Hexyz Force - Staff Review  

Hexyz Vexyz Nyxyz
by Sam "Nyx" Marchello

20-40 Hours
+ Strong musical score.
+ Players decide the fate of the world through their actions.
+ Two stories for the price of one.
- Bland dungeons.
- Awkward voice acting.
- Ragnafacts? Seriously?
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   When RPGamers think of Sting Entertainment's games, they likely associate them with deep mechanics and a steep learning curve. Sting has always been known for its uniqueness and unmatched style. No, its games aren't punishingly hard, but they often require more patience than most of us have. Its recent effort, Hexyz Force, is none of what I just described; it's a game that puts forth a solid effort, but doesn't really stand out in any way.

   Hexyz Force's story begins in the world of Berge, a place that had previously faced apocalyptic disaster and was lucky enough to be spared by the Goddess of Creation, Norvia. Ages ago, the Goddess Norvia descended from the heavens with the Holy Vessel, and from it she drew Force, a spiritual energy, and used it to create all life. However, the God of Destruction, Delgaia, threatened to destroy Berge, and Norvia created beings known as Hexyz, Divinities that had the ability to protect the world from Delgaia's evil. Delgaia threatened to return all of the Force back to the Holy Vessel in an act known as God's Remorse an act which would also annihilate Berge. Norvia and the Hexyz vowed to protect Berge from Delgaia, and sacrificed themselves in order to seal his power. Norvia permitted this on one condition: that the Hour of Judgment would force the world to decide whether to follow the path of creation or destruction.

   Through this set up, the story of Hexyz Force takes its shape. Players have the choice of taking on the role of Cecilia, a lazy cleric who attempts to escape her duties from the Temple of Palfina, or Levant, a former Cerulean knight, who has been labeled a traitor by the Empire of Rosenbaum for protecting Halbs, or non-humans, from being destroyed at the hand of the emperor. Both characters are representations of different binaries; Cecilia is a representation of light and creation, while Levant comes from a place of destruction and darkness. These binaries are what make Hexyz Force's story an enjoyable experience, although the characters presented within their stories are horribly hit or miss. Most of them are very likable, especially those in Levant's storyline, but the ones in Cecilia's really fall flat. How players feel about the support characters will determine how much of each lead's story they will ultimately enjoy. It's not a requirement to play both stories in order to complete the game, but it's a way to enjoy the overall package.

Gotta love Irene. She always knows what she wants. Gotta love Irene. She always knows what she wants.

   Once you engage in the second storyline, the dungeons you encountered in the previous story have to be replayed, though they are in a slightly different order. If you didn't enjoy the dungeons, there's not a whole lot of variety or any way to avoid it. Also, Cecilia and Levant's goals are not very different; Cecilia's job is to visit each of the Monoliths that seals Delgaia, while Levant is looking for Stigalds, vessels that are clues about Delgaia. Both their plots require players to go back and forth between areas, which in itself isn't as exciting as compared to the characters' personal quests that they attempt to overcome. Sadly, the constant repetition in the gameplay doesn't help make the story as engaging as it could be. After each phase, depending on how prompts are answered and what quests were done, Hexyz Force shows players what the current fate of Berge is at that point based on which way the scales tip. The scales can either tip toward creation or destruction, which helps determine which ending is earned.

   Still, one thing that is commendable is the localization, and Atlus USA has done a fabulous job. Even though the characters and story are not perfect, Atlus has done a great effort to keep the world cohesive considering that there are two dual plotlines at work. Both Cecilia and Levant make appearances in each other's stories, and the character interaction in Hexyz Force is a lot of fun to watch unfold. It's not as laugh-out-loud funny as other portable games out there, but it knows when to have its fun, and it knows its place when it needs to be serious. Consistency is the most important thing to make a dual-story work, and Atlus should be applauded for its efforts.

