Ahhhh this takes me back. I booted up God Wars: Future Past for the first time and after about ten minutes of playing, I had to check the calendar on my phone to make sure I hadn’t been sucked into some sort of time vortex to the nineties. It’s a certified slice of old-timey, tactical turn-based RPG goodness reminiscent of classics such as Vandal Hearts, Fire Emblem and Final-Fantasy Tactics that were popular during the era. I’ve always had a soft spot for some grid-based gameplay, so I was actually pretty excited to dive right in and level up a team to take on whatever evil was being thrown my way.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, gameplay consists of positioning your squad on a grid-based battlefield, with players and enemies taking turns to move and use skills such as attack or defend. Turn order is decided by the speed stat of each character, levelling up makes your dudes stronger and (usually) you win by wiping out the enemy team. Extra damage can be dealt by strategically placing a character to the side or behind an enemy and attacking, and bonuses to accuracy (chance to hit) are awarded for having the higher ground when you attack. It’s all pretty standard stuff.
Then there are the jobs. These are what govern the skills your characters can learn, what items you can equip, and how your stats increase upon levelling up. Performing actions from a job set rewards job points (jp), which can then be used to to unlock better skills and make your guys more useful in battle. Once you reach a certain level in a job class, a better one will be unlocked. For example a warrior can advance to become either a samurai or an archer, and then even further to become a herculean (mega tank), a daredevil (dual wielding badass) or a hunter (sniper). A secondary job set is available to allow you to keep any of the skills you unlock as you progress. You can train your priest healer to throw around a little fire magic by setting his secondary job as a magician if you want. Hell, anyone can learn to throw around healing or offensive magic if you spend the time training them to do so. On top of this Each character has a unique job. These are character-specific jobs that cannot be changed and offer skills unique to that individual. It’s a deep system that allows you to customise a team to your liking.
There is something called the impurity system which is quite novel. Basically every attack you make on the enemy or spell you use to heal or buff a team-mate will increase the impurity of the character using the action. A high impurity on a character will make them more appealing to the enemy, and essentially paint a target on their backs. This can actually be used to your advantage. Some characters are able to cast spells to increase their impurity, which is useful if you want your tank-y characters to absorb the brunt of the enemies attacks instead of them focusing on your frail magicians and archers. None of this is really new or innovative gameplay design though. If you’ve played a tactical turn-based RPG before, you’ve basically already played God Wars: Future Past as far as the battles go. So why (unless you’re really hankering for a slice of turn-based action) would you bother playing this one? It’s the story. It’s beautiful stuff.
The characters really have, for lack of a better word, character. As the game unfolds, you WILL grow to love the band of misfits cobbled together for the journey. The story is full of intrigue. I’m not going to spoil a thing (mainly because I’m nowhere near finishing it), but it’s full of gods, demons and other mythical beings ripped straight from Japanese mythology. At the start of the game, a little girl is thrown into a volcano by her own goddamn mother just to appease the ancient spirits. It’s mysterious and appealing and while the gameplay is pretty average fare, the narrative really does shine through.
The visuals are a bit of a mixed bag. The character models during battle and such have a cartoony feel to them, and while its fine for the most part, the spells and actions could use a little more pizazz. Nothing here is going to melt your eyes with it’s beauty or anything, but it’s no pile of crap either. The hand drawn characters used for the story progression however, are stunning. It’s obvious a lot of effort has gone into the design of these. The same can be said for the sound design. Every line of dialogue that appears on the screen is voiced by someone and none of it feels rushed or dialled in at all. It’s probably one of the reasons the story feels so vivid, and while it’s possible to skip through the dialogue, to do so would be a travesty.
Overall, I’d say this one one of the better games the genre has to offer. Sure, it’s nothing new, but that’s not always a bad thing. If you enjoyed games like this during their peak in the nineties, you’re sure to enjoy God Wars: Future Past. There’s huge scope here for grinding out the perfect team with job progression if you want to, plenty of characters to choose from, each one bringing something unique to the battlefield, and of course a whole bunch of cool items to equip. The story is phenomenal, the voice acting is superb and if you’re in the market for a tactical turn-based RPG you can do much worse than this. Good stuff.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.