Atlus is an organization that’s typically been dubbed a ‘fashionable Sq.’ in that it’s turn out to be the place within the present business to get well-budgeted RPG experiences which are equal elements conventional and experimental. It might be recognized most for its Persona and Shin Megami Tensei video games, however the firm additionally typically places out one thing decidedly extra odd, like 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. This can be a launch that might greatest be described as a visible novel, however that style description doesn’t do justice to what 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim manages to attain. No matter you wish to name it, Vanillaware’s 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is an expertise fairly not like anything on the Change proper now, and we predict you actually ought to offer it a glance.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim follows an ensemble forged of protagonists as they fend off an impending alien menace, using the facility of superior mech fits to perform their purpose. The story spans a number of many years because it follows characters in several eras, all roped into the central battle for various functions and with distinct motives driving their actions. Natsuno’s story, for instance, follows a woman with an obsession for motion pictures about aliens who discovers a cute robotic named BJ in her locker room, kicking off an journey through which she crosses time and area to assist it discover what it’s in search of.
Sekigahara’s story, then again, is about an amnesiac boy who wakes up in an alley with a useless girl subsequent to him, and his journey initially follows him attempting to piece collectively his previous whereas evading a bunch of males in black sizzling on his tail.
Maybe probably the most fascinating a part of the narrative is the way it’s conveyed to the participant; 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim unfolds as extra of a mosaic than it does a straight line. Every character’s narrative performs out throughout 10-15 minute chapters, and you’ll select to progress any character’s storyline in any order you need. The one exception to that is that doing too many consecutive chapters of 1 character’s story will ultimately result in a ‘lock’ on that character till you’ve seen sure occasions unfold in different storylines. Some characters’ tales start farther alongside within the timeline than others, they usually usually soar round many years, making all of it however sure that the chapter you simply accomplished received’t have a ton of direct continuity with the one you’re nearly to start out.
It is wonderful that the narrative works in addition to it does, regardless of this initially complicated, multidirectional method to storytelling. New plot twists come on the finish of almost each chapter, but it by no means seems like something is spoiling a growth that takes place in one other storyline. Fairly, every plot twist is supplying you with one more piece to the puzzle of the overarching thriller, as you slowly tease out an understanding of what precipitated the principle conflicts and what every character’s true motives are. It’s virtually sure that any two given gamers could have explored this narrative in a totally totally different order than one another, which makes for some fascinating discussions when speaking it by means of with another person who has performed.
The principle downside to this multidirectional method, nonetheless, is that it might take fairly some time earlier than you lastly ‘get’ what the narrative goes for. For the primary ten hours or so, it may be quite a bit to absorb as you’re sizzling potatoed from one narrative to a different and positively bombarded with a cavalcade of recent characters, time intervals, and incidents, all of that are related in methods you aren’t but conscious of. Simply if you really feel you’ve lastly discovered a foothold within the narrative, you’re whisked away to a different one which’s initially fully unrelated. All of that is necessary exposition to put the groundwork for what comes later, however it might really feel slightly overwhelming if you’re squinting at a personality and attempting to recollect in the event that they confirmed up in that one scene from an earlier storyline or in the event that they’re somebody fully new.
Fortunately, the builders knew that it could possibly be quite a bit to trace and included some useful options to assuage this. There’s a big “Evaluation” phase in the principle menu that acts as mainly a huge archive that collates all of the characters and occasions to date, supplying you with extra detailed entries to learn by means of that replace as you encounter new developments. What’s extra is that there’s a timeline which exhibits precisely when occasions occurred in relation to one another, and the gaps on this slowly turn out to be crammed in over time. Whereas it may be irksome to have to sometimes dive into basically a reference information to maintain all the small print of the narrative straight, we appreciated the forethought that went into making it as simple as potential to grasp the story.
You’ve in all probability seen that just about the whole thing of the evaluation up up to now has been in regards to the story and that’s as a result of 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is just about all constructed round dialogue. The meat of this recreation isn’t fairly a visible novel, however gameplay is extra akin to an old-school point-and-click journey. Progressing the narrative is normally so simple as discovering the following individual it’s essential speak to or the following factor within the atmosphere it’s essential look at. Often, you’ll get a brand new addition to your ‘phrase cloud’ which is kind of a stand in to your character’s interior ideas, and it’s right here that you could be taught a personality’s ideas on sure individuals or issues. Additionally, you often use it for some mild interactivity, akin to when Natsuno stuffs BJ into her health club bag.
So, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is certainly much less of a ‘recreation’ than some might want, however we’d say that it proves to be higher paced and extra attention-grabbing than many a visible novel. This isn’t simply clicking by means of 1000’s of traces of dialogue — you’re really transferring your character across the atmosphere and fascinating in comparatively temporary, pure conversations earlier than transferring onto the following factor. Every chapter being round quarter-hour retains issues from feeling like they’re dragging on too lengthy, and this quick size per chapter implies that there’s no pointless filler gumming up interactions. It seems like each scene is there to fill a particular function in driving ahead the plot and the person character’s development, making for a thrillingly well-paced expertise that simply hooks you in.
