Eiyuu Senki: The World Conquest came to me out of the blue. In fact, I didn’t hear about it until I got the press release in my inbox. Taking a look at the title, three things immediately caught my interest: RPG, strategy and history. Now, it is not historically accurate, but welcome to your Rule 63 history lesson, where you take charge of a harem of some the most important people in history.
Eiyuu Senki: the World Conquest for the PS3, invites you to take control of a man who gets caught in an explosion that sends him into a world where he is perceived as the Servant of Heaven. The world is at war, and he has to lead the country of Zipang (Japan) to conquer it, bring peace, and stop an evil force. By his side are a cast of characters that only the Suikoden series can rival in size. Your team is composed of heroes, leaders and explorers, both real and fictional, from Oda Nobunaga and King Arthur to Sir Francis Drake and Christopher Columbus. The catch is it is a rule 63 world. All of them have been gender-swapped as women. This brings about some initial hilarity considering their names don’t change with their genders.
Immediately, my biggest concern with Eiyuu Senki before playing it was the large cast. So many times with RPGs there are too many characters and not enough for them to do. After you find the few you like, the rest are a waste of space. The core mechanics take this bloat into account and give a reason to have such a large cohort. Being turned based, you’re allowed ‘X’ actions per turn. As you progress the number of actions performed increase. Other than attacking a city, performing quests are done using action points. The strategy of the game is a character can only act once a turn. If Lu Bu is used to complete a quest, she won’t be allowed to attack an enemy city as well, or defend your territory from assaults.
It is a give and take relationship of balance as the RPG element of the game is non-traditional. There are no experience points or levels. Each character has set stats (Attack/Defence/Speed). Only their ‘arms’ increases through combat, or through using cash to upgrade them outside of combat. This is a combination health and power stat. The more you have, the more damage you deal. Take damage yourself, and you do less and less. To unlock character’s abilities and other bonuses, the player has to do the side quests. Again, the bloat feeds into the core mechanics as the characters need to be balanced. Having a crack team of favorites might make conquering a city easy, but what about the counter-attack? What if they are unavailable due to a side quest?
Despite the strategy gameplay and RPG elements, this is a visual novel. The amount of story and text is insane. I say that positively as the developers took the time to flesh out the entire cast. Obviously, some get more screen time than others, but they don’t get the Suikoden treatment. There is no character that says three lines of dialogue, with a picture, to be slightly better than an NPC store clerk and never to be heard from again. They also gave most characters a pseudo-historical approach to their design. Core concepts the person was known for are reshaped to make them unique, and give depth. Oda Nobunaga, for example, has her love of guns but also foreign objects, so she spends a lot of time shopping on Amasson.
Unlike traditional strategy games such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms or Nobunaga’s Ambition, where the player can attack and go anywhere, or start anywhere, the game is still structured as an RPG. There is a linear path to attacking a country once at war. You can’t just attack any city you see fit. However, the order of the countries attacked is mostly non-linear. This is part of the challenge. A player can go the easy route, and generally sniff out who is the weaker countries and attack in that order. But nothing prevents that same player from attacking the top dog immediately, of those available. Not only does this mean you’re against stronger enemies, but also your cohort will not be as large or developed. Other than changing up the flow of the game on a new playthrough, the game does half reward you for choosing the harder route. By accomplishing the task, special items are acquired that are not normally gained. There is a catch though. The remaining countries get stronger to compensate for the reward.
Combat is simple, yet strategic. Choose up to six units to put on a grid field. Each one has a different type of attack, from ranged bows and guns, to melee swords and axes, and even magic. The type matters as they have affinity bonuses against opposing types. The units also have special attacks that can be used once enough brave orbs are collected. Non-affinity damage given or affinity damage received fills up your bravery meter. Every time it reaches capacity it will store an orb. Even the benefit of an affinity attack comes with a drawback.
The combat itself has a turn order, plainly seen on the screen, allowing budding strategists the ability to plan who to attack. Try to take out the next attacker completely so there is no counter? Or spread the love so you’d be dealt less damage if a grouping comes up? Items and unlocked passive abilities help flesh out the characters, as well as add new strategic pairings. For example, Lu Bu gets +2 speed when in the front row, and Kublai Kahn gives the ally in front of her +2 defence. Some of the passives are obvious, while others take some tinkering for the strategist in you to figure out the best placement on the field.
The one flaw of the game is the insane amount of dialogue. Eiyuu Senki is not a depressive, battle against all odds type of story. While there are serious moments, the vast majority of the dialogue is the cast acting as if they are in high school. Some might call that filler, others might enjoy the laid back approach. If you are of the former group then there is a skip and fast-forward feature, thankfully. Part of this filler problem comes from the high number of quests. The majority are automatically completed without a battle but there are varying degrees of dialogue to be read for something as simple as walking on a glacier.
The graphics do the job for what is expected of them. This is not meant to be a flashy strategy game, so the only graphics you’ll see are the static units on the battlefield. A PS2 could easily run the game. The character portraits, though, are beautiful and are diverse in showing off the characters and where they are from. However, this is where the hyper-sensitive will object as quite a few are posed with panties exposed, or in provocative clothing. This is still a harem game after all, and one that included sex scenes in the PC version.
Eiyuu Senki: The World Conquest is a unique game to be released at the end of the PS3 lifespan, especially since it launched on PC over three years ago. Enthusiasts of RPGs and strategies will enjoy it immensely. Standard genre complaints like character bloat are fixed creatively. The cast is interesting and bold. It is also maddeningly long, coupled with a new game+ that gives players more than enough bang for their buck.