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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Role-Playing Game

 

Publisher

Namco

 

Developer

Cattle Call

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

June 2005

 

 

- The synthesis system inserts some needed depth into the game.

- Characters aren't completely one-dimensional (although you only see this evident near the end)

 

 

- The battle system is one of the most boring and tedious experiences

- Storyline is choppy and doesn't make a lot of sense sometimes

- Lack of voice acting detracts from the experience

 

 

Review: Arc the Lad: Twilight Spirits (PS2)

Review: Dark Cloud 2 (PS2)

Review: Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (PS2)

 

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Arc the Lad: End of Darkness

Score: 6.1 / 10

 

Arc the Lad: End of Darkness is the fifth in the long running Arc the Lad series. The series stretches back ten years to the time of the Playstation launch. The first installment on the PS2 was Twilight of the Spirits, which was an average game but suffered from some flaws. Rather than rehash the same game and improve on it a little, Cattle Call decides to revamp everything. The turn-based tactical battle system is out, replaced by a hack and slash system and the dual main characters storyline is replaced with one single hero. How did the game fare with all these changes? It failed and failed miserably.

 

arc the lad end of darkness ps2 review          arc the lad end of darkness ps2 review

 

The battle system is one of the big letdowns of the game, but I will go into that in detail later. First let me immerse you in the story behind the game. You take control of Edda, a young island boy (the equivalent of today's country boy) in an isolated peaceful place called Cragh Island. And in just like so many other games, the peace ends with the arrival of new characters. Edda encounters Kirika, a mysterious girl carrying around a book. He also meets a group of hunters that arrive at the island, on a hunter task from their own land. Hunters, in the game, are strong and courageous people who have accepted the duty of protecting the townspeople from monsters roaming the areas. Part of their job also includes taking on tasks for citizens that are unable to complete them due to monsters and danger. In an encounter with monsters on Cragh Island, the hunters are slain by a malademon. A malademon is an unusually powerful monster, supposedly born out of the evil thoughts people harbour. Edda manages to not only defeat the malademon but unlocks his unique power of exorcism. Edda and his sidekick Hemo set off from Cragh Island, after the battle, to explore and attempt to become a hunter. On the way, however, they get shipwrecked and following another RPG cliché, they wake up in a strange and unfamiliar place.

 

Edda is prophesized by the Queen of that land to be the saviour of the world. He manages to become a hunter and continues on his quest to explore. During his hunter tasks, he stumbles on a terrorist organization called the Truth Sword that aims to take over the world. Kirika is also somehow mixed up in this and Edda also gets help from some of the Heroes on his way. 

 

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Those heroes are the saviours of the world in the earlier Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits. Some familiar faces you will recognize are Maru, Tatjana, Ganz and Paulette. In fact, the story is set in the same world but just years later. Deimos and humans live in peace but there is still leftover animosity from that time.

 

The story seems okay, not mediocre but not good. If you'll excuse all the clichés, it doesn't really detract from the game at all. The fighting system on the other hand is simply horrid and completely detracts from the overall experience. 

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As mentioned earlier, it is a 3D hack and slash instead of the tactical turn based system. This would be okay if there was some variety in the moves. To physically attack someone, you press X. If you tap it repeatedly, your character will chain your attacks into a combo. You can chain about four different attacks in one combo. That combo never changes and after you finish one round, you just restart the exact same four moves. It gets increasingly repetitive and boring as you progress in the game. There is no advantage even gained from fighting as there are no experience points involved and monsters very rarely drop anything worthwhile. In fact fighting is not a necessity as you can just run to the next area. There is also 4 additional magic attacks you can use. They are stored in your ALD - a hunter’s armband that is more of a necessity than a fashion piece. You access these attacks by pressing R1 and then pressing the corresponding button that is next to each attack displayed at the bottom of your screen. These magic attacks do come in handy when facing some bosses but do not add enough variety to make it enjoyable.

