Just when you thought you’d have to wait for another Square Enix release to satisfy your itch for a big-budget Eastern RPG, Gameloft slips one of their own onto the App Store. Clearly inspired by the PlayStation-era Final Fantasies, Eternal Legacy puts you in the shoes of Astrian, a rebel fighting against a tyrannical government and searching for his lost father. It’s a pretty standard storyline for this type of game, but better than we had feared it might be. So how does the rest of Eternal Legacy stack up?
It’s a bit of a mixed bag. On many levels, Eternal Legacy totally nails what they’re going for. They’ve got the visuals, the character progression, and even– for the most part– the story of a rock-solid RPG. Where it falters, however, is where it counts: The fun factor.
First off, the game looks fantastic. The environments are wide-open and colorful, with huge visual variety from section to section. The main characters look fantastic too, even close up. In keeping with the Final Fantasy vibe, the hero, Astrian, has spiky hair and a sword the size of a refrigerator. The female party members are both dressed in clothes their parents probably wouldn’t approve of: Lysty has a super short skirt, and Shira shows some midriff and thong. Hmm.
PETA won’t be happy about this.
If Gameloft knows one thing, it’s how to put great controls on a touchscreen. Every input has been thought out and well implemented, from running around using the d-pad, to navigating menus by tapping. In no time you’ll be breezing through battles, assigning tasks, and managing your inventory with ease.
The first hint of imperfection in Eternal Legacy is the acting. Typical for an RPG, there’s a whole lot of dialogue in this game, and all of it is voice acted. Which would be great, except that the performances are extremely amateurish. We found this distracting at first, but for better or worse we got used to it.
What we couldn’t get used to was how bland the fighting is. Enemies roam around the game world, and when you get too close they’ll rush at you, initiating turn-based battles. By default, you only control one character (usually Astrian), leaving the rest of the party in the hands of the computer. You can set the other members to focus on attacking, healing, or casting spells, and this works very well. If you assign someone to heal, it works too well, in fact: We almost never had to worry about dying. We’d just keep attacking with Astrian and the fights would take care of themselves.
Which way to the labyrinth?
As you fight, you level up and become stronger. You learn new skills and collect “fragments,” which let you cast spells and summon creatures in battle. Oddly enough, your regular attack is nearly as powerful as your special attacks. So since the computer-controlled party members were taking care of our health, we found ourselves mindlessly tapping the attack button through nearly every encounter, including most boss fights. Fighting quickly became a bore, and since fighting is how you spend much of your time in the game, it drags the game down.
You do have the option to take full control over your party during battles. This definitely gives you more to do during fights, which is good. But the battle system clearly wasn’t designed with this in mind. For instance, it doesn’t show which moves you’ve lined up for anyone but the main character. In any case, all of the issues we have with the battles could easily be fixed if they rebalanced the gameplay.
On the surface, Eternal Legacy seems like everything you could want in an Eastern RPG: Great graphics, loads of customization options, eight to ten hours of gameplay, and even a decent storyline. So it’s a shame that you can basically sleepwalk through every fight. Still, Eternal Legacy is an admirable stab at bringing a Final Fantasy-style game to the iPhone, even if it doesn’t quite hit the mark.