The Guided Fate Paradox
- Street Date:
- November 5th, 2013
- Reviewed by:
- Trevor Ruben
- Review Date:1
- November 4th, 2013
- Game Release Year:
- NIS America
- ESRB Rating:
- T (Teen)
Version reviewed was a digital copy provided by NIS America, the retail disc copy includes a CD Soundtrack.
Nippon Ichi Software, the team behind the 'Disgea' series, brings us 'The Guided Fate Paradox,' a Frankenstein of a game that stuffs a roguelike within a JRPG, all embroiled in an oddly caustic self-awareness. Becoming God is a daunting task, but perhaps not so much as figuring out exactly what this game is.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Trying to peg exactly where in the gaming industry 'The Guided Fate Paradox' might comfortably sit amongst cohorts of a similar strain feels a bit like serving a pie of twelve different flavors to thirty different people. I have no idea which part of this game is meant to be the most enjoyable, nor which of the many elements to the gameplay the most important, but I do know that somebody out there is going to get the piece they want and someone is most certainly not. Nippon Ichi Software is uninhibited in their latest effort, and the team's creativity seeps through every turn in this odd story as a result. But it's a patchwork, not a silk adornment.
You are Renya Kagurazaka, a shy teenager struggling through the throws of puberty, something that's explicitly addressed many times. After a heaping of exposition, his glorious moment of ascension finally arrives. He wins a raffle at his local mall. His award, the first hint at this story's endlessly absurdist point of view, is as simple as it is life-altering. The poor kid becomes God. Yes, that God, the big guy who's apparently answering our prayers. Or ignoring them.
And who knew! Apparently God answers prayers by crawling through dungeons and leveling up his stats. Renya does his duty by jumping into the Fate Revolution Circuit, a magical machine that renders situations surrounding one being's prayers in a copy world so Renya can find a way to grant it, affecting his will on the real world without revealing his existence. The copy worlds are the game's dungeons, which are laid out as a randomly generated grids. Within these dungeons the player will find plenty of enemies, which a combated through turn-based gameplay of a fast variety wherein enemies move exactly when and only when the player does.
Traveling from floor to floor, seeking an exit while collecting items and defeating enemies, seems a bit simple on the surface. Each item equipped to a part of your body – each arm, head, feet and torso – gives you two things: a stat boost and a special attack. Using these special attacks, which have unique ranges and affects, in conjunction with each other to fell the enemies around you is the crux of the gameplay. You're always going to be searching for that new, better attack, and once you have a grasp on what certain items can do you'll find a fair bit of depth in seeking out the best combinations. For instance, wielding daggers in both hands allows for a third, more powerful attack, which costs more to perform but does far more damage. The flipside, of course, is that you lose a bit of variety by limiting both hands to the same base attack. Wielding a gun instead of that second dagger may open more opportunities, but it's a trade-off.
And those two weapons only show up in the first dungeon. Moving onward to new prayers, each coupled with their own subplots, often yields intriguing new enemies and items, but here's the thing. The combat itself doesn't really evolve in spite of the breadth of equipment, requiring very little tactical awareness and only a basic sense of resource management.
What starts out as an inventive little twist on dungeon crawling soon turns to tedium as you frantically seek out the exit. But, as I said before, there are many more ingredients to this pie.
The dungeon-crawling gameplay, on its own, is a roguelike. If you die within one of the randomly-generated dungeons, you lose everything you're carrying and you have to start the whole thing over again. And you're meant to die, because there's a lot going on outside of the dungeon meant to keep you engaged as you grind your way through. This is where the more traditional JRPG elements come into play. Renya's basic stats keep going up despite any deaths within the Fate Revolution Circuit, and there are a collection of mechanisms meant to lighten the burden of your tasks while also serving as an excuse to make progressing through the individual dungeons harder than they should be.
For instance, if you do come through a dungeon alive, you can transfer any items in your pouch, be they recovery items, equipment or something else, into storage. When next you die, you can retrieve these stored items rather than proceed completely bare. Elsewhere you'll be able to upgrade equipment, upgrade yourself through the laughable and ridiculously complex Divinigram body modification system, swap out and equip partners, create equipment sets, and so on until you lose yourself within the metagame and away from the actual gameplay.
But it's not gameplay. It's menus and numbers. The combat itself doesn't have much life in it after the first couple of hours, and then you realize you're just grinding and grinding until you're powered up enough to get through a particularly difficult dungeon. And then you're back to the grind, losing valuable weapons, forced to waist gold on upgrades you'll likely outgrow far too soon.
The story, though intermittently endearing, didn't help to lighten my ever-worsening impression. Understanding full well that 'The Guided Fate Paradox' is in on its own joke, painting a target on all JRPGs, the overtly sexual dialogue, thickly layered plot and decisively one-note characters all become grossly tiresome far too quickly. It's not that the writers don't have anything to say. It's that they happen to say these things in never-ending strings of conversational dialogue that have fifteen throwaway lines for every one that's worth hearing.
The one saving grace is the prayers themselves, which follow short subplots that explore the nature of God's manipulation and will. Even then, you're jamming the "skip ahead" button a whole lot.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
The visuals are not exactly a technical feat, Nippon Ichi going for character rather than fidelity. Though it's jarring how unevolved the animation work is at the start, the basic nature of everything serves the fast-paced combat pretty well. Character models are mostly static, the environments are vibrant but lacking in detail or natural intrigue and the story is told via cutout figures with dialogue bubbles. It's not a looker, but it's not meant to be. On the upside, combing different pieces of equipment often yields entertaining results. Wearing a mushroom on your head while traveling on a miniature tank and wielding a dagger made me smile.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The voice acting ranges from decent to downright confounding, though the writing is oftentimes excruciating. Don't expect much in the way of emotional involvement on that front. As for the soundtrack, the developers opted for frenetic, uplifting tunes meant to supplement the lighthearted tone and jumpy pace. It's the kind of music that rings in your head just a bit too loudly after you've turned it off.
The game is a constant replay of itself, which means once you finally emerge victorious, you'll feel like you've already played it 100 times, making this a uniquely tough rating to doll out.
In the end the two genres mashed together are better off left separate. Roguelikes on their own are justifiable in their difficulty and unforgiving nature, because they're meant to be played over and over again. Generally the actual gameplay is reason enough to do that. Mixed with a JRPG, 'The Guided Fate Paradox' is essentially a massive manipulation, utilizing the repetitive nature of the roguelike to artificially lengthen an experience further padded with unnecessary and time-consuming subsystems. If the combat was more refined and varied, with less spurious depth sunk into the JRPG side of things, then maybe 'The Guided Fate Paradox' could have carved out its own corner. As it stands, the multiple flavor offerings of this particular pie fail to gel, or to satisfy and may as well be strewn all over the floor.
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