Experience an epic open-world JRPG in Edge of Eternity, the JRPG that’s not really a JRPG.
Midgar Studio are a very small indie development team based in France. It appears that previously they have only released one solitary game – Hover, a frenetic parkour game that can be played solo or in multiplayer. Well, what better genre to follow up a parkour runner than with a tactical JRPG with a massive open world map?
Small development team, big heart.
Edge of Eternity was partially crowd-sourced through Kickstarter, commencing way back in 2013. The PC Version of the game came was first available some time ago via early access in November 2018, with the full Windows version released in June 2021. Console players on all previous and current generation systems are now finally able to experience the game for themselves as of February 2022.
So, was this small team able to pull off a miracle and release a JRPG classic on only their second attempt?
So, did we catch a good game?
The plot of Edge of Eternity is deep, complex and frankly an absolute train wreck.
It involves the following elements:
- Alien invasion of the main characters’ planet and an all-out war with many casualties
- A terrible illness known as the ‘Corrosion‘
- Zombies called the ‘Corrupted‘
- Angry gods and their champion extracting revenge on the zealots twisting their religion
- Artificial Intelligence coming to terms with life
- The threat of the magical ‘seed of destruction’ that threatens to destroy the world
I did not make this up. Each of the above things is a part of this game, and whilst each of these themes on their own could be enough to base a game off, it definitely feels to me that the Midgar team bit off a bit more than they could chew by attempting to introduce too many different elements that at times seem to significantly clash with each other.
For example, Daryon is your classic main character who wields a sword that seems far too big (never heard that one before). The rest of his squad to whom we are introduced at the start of the game also seem to use classic medieval style weapons. However, the invasion is being completed by massive interstellar warships… How are these people even alive? How are they fighting back by bringing a toothpick in a plasma laser fight?
…or futuristic spaceship?
Potentially a streamlined game would have felt more coherent in its narrative, but the storyline(s) is not the only issue I had with this game.
The main characters in the game are for lack of a better word – unlikable. We start the game with Daryon on his quest to fight back and save the world, only for his sister Selene to pull him out of the war and take him on a quest to find a cure for the corrosion and save their mother. They bicker as siblings typically do, but they and the other main characters just seem shallow and self-serving. Not all the time though – characters’ motivations waver and each pair of protagonists at various points in the adventure will be best friends and worst enemies.
There are multiple attempts at storyline twists and some of these do work, where as others feel completely obvious, or otherwise shoehorned in for no other reason but to extend the play time of the game. I have definitely experienced worse plots and plot twists in other games. With Edge of Eternity my main gripe is the haphazard way in which these things are presented to the player.
By far, this is one of the worst scripts I have ever experienced in an RPG. I do flag here that it could be an issue around translation from French to English, or otherwise the production team working in a language that was not their first. But for lack of a better term the dialogue is cringeworthy. The full voice acting itself is decent, with the talent here doing the best that they can with what they were given. But as they say – you can’t polish a turd.
Narrator’s Voice: actually it wasn’t fun.
The tutorial battle introduces the tactical, grid style, turn based battle system. The grid tiles are hexagonal here, meaning that team members and enemies can move in six directions. Each hexagon can hold up to a maximum of four characters and/or objects, but your team and the enemies cannot chare a tile. Rather, when attacking you can physically attack any enemy that is residing in one of the tiles directly adjacent to where your character is. As you progress through the game you will obtain some skills, such as magic spells, or weapons (guns) that can attack a two-tile range. In addition to characters and enemies, there are some environmental objects that can impact a battle. Different coloured crystals can impart a stat boost similar to the classic Disgaea series and weapon turrets may be available to fire upon enemies.
After the tutorial is complete and the main game starts, there is definitely a slow build as you push through with your solitary protagonist waiting for the team to expand. Frustratingly, whilst there is the core here of a good battle system, for some reason the player’s team is capped at only 4 members where there seems to be no limit to the number of enemies that can appear!
Don’t let this massive number of slots excite you. 4 is the most you can ever fill
The difficulty in battles seems to be very poorly balanced to me (even on ‘Normal’ mode). After flying through an area with minimal difficulty the boss battle for the same area can seem almost impossible. At other times, a boss battle can seem very straightforward only for the first standard mob battle in the next area to cause a game over.
Similar to the battle system, the weapon progression system also has good ideas but poor execution. Similar to the characters, each individual weapon can be levelled up through battle experience. As weapons level they will unlock crystal slots where by inserting crystals the character wielding the weapon will receive a stat boost both from the socket itself (e.g. Physical Damage +2%) and the crystal being inserted (e.g. Attack +5 / Defence +5). Daryon and his friends do not learn skills on their own, rather these are also unlocked through this crystal socketing system. In what might be an intentional choice from the development team, there are multiple ‘paths’ of crystal sockets in each weapon and only the correct colour of gem can be used in each socket – each skill can only be found in one or two of the seven different crystal colours meaning that there is some strategy to selecting a path because not all colour sockets may be there. Why not allow multiple paths? I don’t know. To me it feels more ‘restrictive’ than ‘strategic’ when skills are only available through this system.
Percentage increases, stat boosts and skills. Oh my!
There are some movement puzzles here that inventively use the hexagonal battle system that were a great way to break up the otherwise monotonous battles. The first few of these are way to basic to even be called a puzzle, but some of those found later in the adventure are quite complex.
