Publisher: Cenega Publishing
Developer: Tannhauser Gate
Release Date: September 2004
I loves RPGs. LOVE’EM! *Stares intensely at the reader for 6 seconds.* When I die, I want to be buried in phoenix down. I go through my fridge and re-label everything as health potions and magical staves. I demand my tax returns in gil... Once, I killed a puppy. *Stares.* But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Before we go any further, you should know. I’m clinically insane. What does all this have to do with Cenaga’s upcoming PC and Xbox RPG The Roots? Nothing. Duh. I told you. I’m not well. But, I digress.
At this year’s E3, comfortably situated in the Kentia Hall, at booth 6021, we were given a special sneak peek at what looked to be one of the most ambitious traditional console style (though the term wasn’t actually used) RPGs to come along for the PC since Silver. The difference being that where Silver simply attempted to emulate the likes of Final Fantasy VII, The Roots conjures up a world all its own with a refined real-time/turn-based combat system (apparently that’s possible), 70 unique battle arenas, over 100 different types of enemies, and 24 fantasy themed locales.
The game we played was a pre-alpha build and according to our press contact Brian Faller the finished product will combine classic RPG elements with dynamic gameplay and the fast paced plot characteristic of action-adventure games. We’re not sure exactly what he meant by ‘dynamic gameplay’ or what a ‘fast paced plot characteristic’ is, but we’ll let you be the judge of whether those lofty (they’re lofty, right?) claims are apt or not when it is released this September. For now, we’ll tell you what we know.
In The Roots you’ll play as the ambitious and extroverted Yan, a young man thrown into a massive clash between good and evil. Yan’s homeland is a quiet and comforting town and is also the dwelling place of the Tree of Life; one of six Mystical Trees that maintain peace and harmony in the world of Lorath. But Lorath also harbors a dark and forgotten secret of unimaginable ancient evil. This evil is again beginning to permeate the land. It has fallen on Yan to seek out this ancient evil and destroy it before it lays waste to Lorath and its countless inhabitants.
The first part of the game we played took place in cobra infested tundra, where we were able to sample the game’s multifaceted combat system on some of the less powerful enemies. Immediately apparent was the differences between exploration and combat. Moving around in the meticulously crafted tundra environment using a functional point-and-click system was a breeze. Once we engaged an enemy the perspective drastically changed to a top-down slanted vantage.
Fights take place on a ‘position grid’ where characters are free to move in any direction. Once you issue a command to a character in your party they’ll run over to the selected area or enemy and execute the command. The position of the characters on the grid will affect the amount of damage the enemy takes. For example, attacking a monster whose back is turned to the selected party member will result in a much more devastating blow, as compared to a face-to-face attack. The freedom of movement and assortment of interacting dynamics at play during combat instantly conjured up nostalgic memories of Grandia 2’s amazing combat system. The fact that I can confidently draw that reference ensured my enthusiasm for the title.
The next sequence of the game began with Yan and a female character sharing a tender exchange of dialogue before falling asleep in the desert. A group of what looked to be bird people soon interrupted their slumber, kidnapping the duo and forcing them into a coliseum style battle. A wave of huge snake-like creatures surrounded Yan and the female character, but were quickly and easily dispatched in a few turns. Just as we were beginning to think we might have a knack for the game giant scorpions were set loose in the arena and nearly killed our protagonist. Luckily Brian filled us in on a powerful special move that made quick work of the intimidating creatures. But the fight wasn’t over yet. A colossal ogre came stomping out of the gates. Just then an airship emerged from the skyline, rescuing Yan and his female partner in the nick of time.
That marked the end of our test run with The Roots. Our impression of the game thus far is quite positive and we’re confident that anyone who claims to be a console RPG fan will find a lot to like in The Roots when it is released. The final version will feature five playable characters in addition to the two mentioned above, though we don’t know if those characters will be added to your current roster of party members or whether they’ll simply replace existing ones. We’re rooting for the former.
The Roots won’t be the longest RPG around, clocking in at a paltry 25 hours of estimated game time, but we were assured that the game’s “manageable life span,” along with its storyline would be its best aspects. Yah, ok. We’re just telling you what they told us, folks.
It’s too early to paint a decisive portrait of the title just yet, as it still has a few months to go before it’s christened gold. Polish developer Tannhauser Gate is hoping to integrate fully voiced dialogue in the final version and we assume the character models, which looked a little rough around the edges, will also be considerably spruced up come September. But I’ll say this; I’ve already called dibs on the impending review copy.