Alvastia Chronicles, from Exe-Create, presents players with a classic JRPG look and feel. Everything from the top-down pixel graphics to a somewhat convoluted fantasy setup and turn-based combat called back to so many past RPG adventures. But even before I saw its looks, I had been drawn in by a single promise: the ability to recruit over a hundred characters. Having read this in the descriptive blurb in its Xbox Game Pass entry, I was instantly sold on giving it a try. Thoughts of RPGs with large recruitable rosters like the Suikoden series sprang to mind. And while I had no expectation of it reaching those heights, I had hoped for a fun game filled with a varied cast I’d recruit on my playthrough. What awaited me wasn’t quite what I expected.
After Alvastia Chronicles took me through a story presentation, mired by difficult to read text that didn’t stay on the screen long enough, I was dropped into a gameplay experience that initially felt very promising. As the party system was explained to me, I saw how deep this game could get. With all characters attacking together, becoming more like augments to my main character, it felt unique. Once you filled out your main group, you could then build up additional groups that could attack and support you on the field. And with over a hundred characters, the various possibilities for builds could lead to tons of depth. And then it showed me how I would be accessing many of those hundred-plus characters. That’s when I found out Alvastia Chronicles is a gotcha game.
For those not familiar with the term, a gotcha game is one that uses a random system for getting characters or gear. Generally, this takes the form of some sort of loot box. Thankfully, Alvastia Chronicles random characters do not require micro-transactions to acquire. They are gained through in game currency that is earned through play. But even though there isn’t any monetary requirement for gaining these characters, it took much of the fun out of the prospect of discovering all these potential party members. To add to this disappointment was the power level of these characters. My free demonstration pull, before I had left the initial village, was a level 28 character. I went from having enjoyable combats to one shoting everything that moved.
My hopes of countless character combinations leading to interesting abilities and job perks were instantly dashed. What difference does the creativity make if I kill everything with a single hit? The next time I pulled from this system, I was gifted with an even higher ranked character and several pieces of incredible looking gear. And while I suppose the game might have eventually caught up to my party’s newfound might, who wants to play hours of a game that will effectively feel like a glorified tutorial? The over powering of rare characters and pressuring players to pray at the alter of the random number generator (RNG) gods has always been one of mobile gaming’s most bemoaned vices. Even if these characters are free, I can’t imagine acquiring characters this way, let alone the best characters this way, as opposed to acquiring them through story progression.
But, I decided to push on a little further. Maybe the difficulty would ramp up way faster than I expected. At least I was going to continue until I ran into another one of mobile gaming’s more loathed gifts to players: time locked treasure chests. That’s right. Treasure chests dropped by enemies in battle were often time locked. And of course, the best ones had the longest timers connected to them. At a carrying capacity of four, you could run out of space for chests awfully fast. It’s as if the game doesn’t want me to play it for too long. This decision just completely baffles me. Again, mobile games utilize these features because they generally provide an option to pay cash to open the chests early. And again, no cash option is present here.
Despite my initial interest in a throwback aesthetic and interesting party-building mechanics, these mobile inspired features instantly took all interest I had in this game and stomped them to pieces. Even as I write this I am left wondering: Is there anyone clamoring for these mobile style mechanics to begin showing up on other platforms?