SAN FRANCISCO — Critics argue endlessly about the differences between Western and Japanese RPGs, but at least one thing is pretty clear: where each sub-genre comes from. Edge of Eternity, an upcoming game from French developer Midgar Studio, seeks to confuse even that straightforward distinction.
The game looks like a lost Final Fantasy title, and even contracted the beloved composer from Chrono Trigger. If you like the current look of the Final Fantasy series, but wish it still played like VI or VII, Edge of Eternity can scratch your turn-based itch.
At GDC 2018, I got a chance to play through the first level of Edge of Eternity. Even having never touched the game before, I knew exactly what to do, based on almost two decades of experience with the series that inspired the game. Edge of Eternity’s early chapters focus on Daryon and Selen: two soldiers in a high-fantasy world, making their way through a cave to shelter themselves from a deadly snowstorm.
Due to a technical glitch, I had to play through the demo in French, but even if I didn’t speak the language passably well, I’d have had no trouble understanding what was going on. Daryon is looking for a way to treat his sick mother, but fears a giant golem in the cave that injured him as a child. Armed with a sword, a sense of optimism and a supportive female sidekick, he makes his way through the dungeon, doing turn-based battle with the enemies along the way.
As I wandered through the caves, I got the gist of the game’s tutorial: how to access the menu, how to equip items, how to improve abilities, how to fight enemies, and so forth. As you work your way through dungeons and overworld areas, you’ll fight various monsters and antagonistic humans. These battles confer experience points and items. You can improve your characters and their gear over time. I’ll give you a minute while you find your hat, which I assume was just blown off.
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And yet, there’s no denying that Edge of Eternity is instantly magnetic. The game channels the simplicity of earlier Final Fantasy games: a character on an earnest, comprehensible quest, who makes his way through the world through a series of easy-to-learn, hard-to-master turn-based battles.
Battles, by the way, work by encountering a group of enemies, then choosing your commands — attacks, special abilities, items, and so forth — until one party keels over. It’s fun, but it’s also pretty straightforward. Like old Final Fantasy games, there is an active time gauge that determines turn order. This helps keep players on their toes, rather than simply trading turns back and forth with enemies.
What really sells Edge of Eternity, though, is its production value. The game looks like Final Fantasy XIII, which is impressive for a Kickstarter production from a small studio. Moreover, if Edge of Eternity’s soundtrack sounds familiar, that’s because it comes by way of Yasunori Mitsuda: the legendary composer from Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross and Xenogears.
Edge of Eternity looks familiar, but it also has a lot of heart and an impressive musical pedigree. If you pine for the days about groups of plucky young people saving a vaguely sci-fi world, with some very memorable tunes in the background, it seems like a title worth watching. The game doesn’t have a solid release date yet, but should be out before the end of the year on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.