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Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection

Platform(s): PC
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Release Date: Oct. 31, 2017


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PC Preview - 'Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 15, 2017 @ 12:15 a.m. PDT

Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection is a charmingly presented action RPG featuring a unique food-based experience system, a colorful cast of characters, and a quirky, standalone narrative.

Falcom might be best known for its Ys and Trails RPG series, but those are far from the only games the company puts out. One of the company's lesser-but-often-demanded games is the Zwei franchise. A dungeon crawler that's similar but different from the Ys series, it hadn't been released outside North America before now. Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection is actually a release of Zwei II Plus, a modified update of the sequel to the first Zwei. It's a self-contained game that happens to take place in the same world, and it seems like an ideal first entry into the franchise.

Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection follows a treasure-hunting pilot named Ragna. His adventure brings him into contact with a vampire princess named Alwen whose magic has been stolen by a nasty force, and she needs help to get it back. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for Ragna, she offers to save his life in exchange for his help in recovering her stolen power. Together, the duo sets off for excitement, adventure, and all sorts of hijinks in a plot we're told is very reminiscent of '90s-style anime.

You have two main characters in Zwei, and you can swap between them at will. One is Ragna, who is a melee specialist who wields the Anchor Gear, a mechanical weapon that spends most of its time as a gauntlet but can transform in mid-combat to allow for longer-range whip attacks or special moves. One example turned it into a tiny jet that both characters could ride on to quickly scoot around the map and do damage to anything they touch.  Ragna isn't the more powerful of the two, but he's dependable and can fight in any situation.

The other character is Alwen, who is a magic-using vampiress. Unlike Ragna, she's not particularly proficient at melee combat, but she can cast a variety of elemental spells. Each spell has its own abilities and attributes. The darkness-element spell does massive amounts of damage to anything around the caster. Freeze is more of a single-target attack but can freeze the target solid, so it's a great choice to battle fast foes. The only downside is that these spells cost MP, which recharges relatively quickly. Spam a spell too much, though, and you'll have to wait a few precious seconds to recharge it.

The two characters can also perform combo moves, which are stored with special stocks rather than using MP, but when they're unleashed, they can damage an entire room's worth of enemies with a single action. In our demo, we saw the two summon a giant wall of ice that splattered every unfortunate foe in the room. Since these don't run off the rapidly recharging MP bar, you'll need to be more cautious when you use them, but they'll allow plenty of room to breathe if things get too frantic.

You start with your magic-using vampire lass and freeze, fry or blow enemies to pieces until you run out of mana, and then you can swap to your Anchor Gear-wielding melee master to finish them off. While it's possible to stick with one character, it's most effective to flip between the two.

In addition to your two main characters, you can also recruit a third character, which in this case is a pet. It can either be a dog, who specialized in ranged attacks, a cat who is a close-up melee fighter, or a chicken who prefers high explosives. This third character is AI-controlled and serves two purposes. They add some extra punch to combat, and they'll zoom around and hoover up any gold or items dropped by defeated enemies. The pets can also level up, and once they reach the max level, they can evolve into an even more powerful form.

The most interesting-sounding mechanic in Zwei is how it handles experience points. You don't gain experience from beating enemies but by eating food, which is also your healing resource. Both characters share an XP bar, so they'll level up together. The trick is that healing items don't provide much in the way of XP. Instead, your goal is to minimize your healing usage so you can bring hard-collected food back to your main hub. You can then take it to a restaurant, which can cook 10 stacks of the food into new and better items that give more experience points.

It's an unusual gimmick. We're told that you won't be crippled if you rely on HP items in the dungeon. Instead of the bonus, XP is more of a reward for limiting and lessening how much you need to do so. Sure you can eat that delicious cheese, or you can bring it back and cook it into an oddly healthy (and entirely delicious) slice of pizza. It's an encouragement to think carefully about when and where to use healing items.

Zwei is shaping up to be a fun little action-RPG. It's a bit less hardcore than Ys, but that may be a point in its favor. The quirky charming graphics and amusing sense of humor will do a lot to make it accessible even to those who aren't a fan of Adol and his antics. What we got to play of Zwei seemed like an enjoyable dungeon-crawling romp. It feels almost like a lighter and more accessible version of Ys, but don't mistake that for being a button-masher. It has a lot of potential as well as a dedicated fan base from the Japanese release.

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