Arc the Lad: End of Darkness Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

System:
PlayStation 2
Release date:
June 14, 2005
Publisher:
Namco
Developer:
Cattle Call
Players:
1
Genre:
RPG
ESRB:
T

Arc the Lad: End of Darkness

How many misfires must a Lad walk down, before they call him a man?

Review by Long (Email)
August 17th 2005

Movement

Regardless of task type, each have identical means to divergent ends: jog around squaring enemies away in dungeons nondescript enough in floor plan to be randomly generated. With the semi-smart battle system of Spirits eschewed (the best thing that was going for it, despite dull and repetitive enemy placements), Darkness becomes a pure action affair. Enemies can be locked onto, though the camera often gets stuck behind objects as it zooms in. Besides your basic weapon attack, your character can take up to four spells into battle, an appreciated addition since most are useful, in addition to relieving monotony.

But that's assuming you even want to bother with fighting enemies since experience points are rewarded based on completion of the mission and enemies don't drop anything worthwhile. The only ones you want to actively pursue are the few who need exorcising, whose spirits are then transferred for leveling up characters in your party. At the beginning it's only Edda that's available for control, but eventually 24 characters from past Arc the Lad games can be materialized from cards found throughout the world. Each character has very different attributes (speed, strength, elemental stat, etc) that provide not only fan service as they're lovingly recreated in 3D, but proficiency in specific tasks. Making Edda the only one that can exorcise and level the rest of the party up is reasonable, but is utterly undermined by the fact that nearly all of the characters are useless and Edda's strength; with his excessive overall proficiency there is no balance to him having a unique ability. There's no need to use anybody else.

Edda does lack an elemental stat, but this also proves pointless. The characters are designed to be better in some areas than others, but how are you supposed to know if you're punished for leaving or getting killed during a mission? (Each time, you're stripped of all the spells you have equipped.) Did they expect that you to case each mission, restart, and then go again with another character? No way. And when Edda is a neutral, competent, if not adept, at every situation, why bother?

I've always been a glutton for games of punishment because it'd always make for a tense experience, but Darkness' sentence for getting killed doesn't stick. The game doesn't automatically save (a la Torneko) when you're spells are tossed away, so only the stupid or lazy wouldn't simply reload their game. And there's nothing worse than a stupid or lazy gamer, except for one fostered by a stupid or lazy developer. The constant game reloading just creates an obnoxious unnecessary step, so either the punishment should've been made more concrete or removed entirely. A middle ground just doesn't cut it.

Waiting for the Sirens' Call

For a debut online series entry, End of Darkness fares well. The game is fun to play with other people; the game's simple mechanics guarantee that. But the problems of this particular simplicity are magnified when playing alone. As single-player becomes stupefying dull and you don't feel like going online, the question of why there isn't there a two-player mode available gnaws away at you. Developers just can't afford to miss these obvious steps anymore. Our expectations have been altered well past the point of return and developers can't afford to avoid combating our detached sophistication. They need to first stop missing these obvious steps. They should also stop making bad games.

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