Developer: Cattle Call
Release Date: June 7, 2005
When I was first offered the chance to take a look at the new Arc the Lad game, back before I had seen or even heard anything about it, I jumped at the opportunity, having been a fairly big fan of the series. My excitement dwindled a bit as I played, though, and I have to ask, what have they done to my series? Toss in a collectible card aspect that's ever-so-popular lately, and scrap the traditional strategic turn-based battles, and you'll have an idea of what to expect ...
In End of Darkness, the story starts with Edda, who's bored of the life he leads on a secluded island. If you've played Twilight of the Spirits, you may be somewhat familiar with the universe, as this game takes place in the same world, and only a few years after the previous game. For those of you new to the series, the world itself is detailed, but not overly expansive. While I don't want to give away much, if any, of the plot, it definitely has its share of RPG clichés, with a few events that were entirely predictable and will have hardcore RPG fans groaning.
Judging from the available portions that I had the opportunity to play, a lot of the game's story revolves around Edda joining the Hunter's Guild, and then completing bounty missions by tracking down criminals. While there's no shortage of missions, the actual content of the missions seems a bit repetitive, and leaves me with a Phantasy Star Online taste in my mouth. You can also take missions from various message boards, in which the local residents offer their gratitude, but no cash, for their random tasks.
The controls in battle are very straightforward, which, along with the walkthrough of the controls you have handed to you by almost every NPC in the beginning, leads me to think they were trying to bring a new, younger generation into Arc the Lad, rather than targeting it at the cult of fans the series has acquired. There is also no shortage of spells, and each character has his/her own special abilities as well.
In total, there are 24 playable characters, and fans of the previous series will appreciate the appearance of several characters from the previous game. There's also online play, which seems like it could help quite a bit to break the monotony at times. You can play cooperatively in a team of four, or battle it out with another team in an eight-person game. Although I didn't personally have a chance to play online, it's one of the features I'm most anticipating.
Graphically, the game looks very nice. The areas are fairly large, and the game has a very polished feel to it, although not quite up to the standards that have been set by the Final Fantasy series. The lack of voices in things like the opening cut scene left me feeling that the game was somewhat incomplete, but it's nothing I could hold against the game for more than a few seconds.
Overall, End of Darkness seems like it will stand on its own as a very good action game, with online play, a variety of characters, and plenty of quests to spend time on. However, as a long-time Arc the Lad fan, I don't like the way the series is headed. You can be sure I'll be playing this one day of launch, hoping that my first impressions were wrong.
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