Review: Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection
Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection is a prime example that the world of RTS games doesn’t need to be a confusing mess.
For the uninitiated RTS stands for the genre real time strategy. It’s a genre that gets a bit of a bad rap because the gameplay is very detail oriented and the list of rules is sometimes overwhelming. Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection is a RTS that allows the user to take on each gameplay element by itself so that by the time the more complicated parts of the game present themselves the user can manage them with relative ease.
That’s not to say Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection is a cakewalk, far from it. Before I get too far let’s start at the beginning.
Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection features a brother and sister pair named Claude and Yuri. Yuri is plagued by a debilitating illness that causes her constant pain and presents itself as a specific mark on her neck. Claude is an alchemist that even at his relatively young age is already one of the most gifted and capable in his art. His proficiency in his alchemy skills is powered purely by the need to cure his sister and to do what he needs to get the most valuable commodity for an alchemist, snowdrops.
Their problems don’t stop there, the lands they travel aren’t the standard fare. This world is constantly attacked by an ashen rain, the sky opens up and rain falls that constantly weakens and even kills what it touches. One of the ways to combat the effects of the ashen rain is to make medicine that fights off it’s effects, to make that special medicine you need snowdrops.
Their last problem is that in this apocalyptic world the wealthy have used their power and clout to hoard the most needed resources leaving the masses to rely on crazed fanatics that only use people to further their twisted plans.
As their story progresses Claude and Yuri will meet many different people to interact with. Some will join as a teammate and some will simply be used to move the story along, Claude and Yuri will face many obstacles on their way to cure Yuri and that’s where the battle system comes in.
The battle screen opens with a map of the battlefield and there are two main bases, your base and the main enemy base. There are also four extra points on the map.
- Unit point: Whatever team claims these gets to use them as a rally point during the battle.
- Strategy point: Allows you to call one more ally to the battlefield.
- Story points: These are parts of the map that will feature a cutscene that explains more of the story but will also reward you with a special item.
- Weapons: Enemies will man certain weapons shooting projectiles across the screen, if you secure them for your side you can use them to damage enemy troops on the map.
I’m going to explain how the battle system works fully, in the game this will be broken down in smaller chunks allowing all players to properly digest the info before going forward with more elaborate battles.
The battlefield is presented from a top down view. You highlight your base and pick the character you want to place on the battlefield. From there you can use the D pad to trace out a path you’d like them to take to their objective. The reason for marking out the exact patch is that each map has hazards that can slow characters. If you and the enemy both want to reach a certain objective but you neglect to avoid the hazards the enemy will get to it first and that could sway the battle in the enemy’s favor.
Once you map out the path for your first character and hit “GO” the battle begins, from that point it’s up to you to pull up the rest of your characters and send them on their way either towards objectives or towards the enemy. At first the start of a battle will feel like you’re trying to herd cats, after a few battles it becomes second nature.
If you claim a strategy point you’re able to bring more units onto the battlefield but be warned that if you lose that strategy point during the battle that unit will be lost for the duration of the battle. This mechanic puts extra emphasis on picking the right characters for the right missions and rewards careful decision making.
At first the start of a battle will feel like you’re trying to herd cats, after a few battles it becomes second nature.
When attacking the enemy all you have to do is touch to initiate a battle, from there it shows your character on the left of the screen and the enemy on the right. Battles play out in the usual fashion, the power of the weapon taking away that many points of health from the character but Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection also has a rhythm based bonus attack. There are certain button cues that will pop up during battle, if they’re performed correctly your character will hit with more power.
You have the choice of what weapon you want to attack with, in most cases you’ll see that depending on the type of enemy you’ll have one weapon that will do extra damage and one that will be reduced in power, it’s a clever twist on the “water beats fire, fire beats grass, grass beats water” style of gameplay.
There’s also a combo system involved. After a successful attack the enemy is pushed back on the map, if the enemy is pushed near another one of your characters on the map that character can be activated with a button press and attack as well. For stronger enemies this allows two or three attacks in succession taking down their health meter quickly. It also adds an extra layer of strategy in how you want to distribute your troops on the battlefield.
After an attack there are also shards that are gained that power up Claude’s power meter for magic. Claude learns spells over the course of the game that can do everything from stopping troops in their place, to healing allies and damaging foes.
After the battle is completed you have two choices, you can either play that battle map again or move ahead in the game. Anyone familiar with games like the Disgaea series knows about playing maps again to level grind a bit and level up your characters, this works well and the only downside is that when you replay some maps you’ll find that the higher leveled foes have been swapped out with low level characters. I understand this was done so you couldn’t grind to max levels quickly by replaying boss stages but the way the game plays sometimes you wonder what would have happened if you tried a different tactic and you want to recreate it with the same characters.
Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection uses alchemy points (AP) instead of experience points (XP). I would have liked the ability to replay the maps with the option to gain or not gain AP. If you choose to gain AP the enemies would be watered down, if you choose not to gain AP then you would have the same exact enemies that you just fought.
Between stages you can spend your alchemy points to help level up your squad three different ways.
- Weapons: Claude can use his alchemy to level up character’s weapons giving them more power and special properties.
- Characters: Characters can apply their alchemy points directly to themselves to make them level up faster.
- Items: Claude can use his alchemy to break down unneeded items and convert them to alchemy points to be used on weapons or characters.
The story is good, not great. Sure it’s cliche in some ways but it’s well written and doesn’t drag, the ability to find out more about the world during battles helps keep the story fresh and interesting.
Voice work is all in Japanese that has been painstakingly translated for English subtitles that captures every bit of the emotion going on. The voice work is superb, the villains sound twisted and horrible, our heroes sound fitting for all their roles, extra characters you come across along your journeys fit as well. Voice acting, even though most won’t understand the language, helps deepen the story because of the emotion used.
The music in the game is done well with battle music being especially upbeat and moving. The overview battle map music is very calm and reserved as you would expect and the cutscene portions of the game have just a hint of various melodies to not distract anyone from the story that’s unfolding before them.
The game runs perfectly with no slowdown or glitches and looks gorgeous in all of the character scenes. My main problem lies in the battle map, with so much riding on the path of characters the map can be hard to read sometimes, especially during night scenes. This can be fixed by pressing the select button to get an 8-bit style map but that’s ugly looking and really takes away from the experience, that’s my only gripe with the graphics of the game and if the map wasn’t so important I wouldn’t detract as much as I did for it.
Why it may be helpful for people with anxiety
- Good story with interesting plot
- Ability to replay stages and grind to overcome tough spots
- Good cast of characters
- Rhythm based portions are easy enough even suffering from anxiety symptoms
- Ability to replay any stage lets users catch up on any story points they may have missed
- Loads of content and hours of gameplay going over different scenarios
Why it may be unhelpful for people with anxiety
- Dark, apocalyptic world
- Rhythm based gameplay still takes timing so severe anxiety symptoms would make it hard to play
Why you should be playing this
Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection is an RTS that’s accessible, challenging, and most importantly fun. Games in this genre scare some people off, but for those people I can’t recommend this game enough. It stays true to the core fundamentals of the genre while adding in certain devices to make it feel different and unique.
I had a blast with the game and replaying missions and following the story I found my playtime over 20 hours doing just the basics. There’s a lot of replayability here and the way the game is made it doesn’t make any area feel like a chore.
If you have a PSP or a Vita and like either RTS or RPG’s Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection is a worthy game.
This review was based on the PSP version that was provided by the publisher.
February 19th, 2013
Idea Factory, Sting
Great characters, superb voice acting, interesting story, great gameplay mechanics keep it fresh
Map detail could be better