troops, and the artistic vibe and direction carry that similar style and flair too. The presentation is clean and practical.
Featuring a turn-based battle system taking place on grid maps, players must strategise their heroes and take out enemy forces in varying mission objectives. The basic conventions of the turn-cycle and such will be familiar to genre fans, and each time you engage an enemy with an attack the game zooms in on their sprites to show off the attack animation. The core control and features are sound and self-explanatory, as you have everything you need to navigate your heroes on the map.
Rise Eterna certainly offers a lot in terms of gameplay variety and systems. There are various heroes you add to your party through the course of the adventure, and each differ meaningfully in their respective playstyles and strengths. By the time you build a substantial party, there is a lot of fun to be had as the enemy variety also improves along the way. The map design is quite interesting too, and it can be rewarding to progress through them in a strategic manner as you take out enemy foes. What’s more, there are a lot of materials and treasure chests to uncover, so it’s worthwhile taking your time to collect everything you need.
In between battles there are some neat upgrade systems. You’re able to use foraged materials to craft items, and treasure chests also contain equipable orbs to enhance various stats of each character. What’s more there are skill trees for each of the heroes too as you use up skill points to learn new attacks and the like. It doesn’t take long to start buffing up heroes even from the first introductory mission.
While Rise Eterna offers a lot of moving parts, they all don’t come together as cohesively as they should, as the game lacks any semblance of difficulty progression or balance. The ease of upgrades means that in no time your heroes will almost become too strong for their own good, making missions a breeze. While the battles take place on several interesting maps, the level design is wasted given how the enemies are literally sitting ducks for the most part. It’s hard to discern whether it is a deliberate design choice or a gap in the game’s artificial intelligence, but enemy forces will do absolutely nothing until you get close enough for them to reach. In most SRPGs, the enemies are alive and dynamic, always trying to be five steps ahead even when the player forces are at a distance.
Rise Eterna is an average and serviceable strategy RPG offering on Xbox. It’s certainly a welcome release on the platform that doesn’t often host too many games from the genre. The various moving parts are promising, but they don’t come together in a way that feels compelling from a game design standpoint and that means Rise Eterna is worth checking out only if you’re starved for options.
Take in the latest in the SRPG genre on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One with Rise Eterna