13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim Review
(full review further down)
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is an unusual hybrid of gaming genres. It mixes a visual novel with a real-time strategy RPG, in an attempt to tell a compelling, non-linear story about 13 high schoolers who are going through world-changing events.
Playing between 13 characters can be quite the feat, especially when there's no set order to play them in. There is a menu that sums up the story in proper order if needed. Visually, the graphics are magnificently detailed; and the interaction between art and story play well. And though the music is there, it's not as memorable as it could be.
13 Sentinel's real-time strategy gameplay starts out unusually easy, but ramps up about halfway, sometimes becoming intense. Weapons and upgrades are boring and lack originality. And the graphics and details you see in the story don't carry over to the RTS fighting gameplay.
+ Story, Graphics, RTS
+/- Story interaction, RTS leveling and upgrading system
- Boring weaponry, non-linear elements become confusing
out of 5
Vanillaware, best known for 2D side scrolling, action-RPGs is back and this time with their newest gem: 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. With so many games having come out this year, it becomes more difficult with each new entry to convey a unique identity in the bustling world of game. However, 13 Sentinels is a showcase of beautifully directed and well designed scenes that could be the beginnings of a new franchise. 13 Sentinels is a hybrid of typically clashing game genres, that mixes a visual novel story mode with a real-time strategy RPG action mode; in an attempt to tell a compelling, non-linear story about 13 high schoolers who are going through world-changing events. But do these clashing designs work out for the greater good? Well, yes and no.
"Remembrance (story mode) is beautifully rendered 2D graphics, the side scrolling, visual novel-style story mode is an easy jaunt with a few hiccups along the way."
13 Sentinels is first and foremost a game wrapped in a deep story about 13 high schoolers, who form unlikely and oftentimes challenging bonds. They can only hope their different backgrounds and personalities can be overcome one way or another, in order to solve a growing mystery and increasing threats to the world that all link back to them. I can't talk specifics about said mystery as it would give away the whole premise, but let's just say there's more to this mystery than what meets they eye.
The game first introduces you to Remembrance. Remembrance is beautifully rendered, 2D side scrolling, visual novel-style that serves as the game's story mode. Here you'll experience a simple jaunt through this game's many twisted and surprising tales-- with a few hiccups along the way. Since Remembrance is non-linear and lets you select one of 13 characters that can be unlocked, it's difficult to know who's best to continue with after their initial prologue arcs. And with each character you unlock having several different paths to take, going back and forth between them all tends to be tedious. After the first three hours I found myself sticking to one character and going as far as I could with it before the game forced me to switch characters/game mode. This actually helped me understand the story clearer. Even after that if you're still confused, there's a comprehensive Analysis mode that helps tie the story together for you in a more linear fashion.
There's a lot of story to sit through with little do besides listen and move a little. These moments are sometimes broken up when you have to trigger scenes by gathering moments to recollect, then go over them likes clues to discover or unlock the next story point. You can scroll through recollections over and over and sometimes still struggle to figure out what to do next. But the worst thing is messing up during the story and having to start over or repeat steps again and again just to find a minor variation or radically new path.
"First, the 2D side scrolling so eloquently portrayed in Remembrance mode is thrown out the door for an isometric-style, virtual grid, battle map."
You can only play the story so far before the game forces Destruction mode on you. Destruction is a shallow, real-time strategy battle mode where you fight it out with kaiju, in your highschoolers' giant mechs in order to save the city. The battles are never too long or too short, and are enjoyable to certain extents. There are a few frustrating things to note within Destruction and a lot of it is based on developmental choices. First, the eloquent 2D side scrolling Remembrance style is thrown out the door, and replaced with an isometric, virtual city grid. Here your mechs are positioned around a central point that must be protected from the hordes of kaiju in order to win the round. Unlike other isometric games, the graphics plunge to a bare minimum, making it hard to determine what enemies are where or if I'm just looking at a building. Also, there are blips of story taking place during battle, however these threads are hard to follow when your mind is set on survival. I found that the RTS battles (on normal) don't really ramp up in difficulty until more than halfway through the Destruction mode's campaign.
Since the RTS is part RPG, leveling up your mechs with the latest artillery by spending "Meta-Chips" --aka experience points-- earned after each battle, can help to unlock the latest and best weaponry. There are tons of weapons and abilities to unlock, but sadly none of them are especially unique or stylish or different from one another. You'll have the chance to use a melee or air attack, and defense or offense abilities that all feel and portray similar to one another. The battles don't equate to the intensity they act like they're striving for, when the graphics are so bare-bone. And though Destruction is very fun and boarders on addicting, it's more of a mobile phone-style of addicting; it's fun in small doses, but when you're done for the half hour, you're done for the day.
What's odd about this game is that Remembrance, Analysis and Destruction are separated and not intertwined as most games would be. What I mean is, you don't go from a story segment that blends into a battle. In order to go from Remembrance to Destruction, you have to back out into the main menu then switch over to what mode you want to play next. It's not a negative, just something I thought should be pointed out.
"Overall, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is an interesting and often thrilling experience from end to end."
The music that accompanies 13 Sentinels is a good mix of techno-noir, classic action, and a blend of other fast-paced tunes that do well for the settings they're in, but leave nothing that's highly memorable. But the direction of the music is fun and clean later on.
Overall, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is an interesting and often thrilling experience from end to end. It has its slow moments that can sometimes be confusing or dull, but it has a big heart where it counts. The greater bulk of the game wants to tell you an interesting, unforgettable and connective story that is so often worth sitting through if you want to spend the time to unravel it.
out of 5
This game was purchased by The Age Of Z for this review.
This game was reviewed on PS4.