 

While attacking, you have two options to use. One is to lock onto a specific monster using L2 and then attack or keep a wide angle and attack manually. When in close and locked on, you have the option of strafing around your target using L1 and R1, clockwise and counter-clockwise. This is a pretty useful move especially with some bosses. The downside to locking on, is that sometimes the game will pick the wrong target which leaves you open to attacks while you cycle through. Also you can get caught in terrible camera angles and not be able to see a legion of enemies attacking you from your blind spot. Many times I found myself relying on the mini-map radar instead of what I actually see on screen. The downside to the manual view is that if you attempting to use magic attacks and you are not positioned right, you will miss a lot unless you have a wide angled attack.

 

The monsters you face sometimes are diverse but a lot of times you'll see the same monster except in a different colour. This is a regular occurrence with mushrooms and blobs. Most of the monsters behave alike so you can basically apply the same strategy to every single one and still succeed. The bosses are not overly difficult because they always have one glaring weakness that is easy to exploit - like lack of agility.

 

arc the lad end of darkness ps2 review          arc the lad end of darkness ps2 review

 

To perform your duties as a hunter, there are some key locations in every town that you need to be familiar with. The first is the Guild. The Guild is where you get assigned all your hunter tasks that earn you money and experience stars for the next level. Once you have accumulated enough stars to advance to the next level, you have to travel to Rueloon to the hunter exam centre. There you will go through several challenges and if you pass you will get a new rank and be able to take on different challenges. In a hunter task, you can use the default character of Edda or any other character whose card you have. You can also take on notice board tasks from Guilds. Notice board tasks are jobs that do not earn you any money but you need to do two of them every level to earn enough dignity points to progress. They are primarily used as a way to advance the story unlike hunter tasks which are time consuming. Notice board tasks are only playable by Edda as the story doesn't make sense with another character in his place.

 

The other characters that Edda collects cards of also have a hunter class. They start at the lowest level and only Edda can make them rise up the ranks. Every time Edda exorcises a malademon, he gets a certain amount of SP. In the menu, he can assign the SP to his characters like experience points until they reach the next level.

 

The other key location that every hunter needs is the card shop. In End of Darkness, everything revolves around cards. You can play different characters if you get their character card, you can get better stats by equipping attack and defense cards and you can execute different attacks by equipping different item and magic cards in your ALD. Nearly all the cards excluding character cards are available to purchase in a card shop. Character cards are won in a lottery or dropped by powerful monsters. The card shop is necessary for character cards as well though. You cannot play as a character unless you materialize the character card into a character in the shop.

 

Herein the card shop lies one of the most interesting and useful aspects of End of Darkness - the synthesis system. You are able to synthesize (combine) two different cards into a unique and more powerful single card. Of course, you can't just mix any two cards as some cards to not match in the game. To synthesize two cards, you have to pick the correct sorcerer (each one specializes in a specific type of card such as attack, magic, defense) and then the two cards. You can gain a significant advantage in the game if you are familiar with synthesis.

 

In the world, you will not explore much of your own free will. The world is represented by a map and you can only travel to the locations listed on the map. These locations are mainly cities but sometimes areas that you are required to go to because of a hunter or notice board task. There is no travelling between places, you just select a city and you are there. With only five cities to pick, it is terribly redundant and very linear. However, I will give credit to the cities themselves. Each city is uniquely different and diversely constructed. You can tell which city you are in no matter what corner of the city you are at. The same cannot be said about many of the battlefields which vary from a desert, to a forest, to a building and not much more.

 

This game is also playable online where you can play co-operatively or player vs. player by yourself or in teams. There are cards you can pick up which are useable in single player mode, but there's really no desire to make use of it once you experience online. The single player campaign isn't short but it isn't close to being lengthy. You could play through it fast which would be recommended as there isn't anything to do off the story path.

 

Arc the Lad: End of Darkness falls short again on sound. There is no voice acting in the cut scenes as it is completely relayed through text. This may be a good thing if the voice acting would resemble the quality of the game but nonetheless they should have included it with an option to switch it on or off. There is also mediocre battle music played in the background that really doesn't make anything seem exciting at all.

 

For the Arc the Lad series, End of Darkness is a step in the wrong direction. There are just simply too many things done completely wrong with this game. They need to take a step back and remember how the true Arc the Lad games were like. A sequel will need to take things from the history of the series and ignore this game except for some minor exceptions. Many better games of this type exist on the PS2 so I would not recommend this except to the most fanatic Arc the Lad fans.

 

- Stefan Shetty

(September 5, 2005)

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