Its generally accepted
knowledge that it takes a great deal of time to get a good RPG on a new system. I
dont know why this is so, but Ive seen a lot of RPG launch titles , and
Ive never seen a really good one. It seems strange when you consider the magnificent
racing, fighting, action, shooter, and adventure titles that are readily available after
every launch. It took Sony over a year to produce a decent RPG on the PS, and sixteen
months after its launch, the Dreamcast is only beginning to turn out first rate RPG
titles. Nintendo is largely a RPG flop, with a total absence of traditional role playing
games, and only the Zelda franchises RPG/Action left to redeem the system. So it is
no surprise to me that Sonys PS2 RPG line-up is thoroughly mediocre.
into Evergrace with tooth and claw is tempting. Its antiquated graphics are an easy
target. Its camera is weak and often makes simple navigation unnecessarily dangerous
and cumbersome. The voice acting is horrible, but its good enough to make the
pathetic writing sound like Shakespeare. The "combat system" consists almost
entirely of running behind the enemy and smashing one of your two attack buttons until the
enemy is dead. The puzzles are difficult primarily because information is withheld, as
opposed to being cunning or subtle. Because all of this is true, devouring Evergrace,
spitting out the remains, and calling them a waste of time is tempting. But I have decided
not to do that because it leaves out one critical piece of information; Evergrace somehow
manages to be kind of fun.
the spirit of Zelda (read, Zelda wanna-be), Evergrace is an action RPG that allows
characters to advance in skill, while navigating a 3D world in the 3rd person.
Unlike traditional RPGs, there is no special combat screen. Instead, battles are fought in
real time, as you encounter enemies, much like Resident Evil (although I hate to suggest a
comparison), or any similarly designed adventure title. You employ two attack buttons:
regular attack and special. Each blow depletes an amount of energy corresponding to how
hard you hit the button (analog buttons, anyone?), and your energy meter is equal to your
life total. The force in which you hit the attack button is proportional to the amount of
damage you deal. For example, if you are at fifty percent health, the hardest you will be
able to hit will be at fifty percent damage. By tapping the attack button instead of
pressing it completely you can make weaker attacks that do less damage, but allow your
energy bar to replenish faster. Running also depletes your energy bar, so much of the
strategy in Evergrace is in running behind opponents with enough energy left to get a good
Evergrace has some serious issues. While the 3D landscape is for the most part passable,
the cut scenes are totally horrendous. Word has it that Evergrace was originally going to
be a PlayStation title, and it shows. Animation sequences feature blocky characters with
knees and elbows that periodically end in long dagger-like points. After the initial
animation sequence I moved into the first battle, where I promptly attempted to hit all
the enemies with a viscous knee attack, mistakenly assuming that my knees were some sort
of devastating mutant weapon. I soon learned that they were in fact poorly rendered, but
otherwise mundane knees, so I switched to the more traditional weapons such as the bow,
and had much better success.
additon to the graphics, the cut-scenes suffer from god-awful voice acting, and even worse
dialogue. Suffice it to say that neither has any redeemable value; unless of course you
have a morbid sense of humor, in which case laughing at the cut-scenes is not only
possible, but likely.
the most impressive aspect of Evergrace is the complete character customization. As you
change weapons, armor, boots, helmets, and accessories, your character displays these
changes to a remarkably satisfying effect. In the beginning stages your character may well
be a sorry looking chap with a pot on his head and a stick in his hand, but better
equipment will be purchased before long. As a result your character will be in a constant
state of change as new equipment is acquired or old equipment succumbs to damage and
breaks apart. Rewards can be found for the fashion conscious, as certain combinations work
together in surprising ways.
can also be upgraded by your friendly neighborhood equipment dealer , who incidentally
lives inside big glowing crystals scattered conveniently throughout the game. This
retailer sells everything you need to survive, and upgrading equipment is the only real
way to stay strong enough to vanquish the various monsters. These shopping centers also
serve as save points, and allow you to switch between the games two characters.
brings me to the second satisfying aspect of Evergrace. Two characters, Darius and
Sharline, undertake separate adventures. Either may be played first, and you can switch
back and forth between the two quests at will. This is far different from playing the same
adventure with another character, as both characters have different adventures and travel
to different places. In addition, each character uses different equipment and weapons.
the thing. Running around whacking monsters with your fully customized, perhaps
bizarre-looking, character is an enjoyable, if not terribly exciting, experience. This is
basically a pretty mundane game that manages to be entertaining despite numerous and
extensive flaws. If youre hungry for an RPG on your shiny new PS2 then you could do
worse, but (unfortunately) you cant yet do a whole lot better. Look for Evergrace to
be an enjoyable distraction that may take the edge off your RPG hunger, but if your
expectations are too high youre gonna get burned. A good alternative for the wary is
to rent first.