Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Best of the Worst - Blaze & Blade: Eternal Quest

A Guest Review by Jambo

This review hails the first installment of our 'Best of the Worst' ('BotW') series, in which TGN writers/guests attempt to find the very worst games in existence, and offer proof of its terribleness, in the form of a review.

  • Game: Blaze & Blade: Eternal Quest
  • Version Reviewed: PSone
  • Other Formats: PC
  • Developer: T&E Soft
  • Publisher: Funsoft
  • Genre: RPG
When any product sells well, it’s inevitable that countless copycats will emerge to cash in on its achievements. The success of Final Fantasy VII in popularising animé-styled RPGs with a wider western audience instigated a flood in the genre. Some of the influxes tried to develop the genre further, such as Septerra Core, while others simply tried to ride the tide of RPG-hype and hope for the best. This is where Blaze & Blade: Eternal Quest comes in, complete with its own borrowed, broken surfboard.

Blaze & Blade is an RPG with a ‘twist’. Not only is there, as standard, a fairly lengthy single-player quest to venture through, but you can also play the whole game with up to three other people. Finding friends who are actually willing to endure it, however, is a completely different quest in its own right (and they may not be your friends by the end of the experience).

The game tries to combine the tabletop antics of a Dungeons & Dragons gathering with a straightforward video-game RPG, but the end-result fails to include any of the good bits of either ingredient (loosely put, the gameplay falls somewhere between Alundra & Gauntlet) - offering little more than over-simplified puzzles and monotonous hacking. The puzzles won’t keep anyone over the age of ten occupied for more than 3-4 minutes a time, while the agonisingly dull action could take a lifetime of therapy to forget.

Every RPG needs a strong story to keep the gamer engaged; the Final Fantasy games, for example, have always featured detailed, twisting storylines that capture and maintain the player’s interest. Unfortunately, Funsoft appear to have overlooked this, and in place of any semblance of story, the game’s sole focus is to force you (and your unfortunate allies) through dungeon after dungeon in pursuit of ‘magic stones’. Such dull, linear action prevents you from forming any kind of connection with your character, and the game’s non-player characters are just as unlovable, acting only to give you herbs and warnings about the next dungeons. The dungeons themselves look horribly samey, with only trivial differences between them, which means there’s little sense of progression.

Tsk. Delivering the mail is dangerous, anyway. A few demons aren't going to make it even more so. Poof.

The controls are clunky, awkward and generally frustrating. The basic controls are functional enough (one button for striking, another for jumping and another for your special ability) but the complimentary controls are awful: pressing ‘Start’ brings up the in-game menu, but in order to navigate through the options you must use the D-Pad and shoulder buttons, making finding items (and the map!) a chore and a bore. Even more exasperating is trying to use some of the items: this mundane procedure cannot be performed using the menu and must thus be executed whilst fighting in real-time. Since some of the icons for items look remarkably similar, you’ll often find yourself wasting valuable potions or casting the wrong spell.

There are a range of camera-angles from which to view the action, but none of them are particularly good. The bird’s-eye view can be toggled on or off - but once activated, only lasts for about five seconds before it needs to be reactivated! The other camera angles render the game near unplayable, regularly resulting in characters falling off cliffs, or being assaulted by off-screen foes.

Some of the other game-features are just as counter-spontaneous. Say, for example, you’ve just picked up an item and want to give it to a friend to use (a logical choice of action in a multiplayer RPG). You cannot simply give the item away; you must leave the game, go to the auction screen and sell it to the player for a base price. This upsets the flow of the game - but the real head-scratcher here is the fact that, these auctions aside, money has no use in the game world as you cannot actually ‘buy’ anything. Surely it wouldn’t have killed the makers to install a simple shop for buying/selling equipment…

It's really hard trying to find screenshots for this game that aren't either completely boring or set in this pub-type place. It seems no one bothered to get past this bit.

Another major fault involves the ‘random dungeon generator’ (which does exactly what it says on the tin). Work your way through half a dungeon then pop outside to save, you’ll find that - upon reloading - the entire dungeon has completely changed and must thus be reworked from scratch. One would have thought a problem of this magnitude would have been fixed prior to release…

So, are there any good points? Well, the character customisation is decent enough, with the player being able to choose from eight different character classes, and allocate attributes as they see fit (e.g. Luck, Power, Strength, Intelligence, etc.). You can also choose your sex (though there is very little difference in appearance) and the way you want your character to speak in the game. Though with the lack of any real in-game character interaction, this last feature is rendered useless.

It’s all a shame, as in some ways, you might try to love this game. It at least attempted, for its time, something slightly different in the RPG field. Unfortunately, it fell flat on its face at the first hurdle, and the end result is messy, unfinished, riddled with faults and glitches and, overall, a pointless purchase for even the most ardent RPG-er.

8 turds out of 10

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