Reviews: Eien No Aselia
Solid story and gameplay, with a few critical flaws.
On the borders where visual novels overlap with other genres, some elements tend to come out shortchanged. Many works use some extremely barebones gameplay to spice up a story, or use a weak story to provide a framework for the gameplay which is the real draw, with comparatively few visual novel hybrids standing on the strength of both elements. Eien No Aselia isn't groundbreaking in gameplay or story, but manages to deliver a worthwhile experience on both counts. The story may not be masterful, but it still stands above many "pure" visual novels on the market, with unexpected twists, believable pathos, and occasionally a surprising willingness to venture in directions that most fantasy stories don't explore. The gameplay manages to provide challenge and demand application of forethought, with little delving into Fake Difficulty, and helps keep the player invested in the conflicts around which the plot revolves. Unfortunately, as a complete work, the game suffers from a number of flaws which significantly impact its overall quality.
- No way to speed up combat. While the early battles are not especially long, the number of units involved and the distances you must traverse over the map increase more or less continually through the game. Without a way to skip or speed through combat and movement animations, the strategy battles can become painstakingly slow, and the last few can individually last for hours.
- Poor replay value. This is a game that the designers want you to play repeatedly: there are seven routes, with an epilogue that can only be viewed once you've beaten all of them, and three difficulty levels, each of which can only be accessed after beating the previous one. Unfortunately, the routes branch late into the game, with at most one unique strategy battle per route, most of which are short, so you're forced to play through the same battles over and over to uncover the story content of the different routes.
- Poor integration of story and combat phases. During story phases, the game might as well be a pure visual novel. You cannot build facilities, organize troops, train, or even check your stats. The battle phases force you to catch up on things your characters should have been doing in their downtime, and the split makes for uncomfortable transitions between phases of gameplay.