In the last few years, Sting Entertainment has shown the RPG world how to make unique titles with lasting appeal. From Yggdra Union to Knights in the Nightmare, Sting has always been known for quirky gameplay mechanics that often have a steep learning curve that often takes a few hours to perfect. Hexyz Force does not follow in those footsteps, but it does have its own distinctive aspects making it something to watch out for. Unfortunately, I've only had the time to play through one of the game's dual storylines, though there is some plot overlap. This impression will mostly come from Cecilia's side of the story.
"For those looking for a story driven RPG that doesn't pull any punches, Hexyz Force should delight."
Hexyz Force takes place in the world of Berge, a broken land which some years ago was saved from impending doom. Ages ago, the Goddess Norvia descended from the heavens with the Holy Vessel. From it she drew Force, a spiritual energy, and used it to create all life. To take care of the world, she created Divinities, known as Hexyz, and charged them with the welfare of Berge. Delgaia, God of Destruction, vowed to return all of the Force back to the Holy Vessel in an act known as God's Remorse — an act which would also annihilate Berge. In order to save the world, the Divinities sacrificed themselves and sealed away Delgaia's power. Norvia permitted this on one condition: that the Hour of Judgment would force the world to decide whether to follow the path of creation or destruction.
Enter Cecilia, a lazy cleric from the Temple of Palfina, who attempts to escape her duties by sneaking away from the shrine she calls home. In doing so, she is confronted by the Black Precipice, a dark miasma that summons demons. In an attempt to shield herself from an oncoming enemy, she summons the Holy Maiden's Staff, a legendary weapon that had been used by Palfina herself. According to Elda, the head cleric of the Palfina Shrine, this weapon is the mark of a Hexyz. As the attack on the temple continues, Cecilia discovers a Monolith beneath her temple. The Monolith, one of a set that bind the God of Destruction, is soon after broken by one of Delgaia's disciples. Whether she likes it or not, lazy little Cecilia must protect the other Monoliths from the same fate, or Berge will once more be on the verge of ruin.
Hexyz Force attempts to give the player a lot of information at the beginning of the game and its hard to keep track of. As the game progresses, however, certain themes of duty, religion, and Force become integral to understanding the story and Cecilia's relationship to her task. Although I have been focusing on her plot specifically, the second character Levant, the Cerulean Knight of Rosenbuam, has also made several appearances in Cecilia's journey. What is interesting is how much Cecilia and Levant's tasks and senses of duty differ. One of the best aspects of this game is the fact that it has two different stories to share, yet they are uniquely their own, with some crossover. It means if you can't connect with one protagonist, there's still another full story to explore.
While I'm all for steep learning curves, Hexyz Force's combat system is probably the most simplistic one RPGamers have seen from a Sting title. The game sports a traditional turn-based combat system where three members can participate in each battle. At the top of the screen there is a Force Burst gauge which is filled either by damaging enemies or taking damage from enemies. Once the gauge is full, Hexyz characters can unleash devastating attacks. Each Hexyz has its own Ragnafact, a weapon that cannot be broken in combat, but they can also equip Spirifacts, which have limited durability and will eventually break. Non-Hexyz characters can only equip Spirifacts.
Attacks, spells, and buffs all use Ragna Points (RP) which must be managed carefully, as they're troublesome to replenish in a dungeon.The only way to replenish RP is either by purifying a Force Site in a dungeon or by levelling up. Despite its simplicity, I'm enjoying the combat immensely, if only because it's done very well, and strategy does have to be taken into account because there are a lot of cases where one will find themselves in a pickle if they haven't been watching their RP throughout each and every battle. Plus every character is able to wield up to four weapons in battle, meaning characters can be mixed and matched to be tailored to personal play styles. The game also lacks consumable items, such as curative and status-healing potions, which means that players will have to be aware of what state their characters may be in. However, for a few Force Points (rewarded after battle), you can select "Restore" from the menu and bring characters back to full health.
Force Points have other applications in the game. The player may use them to change aspects of a dungeon. By fusing FP to a broken bridge, it can be fixed. Using FP to purify a Force Site makes it useable to replenish health and RP. Hexyz characters can also use FP to upgrade their stats and learn new combat abilities.
Towns are non-existent in the traditional sense. Instead, Cecilia calls upon her familiar, Ralu, to create weapons, armor, and accessories through fusion. Ingredient items can be found at harvest points in dungeons or gained from defeated enemies. There are ample amounts of equipment to forge, and considering how often Spirifacts break, fusion is one skill that players will be utilizing quite often.
Right now I am nearing the end of Cecilia's adventure, and I'm getting ready to fire up Levant's. As it stands, I'm unsure of how I completely feel about the game as I'm only near the end of one story. The combat is quick-paced, Cecilia's story is rich with character and poise, but the overarching story still feels like a mystery to me. For those looking for a story driven RPG that doesn't pull any punches, Hexyz Force should delight. Those who are eager for a gripping adventure will have a lot to look forward to, as the race to solve the mysteries of the Hexyz begins May 25th. Check back with RPGamer sometime before then to see our full review and if you need something to tie your Sting-fix over, check out our interview with Atlus USA for more details.