Game Over Online ~ Magna Carta: Tears of Blood

GameOver Game Reviews - Magna Carta: Tears of Blood (c) Atlus, Reviewed by - Thomas Wilde

Game & Publisher Magna Carta: Tears of Blood (c) Atlus
System Requirements PlayStation 2
Overall Rating 65%
Date Published Friday, December 2nd, 2005 at 03:34 PM


Divider Left By: Thomas Wilde Divider Right

Despite what Magna Carta: Tears of Blood thinks it is, it's the first major CRPG to feature a lesbian romance between its main characters.

This is because Calintz is a woman.

I don't care what his voice actor sounds like. Calintz is wearing women's clothing and has a woman's hairstyle.

Wonky character design aside, I'd imagine Magna Carta is going to be a cult classic. Some gamers are going to thrive on the combination of micromanagement and bizarre tactical options that the game represents; other gamers are going to lack the patience, the drive, or the fine motor skills to master the battle system; and still other gamers are going to get really annoyed, really quickly, with the game's idiosyncrasies.

Unfortunately, I fall squarely into the third camp. Magna Carta is ridiculously easy when it isn't insanely overcomplicated, and I can't recommend it to anyone but the hardest of the RPG hardcore.

Magna Carta is set in a world that's been torn apart by a nearly endless war, pitting an Alliance of humans against the Yason. As a young boy, Calintz is the lone survivor of an attack that wipes out his entire village; years later, he's grown into a remarkably androgynous young man, and the leader of a mercenary company called the Tears of Blood.

From there, the plot's a little by-the-numbers. Calintz will, of course, be instrumental in the course of the war; he'll gather a motley crew of irregulars to help him in his quest; and he runs into Reith, an amnesiac priestess who's concealing some great and wondrous power, but is strangely useless in a fight.

What really sets Magna Carta apart from the pack of similar RPGs--aside from the fact that it's got a strangely retro appeal; this is a late-nineties sort of game--is its timing-based combat system, which is hard to explain. On the face of it, it looks a little bit like the one you find in games like Shadow Hearts, where combat succeeds or fails based upon the timing of button presses. To successfully attack, you need to hit the Circle and X buttons in a certain order of three; blow the timing, and you waste your turn.

Wasting your turn is a serious problem, too, because they can be hard to come by. At the start of combat, a meter begins to charge up. When it passes a certain point, your characters can act, either to attack or cast spells or use an item. The points on the meter which determine your actions can move around a lot, based upon your other characters' current level of trust in Calintz, or the current numbers on either side of the conflict. If you've got trustworthy allies and you've got the enemy outnumbered, you'll act often; if you're outnumbered or if your allies hate you, the enemy will go more often.

On paper, it's an interesting and fluid system, but Magna Carta shoots itself in the foot by failing to account for the presence of multiple characters in your party. You can only manage one action with one character without depleting your meter, and the rest of the time, your other characters will just stand there. At best, they're meatshields.

The meter system also lends itself to a vastly uneven difficulty curve. You'll either be completely outclassed by your enemies, who're acting three times for every one action you perform; or you'll utterly steamroll them. All the challenge Magna Carta presents, once you master the timing-based attack system, is that you'll occasionally lose for no good reason.

The rest of Magna Carta, oddly, is a polished production. The item names are more than a little odd; for example, a standard-issue low-wattage healing item, which any other game would call a Potion or a Tonic or something, is A Small Thank You.

While you're not going to rush out to purchase the soundtrack, it's perfectly acceptable, and the graphics would be just fine if the character designer wasn't such a goof. It's like a combination of the worst excesses of Tetsuya Nomura with the aesthetic sense that powered Vagrant Story, and it makes every single character in Magna Carta funny. Professional soldiers run around shirtless, the most dangerous woman in the world is wearing fishnets, and Calintz is a dangerous swordsman despite his preference for crotchless pants and a one-piece woman's bathing suit. (Then again, I suppose if you dressed like that, you'd get pretty good at fighting after a while.)

If Magna Carta had a less frustrating combat system, it'd be a perfectly good, if slightly self-parodying, RPG. You'd have played it a few times before now, but you'd probably enjoy the time you spent with it. As it stands, it's one of the more frustrating games in its genre, and I can't really recommend it.

 

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Rating
65%
 

 

 
 

 

 

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