I was able to (under the cover of dark) get my hands on a early copy of Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgment, and it did what it said it would: Flame my Judgment!
The plot of the story is so cliche that I am forced NOT to tell you any of it, because it would give away the “ending”…I wouldn’t suggest this game to a major fan of these types. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t suggest it to anyone who wants to start getting into the genre.
If you were around for the early days of the Playstation you may have, at one point, got your hands on a little game called Vandal Hearts. If you did, then the mere mention of it should send you into a corner, trying to claw your way out. For you kids out there who didn’t play it then I’ll let you in on a secret. Vandal Hearts was f-u-c-k-i-n-g hard! It had no side-quests, no ability to level up on random battles, and the only money you got was from what you got in the story battles. If you didn’t save up, or stretched yourself to far you went the way of J.J. Abrams: You LOST! Vandal Hearts: FoJ on the oth…
…er hand decided to take anything looking like challenge and throw it out the window. Ok, that’s a bit harsh. The game is challenging, if you put absolutely no attempt to try into it. This is due to the way the game is set up on it leveling front. the leveling system is not based on experience points, but on the Final Fantasy 2 kind of system where the more you do something the better you get at it. Thus, if you hit guys with your sword alot, you get really, really good at hitting guys with your sword. The same goes for bows, magic, etc. What’s the problem with that you ask? Well on my first playthough (yes, my first, cuz some dick erased my save) I discovered that I could go back to the first encounter after I had beaten it. Endlessly. Yes, at THIS specific point in the game it was really hard. The fist real battle pits you against 4 wolves, whatever. When you go back to the area, though you have to fight 12. A bit of a jump, yes, and I barely survived it. (Hint: Wolves have to range, so if you go into a corner only so many can attack you at one time) After that I was pleased with the difficulty of the ga…
…me. Until, of course, I went back again and discovered that my survivor characters were about as O.P. as Demon Akuma. I couldn’t lose after that. Ever. In all subsequent story battles I was never in danger.
The game has in all only 6 characters, all of whom you get very early on in the game. They are built to all be different classes: Archer, paladin, mage, etc, but due to the skill use level up system they become more or less the same. The only thing that really keeps them separate from each other is that they all have special powers that they use automatically if special conditions are met. That sounds cool, but only 2 of them are of an real use. One is used by the main character who, if killed, will be brought back to life once per battle. Of course, I’ve never actually SEEN it, as the situation has never come close to happening. Partly due to the second useful power, which is used by the “rogue” character. If he kills an enemy he may go into a frenzy which gives him a second turn to kill another enemy which may cause him to go into a frenzy which gives him a second turn to kill….do you see what I’m going at here? My personal record was 4 turns all of which were kill shots. Thus, making him my favortie character, but NOT becuase I like him as a chara…
…cter. The plot of the story is so cliche that I am forced NOT to tell you any of it, because it would give away the “ending”. I never saw the ending, but I can almost guarantee you’ve seen them before, despite the fact that the game supports a “choice” system that says that there are multiple endings depending on your choices through the game. I sure hope so. Let me give you a brief synopsis of the opening part of the game. You find yourself at from what I can tell is “War School”, training with 3 other students under a wise teacher. The student are You, a kid in glasses, a chick, and a bully. Take a look at this picture and let me know which character you think is you, and which is the bully.
Yeah, you wonder which one is going to go bad sometime in the game about as much as you wonder which way your Ice Cream cone is going to melt.
The actual gameplay isn’t too bad. You switch between short and long range weapons freely, without taking your whole turn to do it. There are team attacks that happen randomly that allow you to do double damage to enemies, archers get buffs if they are on higher ground, and the magic you can use are worth the mp they cost to use. Even the low level spells. There are even sometimes map intractable items that you can use to tactically deal with enemies or obstacles. Other hidden map zones can also be unlocked by exploring battle areas. Unfortunately, that’s about the only reasons to explore the maps since most search-able items give horrible items that you never use. Chests are the only real exception, and even then….*sigh*. Character movement is also inherently flawed. You move and then do something, but you can’t do something THEN move. OH NO! That would be too much to ask. This is the only tactical game is seen that does this. Trust me it is annoying. You may have also noticed that this post was plagued with loading screens. What a strange coincidence, so is Vandal Hearts: FoJ. For a DLC game it has an odd amount of loading screens. To go or do anything of real significance, you will go through no less than at least 3 loading screens. Have fun with that!
Ok, I tore this game a new one, but despite all I said, It isn’t a bad game. It just wont be that hard to veteran tactical players, and it has some gameplay issues. I wouldn’t suggest this game to a major fan of these types of games. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t suggest it to anyone who wants to start getting into this genre of game. As a beginners game, FoJ is a great stepping stone for new players. Let you little brother play it, while you slam your head against the original Vandal Hearts.