Hello, savvy consumer. Want to know if Magna Carta is the right game? If you're reading this in a timely manner, then perhaps you're split three ways between this unprecedented RPG assault of Magna Carta, Dragon Quest VII, and Wild Arms: Alter Code F? You'd think the choice would be easy since each pounds within their own little market (one's never seen here before, one's a remake, one's a sequel), but precisely, each is so uniquely promising that it's too bad no one will have the money and wherewithal to experience what they each proffer.
But consider this: Magna Carta is nothing if not for the battle system. With luck, it'll be with escalating interest and seething, bubbling excitement you read about the details of this war. Those not in the mood for some bloody acrobatics are better off hitching west to Wild Arms country or tagging along on the Journey of the Cursed King. Here in Efferia, it is only those with the will to fight that will make it.
Life During Wartime
Everybody's aiming for a brawl in Efferia, the offenders split up into five groups. Constituting the good guys are The Alliance (the collective union of humans), the priests of Armabat (a religious sect), and The Tears of Blood (mercenary clan). The opposition is the Yason, and its super race, the Blast Worms. These two axes revolve around Calintz, badass in residence in The Tears of Blood, and his meeting of the amnesiac Reith, whose extraordinary healing powers lead him to believe she's an Armabat priest. Her light touch and Calintz's cold, mechanical detestation towards the Yason conflict on the psychological battlefield. It brick lays the way for the usual RPG tropes: prejudice versus true perception, loyalty versus betrayal, emotion versus computation, and so on.
Polarities literally manifest themselves as chi: celestial, mountain, wind, earth, ice, fire, wind, and lightning. Story wise, chi is what keeps everything in check. If out of balance, the magicians and priests feel dizzy, not to mention that the world is thrown into a monster party armageddon. The bigger concern to us is that chi governs the battle: what moves can be used and how effective they will be. What kind of chi, how much of it and how quickly it regenerates is all dependent on the dungeon's location. To be most effective, you'll be changing your party more frequently than the Fox primetime lineup. I'm sure this kind of elemental gameplay has been in the minds of every aspiring high school game designer at one point, and how grand it is that it's presented and executed so well here.
But I'm jumping ahead. First, the basics. While exploring the dungeons, you have the choice of two look options. One reduces your field of vision (represented as an orange circle surrounding Calintz, who is blind to all treasure chests and enemies outside of it) but let's you sprint. Getting ambushed in this mode will send you to the battle screen where you'll proceed to get the snot beat of your party for about fifteen seconds. The other look mode quadruples the vision field but sets Calintz along on a tiptoe pace. Happily, the dungeons are smallish and so is the monster population. Even though the designers predicted you'd be in slink mode the whole time, Magna Carta is still one of the most meticulous and languid RPGs in recent history. Definitely not something you can dance to.