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Capsule Review - Kartia: The Word of Fate

Title Kartia: The Word of Fate
Developer Atlus
Year 1998
Platform PSX
Capsule Rating
 
Capsule Review: Here's another one that belongs in the "nice idea" pile. Kartia is a rather plot-heavy game from Atlus, the guys that made the Ogre Battle and Persona series. They're well known for their innovative, strategic gameplay. Problem is, Kartia doesn't approach either of those two series.

Basically, the game takes place on tile-based battlefields (lots of them). You have some human characters and some "Phantom" characters, and so does the enemy. You also have a stockpile of magic cards ("Kartia") that you can make more "Phantoms" (and equipment for them) with. There's three kinds of Phantoms, and they work in a "rock-paper-scissors" format - Doll beats Shadow, Shadow beats Human, Human beats Doll. The problem is simple - the computer, which often outclasses you technologically, wises up to the game. So here you'll have a whole pile of Phantoms, since your hope is overwhelming strength of numbers, and you'll have to juggle all three kinds to get them to target the enemies that they are specifically strong against. Not only is that tedious, but the computer will be able to do it better than you. It'll gang up on your Phantoms with the stronger kinds and kill them. Fortunately, your human characters are much stronger (since they can equip all the good armor and weapons) and can use magic. So eventually you'll stop wasting good Kartia on Phantoms that are going to die anyway and use it on magic and equipment. The thing is, the maps are rather big and it will take an overly long time - and if even one of your human characters is, god forbid, killed by a gang of enemies (since they're smart enough to go for your weaker characters in groups), you have to start all over. And most of the time, you'll have to kill everything on the map, not just your human enemies.

So basically, you'll be spending hours slowly advancing, taking care not to let any weaker character stay behind to fall prey to smart enemies, then methodically wasting everything with the strongest spells you have access to. It loses its appeal after a while. Of course, if Kartia had a really good plot, it might all have been worthwhile, but although there are some good parts, it pales in comparison to its contemporaries. The "big picture" plot is simple - bad guys are trying to access the ultimate power - so the game (admirably) tries to concentrate on each individual character. It somewhat succeeds. Everyone has a detailed, Amano-drawn portrait, which gives them more individuality. (Actually, the portraits are easily the best and coolest attribute of the game.) Unfortunately, the characters don't transcend their stereotypes much (Ele is the typical spoiled princess, Toxa is the typical good tough-as-nails protagonist with a heart of gold, and so on, and so forth). Some of the stereotypes are actually rather appealing (the introspective knight Duran, the witty asshole Troy, the wanderer-with-a-dark-secret Bachstail, etc.), but none of the characters change all that much over the course of the game.

There are two scenarios, each with a different protagonist. Play both if you want to put together the whole story. (The idea here was replay value, clearly.) The thing is, it's not really interesting enough for you to want to. If you must play the game, play Lacryma's scenario as it's more intriguing - but I wouldn't recommend buying it. The game has many components that people want in an RPG - an original (if really boring) combat system, many (rather boring) characters, lots of (rather boring) replay value - but it fails on numerous levels. True, there is a certain appeal to it, but it really could have been a lot better.

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