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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Strategy RPG

 

Publisher

SCEA

 

Developer

SCEI

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

June 2003

 

 

- Engaging story

- Likeable characters

- Well-balanced battles

- Nice music

 

 

- Somewhat clichéd

- Sub-par visuals

 

 

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Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits

Score:  8/10

Usually when I come across a game that fails to innovate it’s easy to have trouble keeping interested in the title.  It just feels like I’m going through the paces without much invested interest in what’s happening, having a good idea of what will happen next as the gaming by numbers experience systematically plods on.  Strangely, despite Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits (TotS) being anything but innovative, it has an interesting charm and still manages to be quite fun, making it a worthwhile title to check out for RPG fans looking for a new title to keep themselves busy over the summer.

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The story in TotS is surprisingly engaging, chronicling the adventures of two adventurers from two different worlds that are merely looking to bring peace to their lands (and who also happen to be brothers separated when they were babies).  One is a young man named Kharg who is more your stereotypical console RPG hero, having been raised in a backwater village on a backwater continent.  He’s hardly the worldly type, and sticks firm to his altruistic values, wanting only to keep people safe.  The other hero is Darc, a deimos (the beastly counterparts to the human race).  He hasn’t had the happy, relaxed upbringing Kharg was fortunate to enjoy, as Darc’s early years had him on the run from the Drakyr, a winged deimos sub-species, with his father and upon his dear old dads death Darc was forced into slavery by a witch.  So, as you can imagine Darc isn’t the happiest, most carefree of young warriors.  He’s seen the worst of the deimos and now circumstances have allowed him to be free of his slavery, so he has embarked on a quest to unite the deimos in hopes that it will stop them from destroying themselves.

 

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The way in which the story unfolds is very engaging.  Players can often find themselves predicting what may happen next, but instead of being disappointed that it did turn out that way instead of going on some sort of unexpected tangent, it is actually quite satisfying to see what happens next.  It very much instills a sense of, “All right!  I knew you could do it!”  This also comes in large part from the fact that the characters in TotS are extremely likeable.  There are the occasional clichéd characters, like the gruff old warrior, or

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the spunky female warrior, but even then you can’t help but begin to feel attached to them because they come off as being so real.  A lot was put into their personalities that allows them to sink their claws into players’ psyche and make them actually care about their party members.  Despite some very noticeable clichés in the games overall narrative, the story in TotS is very good; easily the strongest facet of the game.

But while the storyline manages to side-step cliché, or at least make players overlook it, the gameplay doesn’t fair so well.  Players go to different points in the world via a world map, selecting their destinations and they visit new towns to stock up on weapons and armor, while chatting it up with the town folk to dig up some juicy clues too.  It’s the same thing we’ve seen in RPGs for decades now.

Thankfully the battles help to save TotS’ gameplay from being totally mediocre.  Fights are your standard turn-based strategy experience, where combatants take their turns to do their thing in order of their speed.  The way many of the fields are setup, players can take advantage of obstacles and elevation to try and give themselves a tactical advantage.  What will be the most difficult thing for many players to manage during combat is their spirit stones.  These are essentially your magic points in the game.  In a fight it can be very tempting to use up your magic and special moves quite quickly, as they are quite varied and can prove very handy in a number of instances.  Players really need to learn to use these skills wisely, or else they’ll find themselves in a pickle good and quick.  The true fun often comes in trying to find the quickest way to dispatch a squad of enemies, if only for the personal challenge involved.  Overall, the battles are very well paced, not flying by, but not dragging on either.  The only major problems that they suffer from is that animations for casting spells run a little too long, and if an enemy drops items, but you don’t pick them up before the battle ends, tough luck, you don’t get them.

The presentation in TotS is definitely not going to turn many heads though.  The detail and TLC just isn’t there, with a serious lack of textures a lot of the time.  Playing the game, the presentation looks very much like an early PS2 title, most notably Orphen: Scion of Sorcery.  There are a few levels that look very nice, but the bulk of the game’s visuals are underwhelming.  The audio side of the coin fairs much better with some top notch voice acting, and a generally catchy musical score (though there are some guitar driven pieces that feel out of place next to the rest of the tunes).

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Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits doesn’t try to turn its genre on its head.  The game is simply trying to be an entertaining outing in a familiar setting, and it accomplishes this admirably.  If you’ve played all of your current PS2 role-playing games to death and are looking for a new title in the genre to add to your library, this is a title to seriously consider.

Mr. Nash

July 20, 2003

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