Growlanser: Heritage of War - Staff Review  

War, Hugh, What is it Good For
by Jesse Cherry

Click here for game information
40 to 60 hours
Click here for scoring definitions 

    Peace. How do we obtain it? Using violence to stop violence, is that the answer? Should one sacrifice the lives of a few to save the lives of many? To find the answers to these profound questions, either sign up for a philosophy class at the local learning annex, or waste $50 on one of the worst RPGs for the PS2.

   Growlanser: Heritage of War takes place in a world where four countries are in a constant state of... well, war. A group of several men that share a vision of peace build a powerful weapon called the Admonisher, in turn creating a cold war. The main idea of the plot is not bad. There are many parallels that could have been drawn to modern history, but every time the game tries to do this, the dialogue ruins any chance of an intriguing plot. Mixed into the political theme is a tacked on story about monsters called screapers that are terrorizing the land. All this does is weaken the focus of the game and adds on an overdone fantasy clichè of a theme that isn't needed.

   It is hard to say if it was poor translation or bad source material, but the writing in Heritage of War is some of the worst in any RPG. The grammar and the sentence structure is perfectly fine, but the actual content of the dialogue is what makes it awful. To really understand this mangled Shakespearian-type poetry, here is an example from the game (not exact quotes, but close enough to the real thing).

   The player fights a group of "evil" bandits and strikes them down with their righteous blade.

   Player's Character: "Why do you bandits do bad things, when people are already in so much trouble?"

   Bandits: "Because we don't know any better."

   Player's Character: "If you join us and do good things, good things will happen to you."

   Bandits: "We're sorry, we won't be bad anymore."

With a Rebel Yell With a Rebel Yell

   Now granted, this isn't a word for word retelling, but it is close. It just screams afterschool special. Voice acting isn't the worst but it isn't that good either. Most of the time it is hard to tell if it is the voice actor that is bad or the script they are reading from.

   Most games in this genre start off slow, usually due to tutorials and some back-story, but Heritage of War takes it to a whole new level by forcing players to trudge through eight hours worth of prologues. The purpose of the first eight hours is to establish a back-story and develop some of the leading characters, but because of the game's poor writing this tactic is lost. To top things off, once entering the main story line almost all of the information in the prologues is retold, thus leaving any sensible gamer scratching their head to why Atlus even chose to put the first eight hours in the game.

   It is the year 2007 and the PS2 has been out for so long that developers can really milk the system, and yet, Heritage of War looks like a PS1 game at best. Yes, the game did come out last year in Japan, but one year isn't that old. Backgrounds are mostly painted on with the exception of a couple rocks and buildings. This should mean that Atlus would have been able to create some phenomenal looking scenery, but instead, the game just looks generic and out of focus. Several of the towns look identical to each other, and except for the occasional snow on the ground, the forests, which makes up most of the games assets, only differ from the placement of trees. Heritage of War did try something new at least, this is the first time the Growlanser series has used 3D character models... too bad this third dimension only makes things look 1/3 more worse than the previous 2D models. Character models have poorly drawn animations and wear some of the most out of place costumes. The main character is an orphan that grew up in a town of southerners, yet he is decked out in a pair of red leather pants and a tight tank top with chains. While everyone else listened to Toby Keith, he was a die hard Billy Idol fan, that is the only logical conclusion. Even worse looking than the human characters are the enemies. Sometimes enemies may resemble a weird bumpy black blob, other times it is a bumpy grey blob, or a bumpy green blob, and if it isn't blob like it is a polygon block with arms and legs. If the rest of the game was good, the graphics could be overlooked, but it is not.

    All of the music breaks down into several categories: happy town tune, eclectic flute forest theme, sad grim future song, and intense battle breakout. The songs are just blatant copycats of previous SNES classics. That's right SNES, the Super Nintendo, a system that came out over ten years ago. This is the PS2, but, of course, using old sounding technology makes perfect sense. The music isn't that good to begin with, and the game beats it into the player's head by repeating the same handful of tracks over and over again. By the end of the game players will begin to devlope a hate for the woodwind classic flute, because about every time while not in a town the forest song will play, and play and play, till it drives the them mad.

   Heritage of War is a self-proclaimed tactical RPG. The problem with this is the tactical part seems to have been left out of the equation. The game is so easy that the player needs to do little more than tap the x button. The player controls their set of up to four characters in a real-time battle system. Only the main character is directly controllable, the others must be given commands to attack, cast spells and defend. The game does give the player the option to command their team, but most of the time it is adequate enough to put the AI on auto and let them handle themselves. Sometimes the player may need to participate in the battle to tell their allies to heal, but mostly the x button (regular attack) is efficient enough. The oddest thing that the game suffers from is frame rate issues. How does a game this graphically inept slow down when running on the PS2? It boggles the mind.

Turn it off while there is still time! Turn it off while there is still time!

   The torture doesn't stop there. Players will be sent on constant fetch quests that will send them back and forth to places they have been over a dozen times. Another obnoxious staple in this game is that most of the time when entering a town, the game forces the player to wander around talking to every NPC until they find the right one to advance the story. Sometimes the game even makes the player talk to the same NPC several times before they say the correct thing. This is the just horrible game design. Being forced to wander aimlessly around town is bad enough, but having to somehow know that the NPC won't give the correct information until the second time talking to them is absurd. There is an ability tree but because of the game's difficulty these skills are unneeded other than an occasional healing spell. Even the game agrees that the ability tree is pointless, because it doesn't even bother to explain how to use it except for in the manual. So if the game doesn't believe it is important enough to explain then why waste the time to talk about it.

   Atlus decided to only produce one print run of Heritage of War and that is probably the smartest decision that they made in this whole process. There are fans of this series, and on message boards they proclaim their love for this title, but if series fandom isn't blinding judgement, this game is not even worth 10 minutes of anyone's time. Bad script, bad characters, bad gameplay, nothing worth playing is brought to this disaster of a PS2 RPG. It is hard to think of the last time so little fun was had playing a video game. After the initial prolouge the game does give about an hour of fun, but one hour out of over 40 is not good enough. So how do we stop war, we threaten everyone to play this game, the fear alone will establish peace throughout the world.

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