Like the archetypical role-playing hero, Eternal Radiance is facing staggering odds. But armed with an eye-catching art and a soaring soundtrack, triumph is within reach.
Release date: April 14th, 2020
Price: $TBA via digital download
Resilience is a ubiquitous theme in role-playing games. Routinely, protagonists perform a succession of near-impossible feats, eventually emerging victorious. Eternal Radiance has followed a similarly challenging path. Originally entitled Destiny Chronicles, developer Visualnoveler failed to secure modest amounts of financial backing across a pair of Kickstarter campaigns. Fortunately, a third attempt at crowdfunding (alongside a name change) proved productive. The Taipei City-based team gained the equivalent of $53K US Dollars to construct a visual novel/action-RPG.
But role-playing games are notoriously expensive to create, routinely exceeding $50 million dollars to create. Can a plucky upstart with a fraction of those finances hope to compete with prominent studios such as Square-Enix, P-Studio, or Level-5? Eternal Radiance’ Early Access release only divulges a portion of its journey, extending a trio of chapters from its intended eleven-chapter trek. Despite a restrained amount of capital, the title undoubtedly demonstrates potential. But naturally, there are a several aspects poised to cause concern as well.
Celeste’s Journey from Squire to Knight
The title opens with a plucky young protagonist named Celeste on her way to combat practice. She’s determined and prefers the physicality of swordsmanship over the intellectualism of magic. But she’s not completely naïve. Soon her resolve is tested by a mission to confirm her aptitude. Before becoming a full member of the Ashen Ordera, a group entrusted with protecting the people of Darencia, she must retrieve an enigmatic artifact. But after securing the object, safeguarding a civilian momentarily distracts her, and Celeste loses possession of the artifact.
Exposition occurs through visual novel-style cutscenes. Here, the art is unequivocally lovely, flaunting gorgeous character portraits who emote through a few facial expressions and gestures. While prone to repetition, the game’s soundtrack is exquisite, capturing heroism, optimism, and threat across its soundtrack. But Eternal Radiance is rather long-winded. Those familiar with VNs might forgive the glacial pacing of the storytelling, but I expect players accustomed to the three-line exchanges with NPCs might grow wary with the sluggish storytelling. Radiance doesn’t skimp on character development and relationships, but all too often there’s little sense of urgency during the unvoiced conversations.
Real-time Skirmishes on Three-Dimensional Battlefields
Combat is a fundamental constituent of any role-playing game and agreeably, Eternal Radiance’s fights are engaging. The game’s first quest sends Celeste across grassy flatlands, and when opponents are not near, she moves at a refreshingly quick pace. Navigation is aided by a persistent mini-map. With a button press, a larger atlas reveals the entire area, along with indicators for enemies.
When Celeste is near enemies, she’ll slow down a bit and optionally, can lock the camera onto foes. Here, Radiance doesn’t demonstrate a deep bestiary; you’ll often fight clusters of the same creatures, who resemble orcs and slimes. But you will find briskness in combat, which helps to counterbalance the dawdling dialog.
Beyond a ranged magic attack that’s restricted by a mana bar, you’ll mainly use physical attacks to defeat opponents. While Radiance doesn’t display the enemy counts associated with the Dynasty Warriors games, similarity is rooted in a responsive four-part combo, the ability to block, and a dodge move. Trigger the latter two with precision, and you’ll even be privy to counters and a slight speed boost. You probably won’t need to use those advantages, on the easiest of the game’s three difficulties, fights were easy. With attacks blatantly telegraphed by subordinates and bosses, while unrestricted pausing to quaff the occasional healing potion, the threat of danger is largely absent. But there’s enjoyment is scanning the wide-open battlefields, looking for the glint of items or chest that secure stat-boosting items.
AI Lacking in I
Elsewhere, Eternal Radiance capably if straightforwardly handles the essentials of a respectable role-playing trek. Experience gained by defeated foes gradually levels up Celeste, boosting stats and adding new abilities. Later, she’s accompanied by different characters who act autonomously on the battlefield, escalating the intensity of combat. Currently, companions lack smarts and tend to use up mana a bit too quickly. It’s going to take a bit of work before the game extends the kind of aid found in Namco Bandai’s Tales series.
Eternal Radiance world map eliminates the obligation of walking around towns, with NPC interaction handled via the game’s menu system. Exclamation marks highlight urgent interactions and reflect the game’s disposition to not have players reach a standstill where they don’t know how to proceed. Menus are also used for item and equipment management and pleasingly you can use found items to augment your arsenal. Currently, there are side quests to be undertaken, but these assignments hew a bit too close to role-playing cliché.
An Homage to Yesteryear
Developer Visualnoveler’s tenacity is unmistakable; this is a studio who wants to share their game with the world. And while Eternal Radiance isn’t very original, it’s an obvious tribute of classical role-playing games. As such, genre fans might enjoy distinguishing the influences. But if you’re hoping for divergence from formula or a wealth of polish, Radiance’s early chapters might not shine for you. Hopefully, that will change as development persists.