Overall Score 92%
Chronicles of a Dark Lord: Episode 1 Tides of Fate (Remastered)
It begins with a young boy. Well, as far as these things can ever be said to begin - some might argue that it began with the war between the Light and Dark Gods that split the continents asunder. But that was long ago. This tale begins with a young boy. His name is Magus Lee, and he's a Dark Lord, or on the way to being one. With his family at war with the kingdom of Verana, Magus wanted to prove himself to his father. Spurned on the battlefield, the Dark God Hazeezus heard his plea and granted him the powers of a demigod. It was a slaughter.
Skip forward many years. The boy is now a man, and controls a mighty empire. His powers have faded now, his patron deity abandoning him. This is a happy empire, with dark and light creatures actually cohabiting to some extent. Magus Lee and his family rule the people strictly but fairly. And yet... something new is arising. The empire is under threat. Magus must head into battle once more.
Regular readers may remember me reviewing Chronicles of a Dark Lord once before. Kisareth Studios have relaunched the game with a number of tweaks and improvements, most notably in the graphics. For those new to the game, Chronicles of a Dark Lord is an RPG in the style of the early Final Fantasy games. You control a party of adventurers (up to four at any one time) as they explore a variety of locations, battling monsters and taking on quests. As they win battles, they gain experience and levels. New levels boost their stats and make them more powerful, and can also grant them new abilities.
The simple controls are entirely keyboard, which still foxed me on installing the game, even after my first experience! Move around with the arrow keys and use the "action" button (enter or space both work) to search, talk and so on. You can enter the menus with the Escape key, which also backs you out of menus, and there's a "dash" option that moves you around at double speed, perfect for those larger maps. In combat, you have an ATB system - each character on both sides has a gauge that fills up and they can perform an action when that gauge is complete. Actions include plain attacks, guarding against enemy attacks, using items and performing special skills. There's also an option to escape combat, but this doesn't always work and is not available in boss fights.
One of the most obvious changes to COADL is the graphics, with a number of enemies, portraits and so on now much enhanced. The tutorial "boss" fight between Magus and Exodes, for example, features a much more impressive looking Exodes! I've also noticed an overhaul of the town graphics, with a lot of the background details now easier to make out. But, for the most part, the graphics keep the retro-RPG style that they had before, and that's no bad thing. There's a range of music and background sounds on offer, as well as the typical spot effects - I'm not sure whether the music is an improvement on the earlier version, but there's a lot of it and I feel I would have commented more on it the first time if it had been as varied before.
There have also been tweaks to the gameplay. Most of the basics are still there, but the monsters have been updated, there's an extra dungeon thrown in somewhere and there are a few minor changes here and there. Character text has also been redrafted and I've noticed a few minor things playing differently this time around. Ultimately, though, little has seriously changed - it still pays to grind a few levels now and again and to keep your equipment at top spec. One disappointment I've found is that there's generally little more to do with a lot of minor battles than mash the Attack option.
There are supposedly fourteen hours of gameplay in COADL's main storyline. I'm not able to comment on this - I have not been able to spend anywhere near this much time with it so far - but what I have seen already shows a complex plot and a big world to explore. RPG fans will certainly find plenty to occupy them here. Certainly there are dozens of weapons, armours, items and enemies to experience, and your characters gain new skills as they level up (making it well worth doing so!). If you get stuck, you can normally gain a few levels with some grinding to toughen up and make those enemies a little easier. The remake boasts rebalanced gameplay, and I have found it easier going this time around - though that may simply be through having played it before!
COADL has some oddities. I'm not clear, for example, why one has the option to save at crystals when the game lets you save anywhere anyway. It would help if there was a clearer sense of an enemy's hitpoints - on the one hand, I rather like not knowing how many an enemy has (it seems more realistic, in as far as battling giant man-eating plants with magic spells can be realistic!) but it would help to know how much more pounding they can take, especially in boss fights. But these are minor quibbles - mostly, COADL remains the smoothly put together game it was before.
If you've already bought the first version, contact Kisareth Studios with the name and email address you ordered it with and they will be happy to provide a discount on the new version. If you're completely new to the game, it's well worth a look. May She'dai be with you!
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