Release Date: Demo release, Full Release TBA Controller Support: Yes
In the last two decades JRPG's have taken a backseat to more action oriented rpg games. While action rpgs were not unheard of in the 90s with games like Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, and Star Ocean, by the 2000's they started to blow up as a much different animal. We started to see games like Grand Theft Auto III and The Elder Scrolls Morrowind who put a completely new perspective on how an rpg could be played. Even the king of JRPGs Square Enix realized that it needed to evolve the turn based combat that was a staple in their Final Fantasy games (for perspective FFX came out in 2001).
While the JRPG market didn't die it has taken a backseat. There are still plenty of games that use turn based mechanics, such as favorites Darkest Dungeon and Slay the Spire, but the traditional JRPG is almost a relic. The only games that come to mind that are popular while still holding onto traditional JRPG elements are the Persona and The Legend of Heroes games. There is a side of me that understands, even agrees, that traditional JRPGs have run their course. But at the same time I have a nostalgic urge to revisit games like Final Fantasy VI especially when modder's are still finding awesome ways to make these old games fresh (have you heard of the Brave New World mod?)
Let me now move your attention Lie of Caelum. If you don't need to know more and you've got a PC handy, download the demo here. Otherwise let's press on into this preview of the game. At this time, the game demo is only available on their main site. Speaking with one of the developers, @atomicsushi, they are planning getting their game on Steam in the future but right now their site is the only way to check it out and the release date is TBA.
The game opens with the main character deep in meditation and an ominous voice speaking about raw power. Throughout the demo, tidbits of character backgrounds and more ominous inner voices give way to the story that will be told in the game. The main character, Kyou, is explained to have a pact to protect the person whom he shares his residence with, Miyu. Both of these characters have a strong aptitude for a type of magic called 'Flow Magic' and in the opening moments of the game you find out that your two main characters were accepted to a school that specializes in training individuals with strong 'Flow Magic' talents.
This type of story-line is not necessarily super unique. Talented individuals going to a new school to hone their talents and eventually leading to a world saving ending has been seen many times before. Where the demo does continue impress is in previewing how the game will fill up the your time while you walk down that path. The dialogue moved quickly, and it included some fan service comments from the main characters. It will be interesting to see how well each character voice will be developed and whether the game will take a serious or slapstick tone.
When viewing a city map in Soven City there is a casino that wasn't available at this time, almost a staple to have such a place in traditional JRPGs. There is a store that sells trading cards leading me to believe there might be more than one minigame planned for final release of the game. Another store in the city allowed you to upgrade your gear and there is a strong focus on stat building. Which leads me to the combat.
During the main fights of the demo (and post main demo) the game was geared to show that it wont be an easy game. Health levels start in the several thousands and enemies can land over 1k in attack damage from level 1. In a main story battle I got hit with a game over screen a couple of times before I got the hang of the healing and attack planning for the fight. Even as you start a new game there was selection between a normal game mode and a hard mode (not available in the demo) where there are mentioned different boss patterns and more relentless enemies. Post demo you're teased with a dungeon that feels unbearably difficult and requires you to understand your skills and grow your characters to take on.
The combat is flashy and satisfying, and a newer age mechanic of speeding up a battle is introduced right away. You can equip different skills for each of the four slots that each character possesses, which are primary, secondary, special, and ultimate skills slots. Skills also can have modified versions of the same themselves that change their effect and chained attack amounts. There are status ailments, healing abilities, and additional character specific skills that activate for various reasons. The demo pulls no punches showing what the developers are trying to accomplish.
By the end of the demo there are 4 playable characters that can make up your 3 person team. You meet a number of what might be playable characters and npcs that would make up a lot dialogue of the first act, and the story sets up fairly quickly. I will mention there are some noticeable bugs in the demo. Some of the UI elements showing who a skill would affect felt off, and I had trouble understanding what needed to be satisfied to use Kyou's special skill when it appeared I had the points to use it. It is a game in early stages of development after all. We look forward to watching reading/watching the dev blog and you can too right here.