Platforms: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
[Review code provided by Visualnoveler]
In recent years, video games – especially RPGs – have started to become very complex. Complicated skill trees and systems upon systems, expansive open worlds riddled with more side quests than you could possibly have time for. These games offer a lot, but they can also be overwhelming or even tedious.
Sometimes simple is better.
That brings us to Eternal Radiance, an action JRPG/visual novel hybrid developed by Visualnoveler. It tells the story of Celeste, a young woman who aspires to become a worthy knight of the Ashen Order. When an important mission goes awry, Celeste sets out against orders to make things right. Along the way, she allies herself with Valana (a cold and surly mercenary) and Ruby (a powerful mage and researcher) as – each for their own reasons – the trio pursue a mysterious thief.
Although the story of Eternal Radiance isn’t revolutionary, it’s still very enjoyable. Parts of it are certainly predictable, but there are a few nice little surprises as well. Friendship, trust and betrayal are prominent themes throughout the story. While each of the girls goes through their own arc, they’re all woven together tightly and the story never gets derailed. It’s quite well written throughout.
Eternal Radiance also has a charming and memorable cast of side-characters, many of whom enjoy their own little arcs. As with the main plot, their stories are neatly woven together and occasionally intersect. Their dialogue often updates after plot beats, reflecting the state of affairs as you go on. I found myself looking forward to checking in to see what everyone had to say. This approach also helped me pick up side quests at a steady pace.
As for the ‘action JRPG’ part of the game, it’s fairly standard fare. You have strong attacks, light attacks, and special skills. There’s also dodging, blocking and parrying. Players navigate distinctly themed areas, with extra goodies hidden in various corners of the map. As they slay enemies, they level up and gather gold and other resources. There’s a skill-tree, and armour and weapons can be enchanted. As I say, it’s pretty standard fare.
The combat is probably best described as competent. It’s not very complicated, nor is it very flashy. You’ll probably settle on a few skills that you like and stick with them. Ruby and Valana (who cannot be controlled) are fairly good at staying out of the way and using skills when they need to. However, they would occasionally get bullied to death out of sight, or wander off and pick on a straggler themselves.
Controlling the action isn’t too bad – the controls are responsive enough, though at times a bit fiddly. Locking on would frequently pick any target but the one I was looking at, and the trigger combos to launch finishing moves wouldn’t always work. Otherwise, it’s perfectly functional.
Beyond the gripes, fighting is pretty fun. However, if you’re the ‘check every corner, fight every baddy sort’, you might find yourself growing tired of it. The fights aren’t too challenging overall, but things can get messy when a lot of enemies with projectiles are involved. The game gets a lot easier when you have all three party members, but it’s still possible to get overwhelmed by off-screen magic lasers. Ironically, the bosses are often easier than the dungeons, since they’re usually one-on-one encounters.
All that said, Eternal Radiance is a very solid little JRPG. I was able to clear the story and every side-quest in about 15 hours. It ended at the perfect time and didn’t overstay it’s welcome.
It’s not a graphical powerhouse (although the illustrations are lovely), nor is the gameplay terribly deep. The music is good, but there’s no voice acting. These things may disappoint some players.
However, I think it’s worth checking out. The writing is great, the combat gets the job done, and ultimately, it’s £15. That’s a very attractive price for the product you get.
In the end, Eternal Radiance doesn’t aspire to be any more than it needs to be. Visualnoveler aimed to tell a lighthearted, character driven tale, and they did a great job of it. I’ll be looking forward to more.
At £15, it’s hard not to recommend Eternal Radiance. It’s a short and sweet JRPG that doesn’t drag it’s feet or pad itself out. While the combat is a bit unpolished, it’s still good enough to get by. Meanwhile, writing is the game’s strong point – while the story isn’t treading new ground, it still treads that ground well.