Inspired by Japanese legend and folk lore, God Wars: The Complete Legend is a tactical RPG developed by the folks over at Kadokawa Games which hopes to expand and improve on the original release of this game, previously known as God Wars: Future Past. Originally released in 2017 on the PS4 and Vita, NIS America has brought this new version to the west in the hopes of improving the franchise’s standing and improve on the lukewarm reception it initially received. But can a switch to the Switch give God Wars a true home or will it simply end up forgotten?
At first glance it’s easy to overlook God Wars. The plot itself begins as quite a generic JRPG affair anchored in reality. You play as Kaguya, princess of Fuji and a captive of the local authorities. Previously, as is mentioned at the start, her sister was sacrificed to appease the angry gods. Shortly after, her mother disappeared, and she was locked up as a kind of backup sacrifice. 13 years later, she is rescued by Kintaro (who I can only presume was a gardener at some point?) and Kuma; a literal bear and presumed myriad god. She and her band of merry followers tour around Japan getting involved in all sorts of fights, political intrigue and mythical antics. The plot does begin slowly, but picks up after a while as the action begins to ebb and flow. Characters are introduced slowly but surely, with quite a large cast being introduced over the course of the game. A personal favourite of mine is Aome, the Scantily-Clad Dandy. She’s an abrasive character but at the point she’s introduced it’s nice to have some female contrast added to the party…and Yknow, she’s a blue Catgirl secretary.
There are plenty of tropes to talk about in God Wars, and I’m not sure how to feel about that. There’s nothing wrong with including tropes; they are very much the bread and butter of many RPGs, but it does mean you see a lot of developments coming. As you’d probably guess there’s a damsel in distress (cleric) who runs off with a handsome young man (fighter), who also happens to have a cheeky pet. More than once I’ve felt Déjà vu, and whilst many won’t mind this I can’t help but feel like it isn’t delivered in the best way. Yes, there are a variety of scenes where characters interact which overlay visual-novel portraits over the in-game engine, but they feel strangely disconnected and I’ve found myself wondering more than once like I’d missed something, despite having been watching intently. The plot just doesn’t flow as it should at times, and I dare say it feels very much a modern game stuck in the past.
The combat exacerbates this issue. Tactical RPG’s often struggle to feel fluid and satisfying due to their turn-based nature, but whilst some have found unique ways to help this issue God Wars can feel fiddly and tedious, with very little in the way of effective tutorial to be found in the game itself. As an example, I found myself having to google how MP recovery worked, as it felt like I was always out of MP on certain characters. It was vaguely mentioned that you regain it naturally, but it also turns out that you gain different amounts based on the actions you took in previous turns. The combat takes place as you’d expect; you place your characters and they then take turns to move around and attack using both standard attacks and special abilities. The action takes place isometrically on a 3D square-based plane which can be turned to get a better look at placements and you have to really take note of the direction your characters are facing and height variation etc. At it’s core the system; which helpfully gives you XCOM-like percentages; works well and is fun, but it just doesn’t feel as enjoyable as it could and realistically should given the lessons learnt through similar titles. I just kept finding myself thinking “I wish I was playing Disgaea 5.” Like the aforementioned, the publisher has also been touting that the game packs in over 100hrs of gameplay, though I’m unsure how much of that will be meaningful given the repetitive nature of much of it.
One element of God Wars I love is the amount of customisation possible within the game’s various systems. Each character has their own unique class which only they can access, alongside a main class which is permanent and a side class. All three level up simultaneously during the game and have separate job-point pools, allowing you to tailor each character’s skill-set to the playstyle you desire them to have. Because of the pools, unlocking abilities and skills feels quite quick and early on you realise just how much flexibility this gives you. For example, early on I set Kintaro’s side job as priest, allowing him to heal Kuma, who was tanking very effectively. Kuma was also running Magician, meaning he had access to an ability which swaps HP damage for MP damage, further increasing his survivability. As you level each job up you unlock more jobs to use, further extending the flexibility available.
The visual quality varies quite rapidly. I don’t think much of the 3D environments, but the character models are nicely rendered in the world with a distinct style shown on each one. The graphics excel in the visual-novel-styled conversation segments, with lovely 2D anime-styled art accompanying each character. The sound design is also pretty good with some excellent voice acting accompanying some of the plot.
All in all then, can I recommend God Wars? If you played and loved the original version, or are an experienced tactical RPG player looking for something nostalgic, you will probably like this rerelease, as the additional content adds a lot to the experience and the flexibility which the switch offers can’t be underestimated. However, if you are new to this style of game or got into the genre due to Disgaea, you may struggle to appreciate certain elements of the combat and the art style.