Is Filgaia ever not dying? Apparently it just can't have health and strength long enough to make a video game, so here we are saving its barren ass again, with a different set of loveable misfits.
While players will be able to eventually haul six characters around, three are the clear mainstays. These characters are pretty good, and players will feel immediately as if they have known them forever. Dean is a teenager full of ambition and a flare for adventure, eager to get out, change the world, and impress the homefolk--kind of like Vyse from Skies of Arcadia. Rebecca is Dean's childhood friend, a combat-competant redhead who's always thinking sensibly and keeping Dean in line--kind of like Aika from Skies of Arcadia. Avril is the white-haired, slow-talking girl with a mysterious past, who is initially unfamiliar with common social concepts like friendship and selfless sacrifice--kind of like Fina from Skies of Arcadia.
Dungeons in Wild ARMs 5 start out kind of basic and without much flair for the first 12-15 hours, but as the game goes on, they develop into the kind of affairs that series fans have come to love and expect. The puzzles, the classic use of tools (which come in the form of different types of bullets), and just a small dash of some platforming combine to make some pretty good dungeonplay.
The best thing about Wild ARMs 5 is the vast, sprawling overworld. Overall, it's very well done, as it is both aesthetically pleasing and well put-together. There is an impressive amount of detail to be seen. The only real drawbacks to the pure fun of exploring Filgaia are an encounter rate a bit on the high side and some occasional invisible walls. It was somewhat disappointing, for example, to not be able to walk across the natural bridge in this video. But not to dwell on the negative, Wild ARMs 5 stands as an example of an overworld done right, and it felt very good to buck the recent trend of stupid point-and-click world maps. That works for tactical RPGs, not standard ones.
The HEX battle system is back, though with a few modifcations. Notably, all characters are allowed to move, and then act in each turn. When the system was introduced in Wild ARMs 4, it was considered a special ability to be able to move and attack within the same turn, but in 5, each character is allowed to do both, in every turn. The only catch is that the move must be done before the action, so players can't attack and then move away, such as might be possible in a tactical RPG. Overall, it makes battles slightly less strategic, since it's rare that one combatant cannot possibly attack a given foe, but it also moves things along at a faster pace. It's a fine system, and the game has some genuinely challenging moments.
In these battles, characters take the field being equipped with one Medium, which allows the wearer to perform special actions, while also granting situational skills such as counter-attacking. When a Medium is moved from one character to another, the skills mastered on that medium move with it, and do not stay permanantly on the wearer. It's functional, but it doesn't allow for very much customization, as each medium is set up to make its bearer a certain RPG archetype. In this way, Wild ARMs 5 has only minor character-development depth.
Wild ARMs 5 will not satisfy the gamer who puts great value on story. It's not only cliché, it's cliché done all wrong. But let's clarify: that's not really what's holding the story back. Conversations by the villains, and sometimes the protagonists, are kept so ridiculously vague, it's annoying. "You mean HE is there and might do THAT THING like he did THAT TIME back when THAT happened to our friend THAT DUDE? God help us all!" Wow, epic. It's a story that's been told 500 times, portrayed in no way that makes it at all special. Those who are honestly impressed with this game's story need to start reading more books and/or watching more movies, because they would not know a good story if it bit them in the ass.
|Really, some Johnny Cash could have helped the soundtrack for obvious reasons. Oh well.
Graphics and sound in WA5 are both excellent. Everything is plenty detailed, and the character models look especially smooth. Musical themes throughout the game are of good quality and maintain the definite Wild ARMs trademark sounds. Occasionally the voice acting got a little obnoxious, though.
Also to the good, gamers can expect a much more lengthy quest in this game than the previous few Wild ARMs titles, as its main quest alone can be over 40 hours. There's plenty of extra stuff to do, as well, so that number can go much higher for completionists or players in no hurry.
Those who liked Wild ARMs 4 are virtually guaranteed to enjoy part 5. Conversely, those who didn't should note that this one has the added appeal of the explorable overworld, but is very similar in other areas. It's just a bit slowed down by a small handful of flaws, but those are more than balanced out by strengths such as fun battles, good dungeonplay, technical prowess, and the (yes, it's getting mentioned again) impressive overworld.