Currently incomplete but that doesn’t mean there is any reason why you can’t currently start enjoying it. We all know a little bit of something good can definitely give you a taste for more of the same.
Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG
Release date: 14 Apr, 2020
Currently only the first three chapters are available. I held off posting this review until my deadline approached in case the developer added more content but unfortunately I will still have to wait to see how the story unfolds next. Currently, the first three chapters are fairly fleshed out and span over multiple areas. There is a decent amount of backtracking and some of the controls are a little confusing but overall considering it is Early Access there is a pretty decent game here.
Eternal Radiance is a hybrid Visual Novel and Action Adventure RPG. It starts out with a Squire who is tasked with a quest that will allow her to finally become a Knight, something she has dreamed of being for a very long time. Well, I won’t spoil the story or tell what happens next, but I can say things don’t exactly go as planned. As a Visual Novel there is a lot of text and story elements to work through, including a generous amount of purely text-based side quests. There are plenty of choice points as well that allow you to shape how your character responds, but as the game is unfinished, I’m not certain if they have any kind of deep-seated long term impact to how the story unfolds or are just flavour text for that particular conversation. Despite the extended dialogue-heavy segments that the game starts out with, there is actually another component to this game and it is actually very well done for a Visual Novel hybrid game.
Often times when playing a Visual Novel hybrid, the focus is primarily on the story development and the gameplay comes as a distant afterthought. Eternal Radiance actually has a fairly robust combat system with branching skill trees to support it. You have plenty of options to choose from in combat and it expands as you gain more characters. Melee attacks make use of your weapon and are free to use. You can defend yourself by taking on a defensive stance to reduce damage or by darting around to avoid damage entirely. Ranged and other abilities come at the cost of energy/magic but that can be restored easy enough. Your companions are mostly AI controlled but you can still trigger their special moves or bonuses when available. Until I was almost finished what was available in the game I mostly focused on just using my sword rather than trying to use my ranged abilities. This was simply because I was saving my energy in case I needed a quick heal or to take out a flying enemy as jumping to hit them was sometimes challenging.
Speaking of challenges, the game’s difficulty is adjustable and for some strange reason I got it in my head I should play on the hardest setting which meant the fights sometimes took a while and hurt quite badly if I made a mistake. Trying the easy setting later, caused the game to feel way too uneventful as I more or less became an unstoppable killing machine with the skills I had developed playing on the hardest setting. The normal difficulty felt challenging enough to keep the game interesting but was not as punishing as the harder difficulty setting and kept the enemies from being damage sponges.
Combat in this game is the hack and slash enemy swarm kind. You will see large groups of enemies in an area and if you get too close to them they will begin to chase you. You will have to battle your way through the massed hordes in order to get some experience points to help level yourself up. You can technically run past most enemies if you perhaps turn a little cowardly or really just don’t feel like fighting them right at that moment, but you will likely leave your companions behind if you do that. They will eventually teleport and catch up to you, but not before they hurt themselves fighting the battles you bailed on.
Exploring is rewarded! While the stores sell you weapons, armor, accessories and other things to help you in your quest, you will find chests tucked away in the various nooks and crannies of the map. In these chests, you will find everything you could possibly need to make your adventure a success. They are not marked on your map, but usually you can tell where they will be waiting for you to discover based on the design of the map and mini-map itself. Is there a passage that goes nowhere on the mini-map? Probably a chest or two down there! Is there a weird outwards shaped bump? Chest! Is there a big conspicuous rock on the map? Chest! It actually made me run around the map a few times just to ensure I found everything before moving on because the stuff you find is usually much better than what the stores have for sale. It is a bit of luck that your own character, as well as all of your companions, takes the same size in armor. This is apparent because you can share your armor (and accessories) freely regardless of the class of the characters. The weapons, however, are not shared and so far remain unique to each character.
I will admit at this point that exploring the over-world/dungeons and combat did get a bit tedious due to the enemies mostly getting recycled from one area to the next with simply a new dye job and no other real differences to them. This meant every battle felt kind of like a speed bump to grind though rather than an enjoyable challenge. I’m not quite sure if this is the final design or just an artifact of the game being in Early Access. It’s not uncommon for enemies to get recycled in games, especially visual novel hybrids, but it seems a little more excessive in this game just due to the volume of enemies you battle through while you explore each map thoroughly. The same went with exploring. Getting gear was nice (except when it is a duplicate weapon and only one person can use it) but most of the chests were not overly worth the effort of hunting down (example: only containing two small potions) but at the same time, missing one could mean you having to do without a powerful new piece of gear so it kind of forced your hand to make you keep looking.
