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Vandal Hearts - Retroview

Bloodiest RPG, Ever

By: Red Raven


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 4
   Originality 7
   Plot 5
   Localization 5
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 4
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

40 hours

 
Overall
6
Criteria

Title Screen
 

   Historically, the first generation of RPGs to come out for a new system are always unique; developers feel safe to experiment with the new-found freedom of the new console. In this way, while Vandal Hearts may seem like an odd and rather primitive strategy game, it really has good reason for being so. Even beyond that though, Vandal Hearts manages to be a more or less satisfying adventure even when compared to the current crop of uber-strategy games like the well-known FFT.

   When discussing graphics for SRPGs, one must realize how little they really matter compared the core focus of games in this genre, mainly their battle engine. This is not to say that VH's graphics are bad, just that they are pretty primitive by current Playstation standards, but do not subtract from the overall gaming experience. Battles take place on isometric grid maps, complete with varying heights, and the soldiers are displayed as sprites. While there is some noticeable pixelation when the camera zooms in for an attack, as stated above, it really has no consequence to the gameplay itself.


Important plot point.
Important plot point. 

   Speaking of gameplay, VH has it in spades. While it follows the standard formula for games in this genre, it also has a few interesting twists. The first one being that instead of elemental affinities and all those other statistics that go into determining how much damage an attack does, it is really based solely on a Rock-Paper-Scissors type formula. There is several different classes of characters your army can promote to, and these are the archetypes that the "RPS" fit to: Infantry, Wingmen, and Archers. There are more than three classes however, but they are defined as either weak to all attacks or strong versus all attacks. The addictiveness of a class-based game is hard to overcome, and is the reason why the Interface and Battle System scores are so high. Another reason is the simple fact that the battles actually have some strategy to them; the missions have varying objectives, beyond the common "kill everyone."

   Music was completely normal however; the game did not feature any really exciting themes during the battles and other such tense moments. Perhaps it is simply because I have become jaded by Squaresoft's masterpiece of FFT, but regardless, good music should always be a priority in a war simulation. It is too bad that the game did not succeed in this area.


You have no idea how fun this is.
You have no idea how fun this is. 

   What makes up for everything however is that Vandal Hearts has one of the most entertaining and original features to ever grace a strategy game: blood. Not just a little bit of blood spilt during an important plot point, I'm talking about fountains of blood shooting up towards the heavens each and ever time you kill a person. To some, this addition is simply ridiculous, but as far as this reviewer is concerned, it is fantastic. The effect on the gamer is instant and beneficial: you want to see that again. In this way, every battle is interesting as you hunt the opposing army down and massacre them as often as possible. The player wants to kill everyone on the screen even when that is not the mission objective; it is a bit hard to explain if one has never played the game before. While the actual plot itself was not as interesting as the deaths that occurred within, it is still adequate considering the time when it came out of the Playstation. It is the standard political war waged by an Empire and the Rebels, with plot twists, unforeseen consequences, and an ultimate weapon to vanquish all evil. Average effort, at best.


Finally, a strategy game with interactive environments!
Finally, a strategy game with interactive environments! 

   Average would be how I would describe this game, unique death animations notwithstanding. Strategy games receive some extra slack from this reviewer, simply because they simply play different than the rest of the RPGs out there. From that angle, Vandal Hearts is more than adequate, and ultimately enjoyable for reasons I have pointed out above. It is certainly not the game one talks about five years from now, but as one of the first RPGs out of the gates, it is certainly worth a second look, and definitely worth the time you put into it.

   Enjoy.





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