I really wanted to like this game. It got recommended by no less than two of the RPG enthusiasts I follow in YouTube. I have tried no less than three times to play through it, to find enough here to be interested in and get all the way through the game. At around 30 hours into the game, I’ve invested quite a bit of time (that’s four times what it took me to play through Shinsekai and something like six times the length of Carrion). I should be interested enough in this game to want to finish it. Either the game’s mechanics or its story or something should make me want to pick this up and complete it.
But nope; it’s gone onto the unfinished pile to sit next to Tales of Vesperia.
God Wars is (another) grid-based tactical RPG developed by NIS. That’s the same people who have done the Disgaea series and several other games around the same genre, so they do have something of a pedigree when it comes to things like that. God Wars walks the same route as Final Fantasy Tactics and the Mercenaries series: you select four to six characters to place on a grid, fighting against a variety of human and demon enemies.
Each character has their own individual job, which is a nice touch, and they all share a universal job pool they can switch among each other. These jobs level up via job points or JP, which is earned from every action you take in combat. You use these to buy various abilities which in turn levels up your job. Get enough levels in a job and new jobs unlock, including hybrid ones.
What’s weird about this is that there’s just nothing new here. This is exactly what Final Fantasy tactics was doing, except now the jobs have aggressively Japanese names. There’s no knight; there’s a samurai. There’s no cleric; there’s a priestess (sometimes called other things). There is a “bear god” who literally just appears to be a bear that someone let into the party for some reason (this is one of the selling points of the game).
The battles are strange too. The game wants you to emphasize its main characters. Yes, you can pick among the dozen or so plus characters (I never got above about a dozen), but they continually want you to use Kaguya, the main character, in almost every fight (and sometimes Ookuninushi, her kinda love interest?). This means that Kaguya is going to level up more, and if you’re at all like me, that means she’s be upwards of twenty levels higher than the rest of your party.
Because if you do the various side quests and such put before you, you’ll be overleveled and trample almost all the enemies in your path. This is necessary, because the boss fights spike in difficulty and often take your overleveled party to eke a win. It also makes for grindy, dragging gameplay that’s simply not fun to do, not even when you’re listening to podcasts (because the music’s not great).
Okay, so the gameplay is dirt average, maybe a bit below. What about the story?
It’s aggressively Japanese. Not only that, but it’s a fantasy series where they make all the wrong moves. As the two screenshots (which occurred right after another) indicate, they drop proper nouns like crazy, frequently not telling you what anything is because the characters know. Since it’s all Japanese, it really ends up being jibberish in your minds. That’s not enough though: often the characters don’t know, and they just put a pin in things to discuss later.
Near as I can tell, what happened is that Kaguya’s mother sacrificed Kaguya’s older sister to a volcano to appease the gods. They keep Kaguya locked away because they may need a spare to repeat the process. However, some random guy who apparently knew her growing up decides that this is bad so he goes to free her with his friend, the sort of talking bear.
They free her, and she decides to figure out what’s going on. This leads to her running around the countryside being chased and finding out that the spirits and demons and gods are all out of balance with one another. This leads to a sort of titular war of the gods or what have you. It also leads to a bunch of nearly replaceable characters that seem to sometimes be forgotten and join you with incredibly low levels compared to the rest of the party (particularly in jobs).
It’s nearly impenetrable, and it doesn’t seem like much of import happens over the course of thirty hours. I really tried to get into it: the whole letting the bear talk thing had me interested and there are moments of potential. The game does this really cool, likely budget saving, move where they sort of do cutscenes in a quasi comic pane style. It’s incredibly stylized and actually works to the game’s benefit, not least of all because it’s an original idea.
But they just went so hard with this bizarre story of the gods. Mix that with run of the mill, grindy combat and this strange system that has you overlevelling characters at a snails’ pace, and you get an experience that I do not want to finish. I would rather replay some of the games I have in my library or pick up others (which I have) then go back and see the end of Kaguya’s “story.”
4 it’s just so average across the board, except where it dips below; saved by some cool graphics to bring it just up, but there are dozens of other games you could and should be playing instead