I do need to briefly comment on the side content of this JRPG, there are a massive amount of side-quests available to break up the insane main plot. If you like the standard JRPG style fetch quests, monster hunting and puzzle solving, there is plenty here to enjoy. Though it does feel very disjointed and almost irrelevant from what is happening in the main story.
I’m torn in regards to the gameplay of Edge of Eternity. This is a game that promises so much with a tactical turn based battle system, equipment crafting, weapon upgrades and more. But after experiencing what is on offer I felt there was so much untapped potential here. Great ideas that come across as poorly executed. Decent gameplay that becomes either frustrating or just plain boring before the full playthrough is complete.
So far we have talked about the poor plot and the decent gameplay, can the presentation pull this package together?
Unfortunately – no.
Better than talking to a mannequin with shit all over his face.
For me personally, the presentation is the weakest part of Edge of Eternity. I don’t want to come across as too harsh here as I know that this Indie team is very small and that the production budget was partially crowdsourced. In some respects this open world is a massive achievement given the small team and what they had to work with. But I can only comment on what I experienced in my play-though and share this with you.
I understand that this game started production in 2013 just before the PS4 was released. Maybe this is why the game sometimes feels like it is being played on a PS3? The character models look like they are ripped straight from a game of that era. Facial modelling and voice acting lip-sync fares a little better, particularly with the playable characters, but elsewhere I was left feeling that the avatars were jerky, plastic and unattractive.
If I were you, I’d be killing your hair stylist.
The overworld is a bit of a conundrum. Still screenshots can make the environments look quite amazing. I do need to call out the art direction here – that is the strongest point of this game with some areas such as the corrupted zones being deserving of praise. However, during movement there is very noticeable pop-in of objects in the mid range and at times even field enemies can seemingly pop-in right in front of you (forcing you into a battle).
The corrupted zone, looking great (if you ignore the foreground).
Get close enough to something and the lack of detail can really stick out, with some textures being very low resolution (or missing entirely). Once again the game promises so much in terms of art direction, with the execution of the vision being what lets the game down.
Nice tree… oh wait, I’m supposed to walk over that bridge? Yes, yes you are.
Once in the massive overworld there are virtually no loading screens. Loading in from start-up or a save file is also quite quick on the PS5. Entering a new area or a dungeon can trigger a short loading screen, but not long enough to cause me to reach for my mobile phone.
I didn’t have any full crashes with this game, but there were two occasions where I was trapped by the game’s environment and literally unable to escape, this required a re-load for me to be able to continue. Fortunately there are no shortage of save points in the game and I didn’t lose any significant progress.
I was literally trapped behind this fence, and could not escape. Damn these knees.
Framerates are another issue here. I don’t have the equipment to test actual frame rates, but it was noticeable enough for me to comment on here. The overworld frame-rate can be quite inconsistent due to the large number of grasses, trees and enemies roaming around. However, when in a confined dungeon environment you can feel the difference as the game appears to hit a smoother feel similar to 60fps. Overall, I would say this game looks good from afar, but in reality it looks far from good.
The music of the game requires another special call out here, with the legend himself Yasunori Mitsuda (of Chrono Trigger and Xenoblade Chronicles fame, amongst others) assisting Cedric Menendez with the score. The battle music becomes very repetitive after a while and doesn’t ‘feel’ like a battle tune to be honest, but the town, overworld and dungeon tracks are excellent.
“Battle of Eternity”, one of Yasunori Mitsuda’s contributions to the game’s soundtrack.
Sound mixing though is another story. Overworld sounds for some reason are turned WAY up, and noises that should be background sounds, like the creak of a chest opening, really detract from the excellent music and the overall feel of the game. There is a general feeling here that the game is simply unfinished, or at the very least the QA people phoned in the effort a little bit.
Excuse me… I was playing in English.
On consideration of my time with Edge of Eternity, it was not all bad. There were definitely moments throughout the game where I was enjoying myself, having fun with the battle system, gawking at the beautiful vistas and giggling at the banter between the characters. Certainly the background music in many areas of the game were very pleasant to listen to. You could say I was on the Edge of my seat.
Sometimes, you just have to stop and enjoy the view.
However, these fleeting moments of positivity were far outweighed by frustration with potentially game breaking bugs, disappointment at the lack of polish in the presentation and exasperation at the poor writing both from a story and a script perspective. I find it hard to believe that any player would truly identify with this cast of unlikable characters and their idiotic, almost schizophrenic, decisions made for no apparent reason other than to progress the story along.
I’m sure that there are some people out there who would have an overall positive time with the game, so this isn’t a recommendation to avoid the game at all costs. As a 2nd full fledged release from a small indie team this is quite an impressive attempt. For me though, after spending 40+ hours of this game I was truly at the precipice of my patience. If you are looking for a new(ish) JRPG with a tactical battle system and you don’t mind a lack of polish in regard to presentation then maybe this is the game for you. Just be prepared to experience what can only be described as an overly ambitious attempt at a massive open world JRPG that unfortunately falls short of the mark.
So, why should you play it?
- Modern action RPGs are too frenetic for you and you want time to plan your strategy
- An interesting world with a variety of different plots and secrets to be uncovered
- Cat mount
But, why shouldn’t you play it?
- Annoying cast who make insane decisions
- Poor presentation that at times makes the game feel almost unfinished
A review code on PlayStation 5 was provided for the purpose of this review.