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February 2023


Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Clouded Leopard Entertainment
Developer: Kadokawa Games
Release Date: March 24, 2022


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PS5/PS4 Preview - 'Relayer'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on March 1, 2022 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Relayer is a simulation RPG where you lead your troops to victory using strategy & 4 different types of spacecraft!

Relayer is set in the not-so-distant future, when humanity has colonized other planets, created self-sufficient space stations, and developed combat robots. What most of humanity doesn't know is that aliens called Relayers are attempting to end the universe. To combat the Relayers, humanity's hopes hinge on the Starchildren, human beings gifted with special powers that let them pilot the giant combat robots. The protagonist is Terra, who embodies the spirit of Earth. After losing her sister in an attack by the Relayers two years prior, she has drifted around the world and even traveled to the moon. Her lunar visit is interrupted by another Relayer attack — that seems to be led by her supposedly dead sister.

Relayer is a by-the-numbers strategy RPG. You can deploy a number of different Starchildren to battle at your side. Every character in the game belongs to one of a handful of classes that amount to frontline fighter, sniper, support and tank. These all map pretty closely to the classic archetypes, and you can figure them out from the descriptions. In terms of gameplay, characters gain certain abilities and skills and can only equip specific weapons. You can still do damage with a tank as a frontline fighter, but you'll tend to specialize in certain tasks with your default roles. As the game progresses, you'll be able to advance into new job trees.

For example, Terra begins as a fighter but can upgrade to either the vanguard/braver or shinobi/ninja lines. Vanguard is designed to take hits and draw enemy attention, while shinobi do damage and have skills to minimize aggro. This lets you customize exactly how you want a specific character to play by filling out a Star Cube, which is basically a Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X. Every character in the same role has a similar skill tree, but every character also has exclusive skills that belong only to them. Terra can gain passives that reduce her damage or special attacks that boost her skills, while Sun learns powerful buff skills. The exact skills you learn also are tied to your job tree.

How does the game play? It's pretty similar to non-mecha SRPGs. You and your enemies are placed on a grid and take turns kicking the crap out of each other until one falls. There are a few unique elements to the gameplay that help it stand out. Your weapon determines the exact distance you can attack from. A sword can only attack close, a rifle from further away, and remote-controlled bits from further still. Unless you have a matching weapon, you can't counter-attack; the same principles apply to enemies, so the game rewards you for picking on foes who can't fight back.

In addition, control over your aggro is a major factor in Relayer. Every character has an aggro bar that fills as they take actions, with more dangerous actions building more aggro. Aggro determines which unit within range that enemies will target, with lower HP having some impact. This is naturally a bad thing if your squishy, ranged fighter builds way too much aggro before the enemy's turn. However, tanks have skills that build aggro, so proper use of both means that you can minimize the damage you take.

Every character has a magic bar to cast spells, including buffs, debuffs, healing spells and other neat abilities. There are also special attacks to gain increased damage, steal enemy HP, and other useful techniques. Most distinctive of all is the Big Bang attack, which uses a special meter that is shared by all party members and refills as you fight. Every character can get a Big Bang attack, which is effectively a powerful super move that hits multiple foes or does tons of damage. Since the meter is shared, its usage is very important.

The demo also goes over a few things, such as a shop where you can buy and upgrade weapons. You'll also learn that visiting the ship's various rooms between missions can yield short cut scenes and interactions between the cast members. It's difficult to say how meaningful this will be in the long run, but it seems to hint that there might be cool hidden secrets.

Overall, Relayer feels less like Super Robot Wars than I expected. While it has some similar aesthetics and tone, it feels a lot more like a traditional SRPG. This certainly isn't a negative, and it gives the game a distinct aesthetic. It's not the biggest-budget game on the market, but it looks like it has the potential to be a whole lot of fun for mecha fans. We'll see how the full version holds up when it hits Mar. 24 for the PS4 and PS5.

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