When a game tries to use multiple approaches to form its core concept, it’s brave or stupid. Using this method can not only confuse your player base, but can also water down your ideas, making them weak and badly designed. Tears of Avia from developers CooCooSqueaky and publishers PQube Limited is one of those titles that has taken the gamble and tried to create an adventure game with a twist. It’s a strategy RPG that relies heavily on the turn-based attack method.
Set in the beautiful and rugged world of Estera, you must choose your hero, the “Seeker” of this tale. Gifted with an ancient power that allows only the blessed to see a jewelled treasure known as a “Tear”, you begin a journey fraught with danger and excitement. You must gather a band of warriors, wizards and priests to take on the many monsters that you will face. The demon Vylenkine desires power, and to control humanity, but he can only do this once he has found all the “Tears” that are scattered across the land. Once they are collected, a powerful magic seal will be broken, and evil will rise to rule over the world. Only you and your team can prevent him from fulfilling his evil plan.
A pretty standard story.
Once you brush away the dramatic elements of the story in hand, you soon realise that there is very little that makes it stand out against its peers. A demon who wants to rule the world, magic seals that need to be broken, and a team of random heroes thrust together to stop the apocalypse from arriving. It’s a 3 for 3; heard it, done it, got the tee-shirt. This doesn’t mean that it’s badly written or not enjoyable, but CooCooSqueaky had to make this stand out from the crowd.
They mashed together several genres to create a sort of super hybrid. A SRPG turn-based Asian inspired adventure game (wow, that’s a mouthful). So did their gamble pay off? Was it too confusing to get to grips with and does it get boring quickly? In short, yes, no, no. It’s not a bad title at all, but it doesn’t really excel either. Having stretched their resources thinly, I was always left wanting a little more detail and complexity in nearly every layer of gameplay. But the merging of the genres was well executed, and will be of interest for most RPG fans.
Asian RPGs influence many of the game mechanics. Text dialogue translates the original acting, this allows you to hear the tone and flow as the developers intended. This goes deeper still with some fantastic Manga and Anime inspired character models and battle animations. This adds flair and colour to what is otherwise a rather depressing and dark landscape of war-torn buildings and cities. The team selection and inventory was also well designed. You choose to select which 4 additional fighters you wish to take into battle with you. This freedom allowed you total control over the tactics you wished to use, and your own gameplay style.
The levelling up and character progression impressed me. XP is awarded after fights, and can be spent on one of 3 branches of a skill tree. Whatever you choose allows an attack or defence option in fights and can help to turn battles in your favour. Alongside this, you may purchase upgrades for each individual skill. This allows you to concentrate on the parts of each hero that work with your approach and make the strongest team possible. It gave me a real sense of ownership over how the game was flowing, and I really enjoyed this micromanagement element.
Clunky, clunky, clunky.
Did anyone mention that this is clunky? Walking animations appear like they belong on a Sega Saturn, battles are slow and arduous, and though I liked the fight animations, the Anime/Manga ones took forever to complete. Large maps become the bane of your life as walking from one end to the other takes an eternity. The camera angle is terrible, and navigating any of the cities is a monotonous task. Unfortunately, for all the good elements, there are plenty that brings this crashing back down to earth. With so much going for it, the desperate attempts of pleasing many people came back to bite the developers in the posterior. Too many cooks spoil the broth, or in this case, spoil the detail in the gameplay. None of these things that have been mentioned ruin the game, it just makes you sigh as you plod along.
A vast world and replayable battles.
Though the story isn’t the most original penned script you’ll ever read, it sits in the background supporting the main concept, the battles. A large 2D world slowly opens up to allow you to choose each fight that you have already faced. Each one has a 3 star rating that must be achieved through set objectives. At the beginning these are unobtainable, and shouldn’t be considered. You may think “That’s pointless!” I thought that until I realised that it’s created for challenge and replay value.
It’s a clever way to ensure that players will continue playing through as their characters level up, purchase better equipment, and become a stronger unit. I really applaud CooCooSqueaky for this approach. It was almost laughable when you returned to the earlier fights, mowing through your opponents.
It’s a mixed bag presentation.
This colourful and detailed RPG will have you loving its landscapes and environments, but loathing its chunky character models. The battle areas are well designed and offer a tactical challenge. The animation for the attacks is well thought out, but I can’t get over how poorly you move through any of the cities. This is further compounded with a badly optimised camera, and difficult to navigate locations. Places of interest are highlighted with a white orb, but these are hard to see, making it a mess to look at. It’s a shame the quality of the backdrop couldn’t have been replicated across much of the rest of the game.
Alongside the brilliantly integrated acting, a classic RPG style soundtrack plays out. The high energy music with a magical medieval tone sets the scene nicely. The sound effects from the team moving and attacking were nice, and each had their own repertoire of sounds. Though it wasn’t mind blowing, it did well to support the action, and created character traits for each of the warriors.
The controls were lacking.
It’s sad when a good game is let down by unintuitive controls. Unfortunately, this is the case in Tears of Avia. At every point it feels like you are battling an invisible force. Nothing runs smoothly, and you are constantly willing for it to work with you, not against you. It’s all serviceable, and the game is playable, it’s simply not as user friendly as it should have been.
Alongside the delightful choice of replayable battles, a challenging achievement list will draw you back in to keep playing. The in-depth skill tree, and the combination of teammates means that each playthrough never needs to be the same. The developers spent a lot of time ensuring that its fans would want to keep playing, lets hope that its shortcomings don’t put them off.
Many positives, many negatives.
This was one of those games that left me confused with how I felt about it. I loved so many of its key ideas that I wanted to keep playing, but I was constantly battling its negatives. It’s not the best title in this category, but it’s also not the worst by a long way. At only £16.99 you get a lot of value for money, as long as you can forgive its mistakes. If you want a copy, it can be purchased here! Do I recommend it, I actually do! The positives just about outweigh its downsides, and most of them are cosmetic, so they can be ignored. If you play this, you must save the world of Estera from a power hungry demon. Can you gather your team and collect all the “Tears” before Vylenkine does?