Monday, April 17, 2017

Review #383: Koudelka

 Resident Fantasy I
 Koudelka is the result of a game director that wanted to make a game akin to survival horror games, but a team that wanted to develop an RPG like Square's. It's an interesting mix, akin to Parasite Eve, but with a flavor all to itself.

 The game puts you in the heels of Koudelka, a gipsy prostitute medium that finds herself in Nemeton Monastery, at the behest of a ghost that called to her. It's not too soon before she meets Edward, a man of vices and maybe a few virtues. Last to join the party is father James, a man of religion and literature. These three will bicker, fight and bond their way through the mysteries surrounding Nemeton Monastery, it's eccentric inhabitants and the creepy monsters seeking to make mincemeat out of our heroes. While the story is nothing to write home about, the main three characters are very interesting, and as unlikely as JRPG heroes get, and there're a few very poignant scenes that make you fall in love with them. The game's monster design also deserves praise, these monsters are creepy and brilliantly designed, some of these are unlike anything you've fought in any other JRPG or Survival Horror game before!
 At first glance, this sounds like a Survival Horror game. The entire game takes place inside Nemeton Monastery, there're guns as well as limited ammunition, there're puzzles that require hogging items around, and doors that have to be unlocked in order to open up shortcuts. It's pretty much a Resident Evil ripoff.... until you come across a random encounter, which is when the game's true nature surfaces.

 Battles are fought by turns, dictated by your party's agility as well as the enemies' agility. There're some strategic elements at play as well, you can move character through an invisible grid, you need to be in range if you are to attack enemies with melee weapons, but guns can bypass having to run towards your enemy, or you can simply use magic. You've to be careful though, ammunition is limited, and every melee weapon will break eventually.
 There're a few conflicting elements in the game, however. for instance, the more you use weapons, the higher your proficiency with them will be, and the more damage you'll deal with them. So you want to conserve weapons, but you also need to use them in order to enhance your abilities with them! To be fair, Koudelka's magic will do short work of most enemies in the game, and if you build Edward right, he can use his bare fists just fine.

 Speaking of building characters, when you level up you'll be granted 4 Ability Points to spread among the characters' stats. While you could build them in any way you want, you should strengthen their strengths instead of trying to play against archetypes or building jack of all trades. Koudelka's built as a mage, so making her a tank or a melee character will handicap yourself in the long run, while Edward is supposed to be your main tank as well as your main attacker! James is a little bit unique in this way, as his stats lend himself to act as a secondary tank, a melee attacker or another mage... but Magic is so useful and important in the game, that he's better off as an off-tank mage!
 A little issue you may have as well is that armor and accessories are entirely reliant on luck. You've to hope that enemies drop armor or rings. Heck, if you're unlucky, you might get stuck with armor weak to the bosses element and have to grind for something better. To be honest, I never had any trouble of this kind, as I had plenty of spare weapons, armors and rings, but you may not be as lucky. Ironically, the game's biggest issue is that the game is paced like a Survival Horror game, which means that it's a very, very short game. While it's made up of four discs, I was on disc 2 by the second hour, disc 3 on my 6th hour, disc 4  by hour 8 and finished the game in under 10 hours! And I played the game blind, so I wasted a few minutes trying to figure out some things.

 Koudelka was fantastic. I liked the survival horror/JRPG mixture, I loved the cast of characters and I enjoyed the combat system. It has its issues, some design choices clash with each other, and it's a very short game... but it's a very enjoyable one.
 8.0 out of 10

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