Arc the Lad: End of Darkness Review

The newest game in the Arc series is Arc the Lad: End of Darkness, a direct sequel in storyline to the last game, Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits. There are some big differences between the play mechanics of this game and the one before it.  The last one was more turn-based like the rest of the Arc series, some games of which I have played.  This one introduces a more action flavored battle engine akin to something like Kingdom Hearts without the camera so close.

The story in Arc the Lad: End of Darkness starts not long after the last game from what I understand.  In fact, some of the characters from Twilight of the Spirits show up here to continue their stories, but for anyone knew or not knowledgable of the last game they won’t know the whole story.  In many ways this is like the Playstation game Chrono Cross was to its prequel, Chrono Trigger.  Some of the prequels characters show up in the new game, but those who haven’t played the old game will fell lost.

Arc the Lad: End of Darkness also has an online component where you can play with 7 other people.  From what I hear the servers in Japan were being taken down because no one was on them.  It would be nice if that wouldn’t happen here, but given how the single-player section of the game is I’m not surprised.  Onto the scores.

Nothing really stood out for me in the graphics department for Arc the Lad: End of Darkness. Yes, the graphics during conversations are nice, but the overall graphics are not very good. I would even say the graphics presented here are much like Chrono Cross from the original Playstation system. In fact, early on I felt like I was playing Chrono Cross with being stuck on a beach and all that jazz.

This game’s problem is that it is no Chrono Cross and it certainly can’t stand up to some of the PS2’s better looking RPG games like Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy X to name a couple. The poor graphics are further shown during combat when the reaction time between button pressing and actual animation are not very close together. Everything I’ve heard about Twilight of the Spirits makes me think that game had better graphics than this game, which is hard to understand.

The music sounds nice in this game, it is just that it repeats itself over and over in the area you are in. Soon enough you’ll know the song and it will start getting to you. I don’t play as many RPGs as I used to simply because there aren’t any out that appeal to me until Dragon Quest VIII, Kingdom Hearts II and Final Fantasy XII show up on the shelf. The sad fact is that each of those games will most likely have a long and well done score while this game is stuck with the same musical sections over and over again.

The other huge minus in this category is that there is very little in the way of voiceovers. I’m not sure if the last game had it or not, but as I’ve gone through the years with RPGs I’ve kind of stuck myself into the fact that I enjoy having voiceovers so I don’t have to read tons of text. This game gives you tons of text, especially early on in the game (the worst time to do so in my opinion) and you’re constantly hitting the X button to fast forward. I had the same problem with Jade Empire, which to me seemed to have more text than voiceovers.

Control isn’t bad per say, but once you get into battles you’re going to want to throw the controller directly out the window. You press the attack button and watch your character do the motions a few seconds afterwards. In the meantime the enemy has moved away from their position and you no longer register a hit. Lucky for you that the AI in this game is dumb and you can easily overcome this handicap.

From my understanding the last game had turn-based combat and I’m not sure why they went with a pure action-based combat mold in this one. I can only guess it is because of the online component because turn-based would probably be boring online versus a straight action experience. This game probably could have learned a lot from a game like Kingdom Hearts in this aspect, although I wouldn’t necessarily wish the camera problems from that game on any other game (yet KH overcame its deficiencies).

The first couple hours of Arc the Lad: End of Darkness is agonizingly slow. You go through unending conversation after unending conversation until you go through the first full cave, then things seem to speed up a bit. Chances are anyone without patience would dump this game pretty quickly given how much you have to read early on. Without the beauty of voiceovers the early parts become even more agonizing.

Once you get past that initial section though the game can be quite engaging, although nothing like Square’s long line of RPGs. I never really connected much with the characters during my playing time, but the story certainly became more interesting as I went along. There’s nothing early that will grab onto you, so you have to stay with it for a bit in order to see a payoff with this game.

This game also includes an online mode where you can play 4 vs. 4 PvP battles or 4 player co-op missions. This brings some coolness to this game, but given this is a RPG that is built more around single-player, this is just a nice bonus for a game that doesn’t quite cut it.

This game certainly has value as long as you can handle the gameplay and the boring first few hours. This game takes about 20 hours to beat and there is probably another 20 hours of gameplay in the online modes as well. From all I’ve heard it sounds like this game would be a disappointment to those that played Twilight of the Spirits, so keep that in mind before picking this game up.

Namco’s Arc the Lad: End of Darkness just isn’t that good of an RPG in this day and age. The action-based battles are not well thought out and are almost rudimentary compared to other superior action-based RPG games like Kingdom Hearts, a game that came out almost 3 years ago. The simple lag between button pushing and actual action is inexcusable in a game like this. If you can handle the first few hours of this game you may be able to hang on through the end, but I think this game is a big disappointment for anyone that likes the Arc series of games. There are better RPGs out there than this game, go and pick one of those up.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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