Gameplay, Story and Value:
We’ll start off by talking about the story, because, full disclosure, I have NO IDEA what’s going on in this game. I think I’m a secret agent… or something… I’m infliltrating a place, because reasons, to do something about a thing. I do not handle political story lines well, hell, I can barely follow Game of Thrones…
I can’t follow Game of Thrones…
There’s a few exceptions to this, Final Fantasy XII being a notable one, but despite my best efforts I couldn’t follow the going-ons of Vagrant Story. I was just a guy, with a sword, in a dungeon, slaying monsters. Honestly, that wouldn’t matter to much to me if it weren’t for the fact that the gameplay was really just “okay”. There’s a lot of great ideas going on in this game, ideas that would go on to be used to much greater effect in future games, but here they come off as somewhat clunky.
Combat works off a risk vs reward system, where targeting specific parts of monsters may deal more damage, but comes at the cost of accuracy. In addition, a well timed button press after landing your strike will chain another attack. These attacks increase your RISK level, which in turn increases both the damage you deal and receive, as well as lowering your accuracy. The challenge comes in balancing and managing your RISK so as to deal maximum damage while not sacrificing too much in survivability or accuracy. It’s an interesting system, but also reveals one of the game’s major flaws, which is that if it weren’t for reading through a very long guide within the menu system as well as reading online, I would have never know how any of this stuff works! Vagrant Story really doesn’t explain anything to you, both mechanically as well as in its story. Obviously with enough interest it’s possible to get everything figured out, and get a better handle on the story, but for me it didn’t really feel worth the investment.
Boss encounters were probably the highlight of the game for me as the required both quick thinking and strategy, as well as providing some great set pieces. There’s really a lot to talk about when in comes to systems in this game, like, a lot a lot, but to be honest I still don’t have the strongest grasp of how everything works myself.
Presentation, Music and Sound:
The visuals in the game are decent, though they haven’t aged very well. It’s nice seeing details like facial animations during in-engine cutscenes, and everything had sort of a Final Fantasy 8 feel to it. All decent, but again it doesn’t really hold up. I will say that the cutscenes do come together really well, providing some tense and dramatic moments. The environments, at least the ones I saw, tended to be bland and blurry, sort of like what you’d see in an early Tomb Raider game. While I never really had a problem with this, they didn’t do the game any favors when it came to keeping me interested either.
The music was perfectly fitting for the game, enhancing the atmosphere when it was used, though honestly none of the tracks are particularly memorable. The sound effects were also good, though the lack of any kind of voice acting was especially noticeable in this game for some reason.
I had some genuinely fun moments here, but I just couldn’t hold interest. This had a lot to do with outside circumstances, sure, but I was feeling disenchanted with Vagrant Story well before that. I wanted to like this one, and if someone gives me a really compelling reason to revisit it then I’ll probably do so, but for it’s back to the shelf for this disc.