The game’s prologue introduces players to Fang, a delightfully impetuous dragon who has battled his way to the goddess Clunea’s shrine. Traditionally, any conqueror that makes their way to the temple is granted a single wish. Yet Fang’s disrespect and boorish insistence in knowing the name of the realm’s mightiest warrior infuriates the deity. Troubled that a fighter so ferocious could also be so loutish, Clunea returns Fang to a fledgling state, before casting him away. Naturally, the dragon is hellbent on revenge, endowing Unchained Blades with a simple and effective premise. Like the Wizard of Oz, the protagonist’s path puts him in contact with allies who have a single, unambiguous character flaw. While the Golem’s lack of courage or the Medusa’s dread of men to stone are diverting, the game’s side characters aren’t as absorbing as the comically crass lead. As such, the game’s secondaries are obliged to rely on time-honored tropes such as the well-endowed alchemist, which will doubtlessly delight genre devotees.
Mercifully, the game’s brisk turn-based combat keeps players from dwelling on any returns to well-traveled dungeons. Random encounters present clashes with up to four masters- each supported by up to four collected (or ‘unchained’) followers. Beyond the prototypical attack, magic, and defense options, battles are made more interesting by the incorporation of your henchlings, who can absorb damage or even issue up supplemental strikes. Not only do players have to manage the growth of their main characters on a network of nodes recalling Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grids, but they are encouraged to develop a bond with their creatures to improve their battle stats.
Besides offering rejuvenation at the local inn and the requisite stockpile of weapons, armor, and sundries, Unchained’s towns also offer the ability to craft a variety of items. Yet, whether players comb the game’s catacombs for minerals or amass currency from defeated monsters, the game still obliges grinding. While Unchained Blades’ difficulty level is rarely overwhelming, the title’s low payout of experience and loot means that the adventuring party and their underlings level up relatively slowly. Fortunately, the game’s wealth of mechanics offer a compelling distraction, dissuading players from agonizing over the frequent trips to the nearest healing center during the title’s introductory hours.
With an emphasis on dungeon prowling and amassing a formidable posse of beasts, Unchained Blades’ components help conceal the game’s archetypical JRPG tenets. Bolstered by a story which doesn’t take its self too seriously, the game’s clever combination of mechanics gel into a gratifying adventure which should please all but the most grind-weary adventurers.