Developer: Kadokawa Games
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: PS Vita/PS4
Release Date: June 20, 2017
ESRB: T for Teen
Note: This review is based on the PS Vita version of the game
It's difficult to approach strategy role-playing games from Kadokawa Games without some degree of trepidation. One only needs to point to the incredibly unforgiving SRPG (strategy role-playing game) mess that was 2014's Natural Doctrine to reinforce that stance. But, in all fairness, it has been several years since that title and hopefully they learned a lot in between that and their newest foray in the subgenre, God Wars: Future Past.
The main premise is one of that is heavily wrapped up in Japanese mythology; those of Shinto beliefs, in particular. A priestess named Kaguya escapes her confinement with the help of her childhood friend and goes on a big journey in search of her mother. From then on, Kaguya gets caught up in far more than she originally anticipated in a world so deeply rooted in the workings of various gods, those benevolent and those very much not. It's a pleasant shift in setting than the all too common medieval styled fantasy in subgenre (which I like, don't get me wrong) and is thankfully easier to parse than the overwhelmingly Japanese PS Vita title Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines.
In a sharp sort of contrast to its storytelling, God Wars: Future Past does not have any unnecessary frills to the actual gameplay. It also boasts a pretty involved job system that is genuinely similar to Final Fantasy Tactics (and not in the blanket term way it is often used simply because it's grid-based), which I feel I haven't seen in earnest since the likes of Wild Arms: XF.
There are tons of different jobs, skills, and passive skills to equipped (and if you are extra granular stat growths based on jobs to take into account as well) so there is plenty of incentive to mix and match abilities to be all that more effective in combat. It is easier to do so than most in the genre too since you can actually level two different jobs at once on a character because of how progression works, which is rather neat.
As solid as the core mechanics are, God Wars: Future Past is noticeably rough in how it is presented. Vita version owners in particular will notice this quicker than most because of how abnormally long load times are for most aspects.
For instance, it takes nearly a minute to simply hit the title screen of the game, and getting to the menu to change out equipment and skills takes over ten seconds. I need not say much more than how that really adds up over time considering just how much time one may find themselves buried in menus simply allocating new skills towards allies after each fight.
What makes technical grievances more annoying is that they apply to combat as well.
To be frank, the in-game 3D visuals are rather ugly. But the bigger annoyance is that the frame rate is rather iffy on top of weird pauses before a combat skills trigger too.
The PS4 version is noticeably better based on what I have seen, but it got to a point where I turned off combat animations altogether just so there would be some semblance of smoothness while playing (plus, most attack animations are the same). It really feels like they only went for passable and avoided the means of an actual good port on the Vita hardware at the end of the day. And that's a real shame since it would otherwise be such a great fit for the game with the pick up and play nature.
Underneath it all is the heart of a good strategy-RPG title, and one that grew on me over time despite making bad impressions early on.
As stated before, it is a mechanically sound tactical game that only really gets better later on as more classes and skills open up. It does not really attempt to move the needle for the SRPG subgenre, as it borrows Tactics Ogre's approach to top-down grid-based gameplay and even MP management where ones start at none and gain more MP per turn. The more distinct mechanics are two gauges to keep track of such as Impurity and Secret Skill Gauge. Impurity is basically what is aggro in MMOs and it is quite practical to have a sturdy character built upon gaining impurity so your more fragile fighters are free from enemy ire. While the Secret Skill Gauge is accumulated over time and both unique character skills, and generally strong advanced classes, get access to that can change the tide of battle if used effectively.
Still, there is more than meets the eye. Or rather, there is more to see outside of combat.
The 2D character portraits are often pleasant to look at, and occasionally the story does cool comic panel-like transitions to progress the narrative.
The less said about the English dub, the better, though the soundtrack does help convey the fun take on Shinto mythology with decidedly old-fashioned use of Japanese instrumentation too (though, it does have frequent audio repetition problems for how many battles use the same themes).
God Wars: Future Past faces the dilemma of being a decent game but a bad port on the PS Vita hardware.
Obtrusive load times and a rough 3D in-game presentation mar what would totally be a solid, if hardly amazing, tactical-RPG. For those hankering for strategy-RPGs more akin to Tactics Ogre than the popular likes of Fire Emblem, God Wars: Future Past does certainly scratch that rather specific subgenre itch. There is a rich job system, and neat take on Japanese folklore, that helps its case too. But really, unless you are like myself who is willing to suffer many technical inconveniences purely for portability, God Wars: Future Past is only worth one's time on PS4 in which it runs noticeably better on, and even that may be debatable.
+ Very rich job system that allows quite a bit of freedom in how you mold your party and their abilities
+ Pleasant character portraits and setting
- Jarring load times on vitas
- Hideous 3D visuals
- Can feel like a mess of menus at times
Overall Score: 5.5 (out of 10)
God Wars: Future Past is sincere in its intentions of delivering a solid, if not rough around the edges, take on the strategy-RPG subgenre. And for the most part it does, but the rather poor port on PS Vita really makes it hard to recommend on that system in particular
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS Vita code provided by the publisher.