The story of the game, which I won’t spoil, is a bit drawn out dialogue-wise in places but I actually didn’t mind that. Some of it seemed a little repetitive and some of it felt a little pointless but it helped with the character development. One of the first problems you face is a trivial one debating over desserts which juxtaposes to the issues you will face later on involving deserts. There are prompts for you to pick as mentioned earlier but I don’t believe they really have much impact to the story. There is one quest that gives you an option of which person to give an item to, but other than having the other character complain that you didn’t give it to them, there didn’t appear to be any kind of major impact to the story. The story is delivered purely by text on screen. Currently there is no spoken dialogue in the game. It’s actually not a bad thing because most of the time in these sorts of games they are not speaking English anyway and because my mind usually will assign a voice to the dialogue for me to the point I sometimes don’t even realize they are not actually talking. I might just be weird though, who knows!
All things considered, this is actually a really good looking game. The character details and visuals are all far better than you would expect from a smaller development team. All the characters you meet have their own unique look from the grizzled short-tempered fisherman to an accident-prone pyromaniac. Even the areas you explore are very good looking albeit a bit generic in appearance right now. I’m sure as the game develops, more details and filler will be added to help liven up the otherwise long-empty tracts of enemy laden lands.
The music in the game works well and was quite enjoyable to listen to. I actually have the title screen music playing as I write this. The general sound effects are nothing overly grand but they don’t really have to be. They get the job done and can always be enhanced later if the Developer actually feels a need to. As mentioned there is no spoken dialogue so there is nothing to really judge there.
Controls and User Interface
I used a gamepad for this title as I usually prefer those for JRPGs. It worked well and most of the time the buttons were mapped in such a way that they made sense. In fact this game has so many different things you could do in combat that it required you to have to press button combinations to unlock everything. If you press the correct shoulder button it will display a shortlist of what options you have and then pressing the corresponding other button will trigger that specific ability. I did have some trouble with the combo chains though when there were no real obvious prompts. One of the things it teaches you early on is how you can dash and block and counter-attack. If you do things fast enough you can trigger additional effects, but I rarely if ever managed to pull those off. Not sure if it was on me simply not recognizing the timing or visual cues (if there were any), my controller not passing the signal fast enough, or if the instructions were not clear enough. One of my sidequests was tracking me pulling those moves off and three chapters later and I still have not completed that quest! The menus are used extensively in town and it makes it easy for you to find optional dialogues that you have not yet witnessed as well as the mandatory ones. When outside of the city, it is easy to use the menus to equip your gear or level up your character. One thing that I did have a bit of an issue with was the mini-map hotkey being linked to pressing (clicking) my directional controls. I’m not sure if my gamepad is just getting overly sensitive with age or if the game was misinterpreting the signals but I often found myself accidentally expanding the mini-map repeatedly as I jumped and dashed around in combat. It might have been nicer being tied to a different button by default. The game does tell you that you can fast travel when you are at a save point, but it actually took me a while to figure out how it worked. It said you can press a certain button on the menu and you can do it but pressing that button seemed to interact with the save rather than actually letting me fast travel. It turns out it wasn’t talking about the save point menu, but the game’s actual menu. Once I straightened that out it made the backtracking far more bearable!
So, should you pick Eternal Radiance? It’s still in Early Access so if you absolutely must play the entire game all in one go, then you might want to wait a while for the game to be developed and fleshed out more. If you don’t mind it being treated like a British television series with new episodes being released periodically, then it’s probably worth checking out. Helping to fund the development of the title right now can hopefully lead to bigger, brighter and better things in the future. The game can get quite tedious as you grind through dungeons searching for interactive objects but the game does a good job of drawing your attention to it most of the time. Being able to fast travel via the save points definitely makes the game more enjoyable when you have to backtrack. Sure walking back has the advantage of gaining experience and possibly finding chests you missed, but it can be a little gruelling to kill the same monsters repeatedly as you run back and forth through the area. The story is humorous and compelling enough to keep you interested even though it isn’t exactly the most original story ever told. The characters are all likeable and the odd couple relationship of the protagonist and the mercenary is a bit refreshing from the standard “Hey, I just met you and this is crazy, but here’s my allegiance, so let’s adventure maybe?” It’s a game I will be keeping an eye on and look forward to playing when there is new content.