Genre: Turn-Based Strategy/RPG
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Idea Factory
Release Date: April 25, 2007
Who here loves truly complex games? You know, the sort that don't try to streamline themselves to better simulate a "real" battlefield? Well, the good (or bad) news is, Aedis Eclipse: Generation of Chaos is pretty close to being in that vein. Strategy RPGs are rarely this complex, but the neat thing is, a bunch of those little things you wish you could do in other strategy RPGs are here, and they're matched well with writing quality that is held to Nippon Ichi's rather high standards. (This is one of several games that NI has released solely as a publisher-translator.) While one has to wonder just how long they spent designing the concept, the implementation of Aedis Eclipse knows its audience very well and succeeds in making a unique game for it.
The thing is, the audience isn't necessarily the Disgaea players. Aedis Eclipse seriously feels more like a hybrid of the Nintendo DS Age of Empires and Warcraft 3, with the Disgaea elements sprinkled on top. For those who don't remember, Warcraft 3, unlike its predecessors, emphasized moderate-sized squads led by heroes. In this sense, Aedis Eclipse plays the same way, with the major playable characters (a mix of storyline characters and recruitables acquired from the battles) leading two groups of five generics each. You move the captains around the maps to do things using a menu-based system, and when they land on an enemy unit, they fight.
Interestingly, direct combat in Aedis Eclipse plays out in real-time. Don't expect full-on RTS controls, though; in the name of streamlining and avoiding comparisons to Starcraft 64, a simple squad-based, menu-based order scheme speeds these captain-versus-captain skirmishes to a solid, if not breakneck, pace. (Simplified as the scheme may be, combat judiciously pauses when you go into the menu.) Certainly, combat is more interactive than, say, Fire Emblem. Unfortunately, your units don't always follow orders, and they can easily become "stuck" on each other, ensuring that your captain — who is usually the strongest of your units — won't always pull his weight in combat, often with rather nasty consequences.
The controls out on the field are satisfactory, and they're mostly based on menus — lots of them. It can be sort of confusing to figure out which command you want to do initially, although the tutorial, integrated into the easiest of the game's three storylines, is immensely helpful and features intuitive and humorous writing. Unfortunately, the tutorial only goes so far in explaining things, leaving you to figure out the meaning of the numbers on your own, how best to use the element system that is a major aspect of land manipulation, and just how useful skills really are when you only use them once every five or six turns.
Aedis Eclipse feels like it tries to attain depth by throwing options upon options at you, and while you can find uses for every one of them at certain times, the proper course of action in most cases is rather obvious — perhaps too obvious. Even the more difficult scenarios quickly become basic "figure course and go" affairs, and almost all planning can be done on the field without too much mulling over, so this title may not be the most complex Strategy RPG ever, options or not. Luckily, these instances don't represent the entirety of play, and particular play styles will always find their chances.
In many offerings like this, the storyline is what carries the game from start to finish, and Idea Factory's development team chose the highly interesting route of offering three of them, which also serve as a way to select your difficulty level. Greckland is light on difficulty and heavy on steampunk-twinged technology, where a military school student gets caught up in a conflict mostly because of curiosity. Aedis is plain-Jane middle fantasy, with pirates, swordsmen, emotional princesses, and an elf who goes from loli to seductress. Finally, Galadia pits heaven and hell themselves against each other; the twist is that there was once a significant peace movement that seems to have collapsed, but may stand a chance at coming back as things shift over time.
All three storylines are generally serious but not dark in tone, with the occasional silly moment to mix things up. The plots are written well enough to keep things interesting. While there are thematic connections, including the same pre-intro cut scene for each world, each storyline requires a separate save, and they do not seem to connect very much. If one were so inclined, he could easily imagine this as being "the game and its two spiritual successors in one package," and the addition of this degree of variety certainly makes the game somewhat more accessible.
Strategy RPG fans tend to prefer good graphical design to top-tier uber-realism, and Aedis Eclipse doesn't strike far from the genre's norm. The chibi art style reminds rather heavily of Phantom Brave, while cut-in character art has a strong tendency toward gothic-fantasy stylations, with unnecessary additions and fancy hair galore. Certainly, all three modes have consistent but not blandly identical art direction, from cautiously prepared and beautiful maps to over-the-top specials that you can almost swear were borrowed from one of Nippon Ichi's own games. You almost feel like you could import sprites and cut-ins from several Nippon Ichi games, and they'd fit excellently. Sound effects are relatively nondescript, with decent music and generic sound effects that do the job, but don't try to be much more. In other words, the production values compare favorably to your average effort by Nippon Ichi, except possibly in terms of the music.
I've gone on a fair bit about some of the issues with Aedis Eclipse: Generation of Chaos — difficult to learn controls, some inevitability in the tactics — but overall, it is a surprisingly different and a well-done strategy RPG title. Things are not so different as to be unfamiliar, but it will set interested players on a nice, long quest; for the eager, two additional storylines await them after the first run-through has been completed. Unfortunately, the design complexity will only be seriously attractive to hardcore strategy RPG nerds or fans of extremely detailed strategy games — an admittedly niche combination. If you can make peace with the likelihood of needing the tutorial missions to fully understand this game, then give Aedis Eclipse a try; if nothing else, it'll probably have some good eBay value in a year or two.
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