   In terms of combat, Hexyz Force doesn't bring a lot new to the table, but it sports a very solid traditional turn-based combat system that is very simplistic, but also has "deeper" features. This in itself poses a bit of a problem as the battle system isn't as well explained as it could be, so the "deep" aspects can mostly go ignored in favour of spamming Ragna Points (RP). There are two types of weapons that rely on RP: Ragnafacts are key weapons possessed by Hexyz, while Spirifacts are destructible weapons with limited durability. Using both relies on RP, but RP are actually difficult to replenish if one isn't careful, as players will either have to defend to regain small amounts of RP, or waste Spirifacts that can regenerate RP. Outside of combat, RP can only be replenished at a purified spring and when a character levels up.

Ceci is a total slob. Just ask Ralu! Ceci is a total slob. Just ask Ralu!

   The simplistic aspect of combat outside of the use of Ragnafacts and Spirifacts comes from the Force Burst gauge. This gauge fills as players deal damage or are attacked. Once enough Force has been generated, characters can unleash devastating attacks, heal, or buff depending on who is being used in the party. Once the Force Burst gauge is depleted, the process repeats itself, though some burst attacks require more Force than others. The second, and more "deep" trait of the combat system comes from a rock-paper-scissor system that determines the amount of damage dealt depending on the alignment of the player's character and the enemy. Each attack has a specific alignment of either Crimson, Pearl or Cerulean, and each has a weakness and a strength that establishes how much damage is taken. This addition to the combat system is completely forgettable, as in most cases players will not even pay attention to it because the main draw of the combat system is filling up the Force Burst gauge. This particular portion is not well explained, and it's very easy to forget which alignment is weak to which because the combat moves so quickly. To make it move even quicker, by pressing the R button the battles will move at lightning speed for those of us who get bored of the battle animations.

   Interaction-wise, Hexyz Force does away with towns as items and weapons must be fused. Ingredients are acquired through harvest points, chests or by defeating an enemy. There's an ample amount of items to create, allowing for a lot of customization for each of the characters. Characters are limited to carrying four weapons at once, so its usually three Spirifacts and one Ragnafact, although some characters don't have Ragnafacts at the start of the game. Also Force, plays a major role, as infusing Force into Ragnafacts gives characters new abilities and upgrades their stats. Force can also be fused into objects in environments and help purify Force springs that have been contaminated. Force Points (FP) can only be obtained through defeating enemies or by converting items in the inventory.

   One of Hexyz Force's main drawbacks comes from its repetitiveness, particularly in its dungeons. While some areas of the dungeons can only be opened based on what character you are playing as, most of them are bland in design and can get rather frustrating as there are ample amounts of on screen enemy encounters, touched with some puzzles that require patience. Most of the time there's not enough variety in the dungeon exploration, as it's mostly go through the dungeon, find the boss, and possibly purify some healing springs. Boring dungeon exploration takes away from the story and character interaction, and often feels more like a chore to go through.

Overkill! Overkill!

   Visually, Hexyz Force is an appealing game that is vibrant and colourful, and fits the tone of the stories being presented. Character portrait designs are lovely and full of personality, while the in-game character models are not as refined as they could be. The game also has a lot of unique enemy designs, and areas outside of the dungeons are mostly pleasant to look at. Musically, Hexyz Force has a solid soundtrack that's upbeat, fast paced, and has tons of variety. Each main character has his or her own combat theme, and depending on the tasks at hand, bosses and purification battles also have their own themes. The music is sharp and stand outs as a major highlight, but the same cannot be said about the game's voice acting, which is somewhat awkward and very inconsistent. Characters such as Cecilia and Luffina sound awkward and their voices are very grating, while others such as Irene and Levant sound dignified and mature. Compared to the characters in Cecilia's chapter, the ones in Levant's chapter are well voiced and fit their overall personality.

   I'm not sure why Hexyz Force didn't leave a lasting impression on me considering it has nearly everything I enjoy in a traditional RPG. Throughout the game I felt ambivalent to the events that transpired, and while the characters were cute, they lacked the inspiration needed to leave their mark on me even after forty hours of gameplay. Truthfully, there was something about the game that I struggled to connect with, but I know this won't be the case for everyone. Overall, Hexyz Force is a safe effort, bringing barely anything new to the table, but it will be appealing for those who are not looking for something complicated, or those looking for a decent forty hour dual-story epic. Although Hexyz Force will have its audience, I don't believe that it will have the staying power to be as memorable as Sting's previous titles.

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