Days of Future Past
God Wars: The Complete Legend is an expanded edition of the 2017 game God Wars: Future Past, a tactical role-playing game inspired by ancient Japanese myths. True to its subtitle, this collection includes not only the original game, but a significant helping of new post-game content that fans of strategy RPGs can enjoy.
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God Wars tells the tale of Kaguya, a girl whose mother sacrificed her sister to Mt. Fuji to calm the enraged gods. Afterwards, Kaguya was imprisoned so that she could one day become the next sacrifice. Years later, a boy named Kintaro frees her, and she decides to search for her mother, who mysteriously went missing. The narrative of Kaguya’s broken family is compelling, but the story slows down and dulls as more characters are introduced. Regardless, I appreciate the characters and lore have roots in Japanese mythology.
The game richly tells the story through traditional ink painting-based artwork, voiced segments, and full animated cutscenes. I liked the characters’ sharp designs and 3D super-deformed models. Although some of the English voices feel either forced or subdued, the Japanese language option makes that point moot. The music, a pleasant mix of traditional Japanese instruments and rallying drum-heavy battle themes, is composed well. However, it’s a somewhat limited soundtrack, so be prepared to hear some tunes repeatedly. I never experienced slowdown whether playing on the TV or the Nintendo Switch tablet, but it’s worth noting there’s no touch screen support. Each battlefield is a floating 3D sandbox, only differentiated by terrain color, non-interactable buildings, and elevation. It’s a basic design, but one that fits the classic tactical RPG gameplay.
In a style similar to games like Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics, God Wars uses a grid and turn-based system. In every round, each warrior takes turns moving around the grid-shaped battlefield and performing an action, such as attacking or defending. They can also use skills, which run the gamut of strong magic spells, helpful buffs or debuffs, and crippling status effects. Victory conditions for most missions involve eliminating all enemies or a difficult boss, a structure which may wear thin over time. If you’ve played other tactical RPGs, God Wars probably sounds derivative, and it’s true there isn’t much that sets it apart. That doesn’t prevent it from being a solid iteration. In fact, it’s how the game cherry-picks its strategy mechanics that suggest the developers focused on making this game work effectively as opposed to breaking new ground.
For instance, terrain, height, and direction are all factors that affect your strength and accuracy, which is common in the genre. During battle, characters inflict more damage and if they attack from behind and above. You can influence this by deciding whether you move before or after performing an action in addition to choosing which direction you face at the end of your turn. This opens up options for hit-and-run tactics or turtling strategies in which your party moves as a huddled unit. An additional mechanic known as Impurity causes opponents to be more prone to attacking certain targets, leading to micromanagement that involves reducing your weaker characters’ Impurity and transferring it to your bulkier ones. Skill activation is also well thought out. Instead of starting with full MP, you recover the necessary points to cast spells and special attacks every turn. Furthermore, there are secret skills requiring you to fill a shared flower gauge that can turn the tide of battle. Neither are original concepts, but it’s nonetheless cathartic to patiently absorb damage then unleash devastating attacks.
Character progression is the biggest highlight. God Wars uses a job system, in which every character has a main, sub, and unique job out of a couple dozen. Your party members can switch effortlessly from one job to another, and you select which abilities to unlock through skill trees. While active skills don’t carry over between jobs, passive ones like stat boosts and permanent effects do, leading to an enjoyable process of mixing and matching attributes. My biggest complaint is with the equipment shop, which oddly doesn’t show you how weapons and armor will affect your stats. Instead, there’s a convoluted system where you “try on” recommended clothes. Another inconvenience is that despite there being 14 characters to choose from, most story levels require two specific ones to always be in the party. As you can usually only bring five or six members into battle, it’s a baffling limitation.
I also liked how death is handled in this game. There is no permanent death, and when a character initially falls during battle, you have five rounds to revive them before they retreat, leading to tense moments where I was rushing to save my allies. Also worth noting is the auto-battle system. The AI doesn’t make the best decisions, but they’re competent enough for the dozens of sidequests, which you’ll probably have to do to keep your party levels high. To be fair, leveling is efficient, but you’ll still likely need to endure a repetitive grind, if not during the main story, then for the ridiculous difficulty spike at the final boss.
The Complete Legend edition is worth finishing as the new content is exclusively post-game. This includes the DLC, which consists of episodes using characters whom you likely never used. By far, the main attraction is the brand new Labyrinth of Yomi, a dungeon consisting of many floors, each hosting a battle. The marathon of fights sounds daunting, but players who enjoy the main campaign will get a kick out of the increased difficulty, higher-level enemies, and performance rankings. Thankfully, you can take breaks between each floor.
In addition, the expanded content features a handful of new playable characters, all of whom sport new unique skills and come with a healthy reserve of job points that you can freely allot to any desired skills. The new party members are refreshing, and their backstories wonderfully expand upon the base tale. Even if you don’t want to use them, the level cap and some skill caps are increased so you can beef up your older characters. Finally, a new game+ mode and a bonus Super Hard difficulty further increase replay value, resulting in a complete package that adds many potential hours to the already 35-40 hour campaign.
God Wars: The Complete Legend is a solid, albeit straightforward tactics RPG with a fascinating setting and a compelling progression system. The gameplay is admittedly unoriginal, but the turn-based battles are cognitively stimulating and exciting to play out. The game has its issues including the repetition of gameplay and music, as well as frustrating difficulty spikes and some middling side stories. Nevertheless, it’s a great Switch port with meaty post-game goodies that will please fans of the original and enthusiasts of strategy RPGs.
Note: A review copy was used for this article.