13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a RPG, almost visual novel-esque title from Vanillaware. Published by Atlus, a company renowned for their expertise in RPG titles, you’d expect 13 Sentinels to be of the same caliber. To which it definitely is. Anyone searching for an engaging and heavily story based experience with dabbles of RTS will want to check this one out.
A mosaic of motives
The game explores the story of 13 protagonists. All of which are fighting an alien threat with the aid of advanced mech suits. So as you can probably imagine, 13 storylines are presented to the player to follow. Initially it is incredibly difficult to get to grips with what is happening. Who is who, and where this all feeds into itself. But after spending a good handful of hours with 13 Sentinels things begin to come together and make a lot of sense. The way players can approach these different storylines is completely different to an experience someone else may have. In a way, it makes what feels like an entirely unique experience to play through the game. There isn’t any right or wrong option, though there are consequences to your actions.
Each character you follow is pursuing the main conflict for a different purpose which is explained during their chapters. In turn, they all have their own actions and distinct style to combat which comes into play during the RTS element to the title. Piecing together the storyline of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is definitely not linear. Rather than beginning with one character and slowly introducing yourself to the 12 other protagonists, the whole thing unfolds similar to a George R.R. Martin novel. The player needs to slot together the pieces of the whole jigsaw before things really start to make sense, which is what makes this title so unique. The only downside is how long it takes to really get to grips with what is going on.
A space to think
Rather than following point after point of the same character, there’s a lot of room open for interpretation and speculation. Which is the main point I absolutely adored about this game. There is so much to keep you on your toes and there is so much to take into consideration. And when you think you’re finished, you can play again. You might not necessarily receive the same gameplay as the first time. This style of narrative can be extremely detrimental to gameplay if it isn’t done well. There isn’t much room for alright with a narrative so multiversal. Vanillaware makes it approachable and despite its initial confusion, very easy to understand when the ball gets rolling.
The main menu allows players to access an archive of information for each character. So should you be invested in one protagonist and forget the motives of another, you can easily go back and recap. I loved this feature. Mostly because my brain is like a sieve when it comes to remembering more than three things maximum. Having an archive of everything I need to know in a place that’s easily accessible definitely made my time with this game more enjoyable.
Aside from a story
Although the majority of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is dialogue based, encouraging a firm engagement with the story rather than any technical gameplay, there are several different elements throughout which give it more of a video game feel. When ‘suiting up’ and finally diving into the advanced mech technology, the game takes on a downward perspective on the cityscape and a real time strategy approach to combat.
During these sequences, you play as several suited protagonists and engage in a ‘stop and go’ combat. You take turns as each character planning out moves and utilizing different strengths to fend off the alien threat. Each mech suit has a cool down period. Allowing you the time to really think about how you’re going to play your next move. You use EP, which is sort of like mana, so you do have to think about your plays rather than rinsing the most powerful move.
There’s also space to upgrade your defensive and offensive strategy by gaining meta chips once a battle has been won. As the game progresses, obviously you’re likely to gain more of these and unlock more powerful upgrades. It also gives you something to aim for when engaging in battle. Rather than just doing it to pass the time until the next chapter comes along.
The aegis aesthetic
The appearance of this game deserves a special shout out too. Even though there isn’t much depth to how locations look in terms of perspective, every location is riddled with details. It is a stunning game to sit and admire, taking on a hand-drawn, watercolor style to it. The thirteen protagonists are easy to recognise without radiating a prominent ‘main character’ style. So they fit into the scenarios and locations they are in. The mech suits are towering without seeming out of place, and everything is neatly pulled together. It’s clear that the style of this game has been carefully thought out and executed to perfection. If the story doesn’t keep you coming back, the art style more than likely will.
As a whole, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is an incredibly engaging game. It is equal parts entertaining and compelling whilst remaining fun and light. It’s super easy to pick up and pass the time, and is something that I constantly find myself thinking about. The story is thick enough to really sink your teeth into. There’s enough depth to keep you coming back to it time and time again. If you’re a fan of previously published titles from Atlus and Vanillaware, then I cannot recommend this enough.