It isn’t all dialogue and interactions, nonetheless, as there’s a comparatively small portion of the general expertise that performs like a extra conventional technique recreation. In these RTS parts, proven from a prime down, city-wide perspective, you play as numerous members from the story as they’re piloting the eponymous Sentinel mechs to battle off enemy forces. The purpose is normally to both defend some extent on the map for a sure period of time or to wipe out all opposing enemy forces, and also you do that by means of an attention-grabbing ‘cease and go’ system that considerably mirrors ATB fight from Closing Fantasy. Each character has a cooldown till their mech can act, and as soon as their flip comes, all motion onscreen briefly stops to offer you time to plan out the best motion to take.
Sentinels have totally different strengths—akin to proficiency in taking down flying items or having a number of efficient shut vary choices—and you choose from a small pool of actions ruled by ‘EP’ (mainly mana) to maintain you from spamming probably the most highly effective skills. Every motion then impacts any enemies inside a given zone, which supplies you the chance to squeeze slightly extra utility out of every one in case you handle you line up your pictures good. For instance, a rail gun shot creates a slender, lengthy zone in entrance of a mech that annihilates something in its path, whereas a salvo of missile strikes all fall inside an enormous circle you place over enemy forces.
The workforce feels fairly well-rounded when it comes to offensive and defensive capabilities, and that is solely bolstered additional by how pilots and mechs could be upgraded utilizing Meta Chips you get from beating enemy encounters. New assaults and expertise could be purchased and loaded into a personality’s loadout, making their mech that rather more highly effective whereas supplying you with one thing significant to work in the direction of as you push by means of wave after wave of battles. We appreciated this effort to bolster customization amongst your workforce, and particularly preferred that there’s a inbuilt system to maintain you from favoring any characters an excessive amount of.
See, every battle has you splitting your workforce into offensive and defensive groups, with the previous being those you micromanage and order round whereas the latter hold again across the goal and battle off any enemies that slip by means of the cracks. Being on offense is taxing for the pilots, nonetheless, they usually can solely go so many battles earlier than they expertise ‘Mind Overload’ and should be cycled into the defensive workforce for just a few waves to get better. By way of this, the participant is thus incentivized to concentrate to correctly outfitting the entire workforce; no person right here actually seems like they’re caught on the ‘bench’.
Efficiency in every battle is then graded primarily based on standards like how a lot injury your workforce took, how a lot collateral injury occurred to the town, or how briskly you took down your foes, and this provides as much as the rank you obtain for that mission. Should you reach a battle, this additionally then feeds right into a ‘win streak’ that allows you to bolster your excessive rating by chaining battles collectively, however on the price that your workforce doesn’t get the possibility to restock and heal between battles. This brings in a pleasant further layer to the technique, then, as you’re not simply planning out particular person battles, however what number of battles you suppose your crew can do earlier than they should take a breather.
These RTS parts act as a pleasant palate cleanser for when it feels just like the story is changing into an excessive amount of, though it should be mentioned that the gameplay right here clearly isn’t the principle draw of the expertise. The shortage of enemy selection and various stage design makes battles mix collectively over time, and even on the more durable difficulties, a lot of the encounters aren’t all too difficult to win. Nonetheless, it’s onerous to be too bothered by any relative shallowness right here, because it’s an effective way to get a break from the story whereas nonetheless staying engaged on this planet. Not solely do these battles have a few of their very own story content material to them, however they’re additionally key to unlocking Thriller Information within the archive to be taught some necessary particulars in regards to the ongoing thriller.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim might inform a compelling story and have some fulfilling RTS segments, however all of that is boosted to a a lot larger stage by the spectacular presentation. Within the storyline phase, every scene is characterised by some impressively detailed, hand-drawn backgrounds which have an interesting painterly high quality to them. Every display appears to be like like a bit of idea artwork in one of the simplest ways, making a seamless transition from the artists’ pens to the reside recreation. The RTS segments are way more tough across the edges, however in a means that feels intentional, as in case you’re viewing a battle map by means of the lens of Sentinel. Streets are outlined with neon blue traces and enemies are represented by easy voxel designs, whereas the display shake results if you set off a bomb or unload a clip from a machine gun go a great distance in the direction of promoting the sheer weight of your actions. Plus, there are some spectacular particle results on show if you blow up a legion of foes, sending swarms of embers swirling in all instructions.
In the meantime, the sound design is stellar, with each line of dialogue having each an English and Japanese voiceover. Every actor brings one thing distinctive and memorable to their function with numerous accents and inflections, whereas the general sound high quality is pleasingly sharp, which is all of the extra spectacular contemplating that a lot of the English audio right here was recorded from the voice actors’ houses through the pandemic lockdowns. It’s onerous to say which of the English or Japanese forged is ‘definitive’ for the expertise, however whichever means you select, you’re certain to get a constantly high-quality efficiency all through the entire script.
As for the soundtrack, there’s a properly ‘cinematic’ really feel to the way in which that the music ebbs and flows with the tempo of the narrative within the storyline parts. It’ll soar from playful to severe to curious all on the drop of a hat, completely punctuating plot occasions and features of dialogue as they’re enjoying out. Within the RTS parts, the music then shifts to being way more energetic and digital to match the extraordinary and determined vibe that almost all fights have. That is the type of soundtrack that’ll have you ever looking out by means of YouTube for playlists after you’re executed with it; we’d actually advocate you play with headphones in moveable mode if potential.