I'm a huge fan of Final Fantasy. That is, up until around Final Fantasy X, at least. In attempts to broaden the aging franchise's appeal, Square Enix has increasingly tried to bring more action-oriented combat to the historically turn-based tactical RPG series, with mixed results.
Final Fantasy XV was in development for the best part of a decade, and, at least at launch, featured a pretty awful combat system that didn't know what it wanted to be. FFXV had a lot of problems, feeling like the big-budget homework assignment of a team that was familiar with Final Fantasy but didn't know what it truly felt like at its core.
Even in its infancy, Edge of Eternity feels like a game by Final Fantasy fans, for Final Fantasy fans. Despite a lot of "indie" jankiness, this 9-strong team already captures the essence of Final Fantasy in a way Square Enix no longer seems to be able to do.
Oozing with indie passion
Edge of Eternity makes no attempt to hide its inspirations. Dubbed "Midgar Studio," in homage to a city from Final Fantasy VII, the 9-strong team has been hard at work for years building Edge of Eternity, after an initial round of crowd-funding.
The game is available on Steam in Early Access, launching chapter-by-chapter as the studio iterates and polishes up its core systems.
Edge of Eternity is set in the world of Heryon, besieged by a mysterious alien threat called the Archelites. The interstellar invaders unleashed a mysterious biological weapon, called The Corrosion, which infects and gradually decays its victims, driving them mad.
I haven't played too far through the game yet, because I want to save myself for the full-blown experience when the team launches the game in a complete state, but from the outset, I've been impressed with the effort put forward. The game revolves around a young soldier called Daryon, who sidesteps the typical brooding-teenage-protagonist trope that typifies the genre. This chap has a sense of humor alongside his more dutiful, stoic tendencies, which is refreshing.
In the opening moments of the game, Edge of Eternity does an excellent job of introducing you to its systems, which will be familiar for JRPG players, with a few twists. The battles take place on hex-grids and character positioning and movement factors in heavily to combat. Casters are typically best off standing in the back since their spells have to be incanted before being unleashed. Melee characters are best positioned in front of them, to prevent casters from being interrupted or attacked. Forcing enemies to step around your melee line also creates the opportunity for back-attacks, which score critical hits.
Even at this early stage, the battle system feels like the product of a veteran studio rather than a small indie team. It is honestly far more satisfying than basically anything Final Fantasy has cobbled together this side of the FFX games.
I'm already intrigued by the surprisingly dark story proposed by Edge of Eternity. Who are the mysterious invaders? What do they want? What dark sacrificial rituals is the mysterious Reynan conducting to fight them back? Who are the real enemies here? Edge of Eternity has already impressed me with its world-building, genuinely great music, and infectious battle system. Still, admittedly, I had to spend a fair bit of time adjusting my expectations to the game's scope.
Rough edges abound
Although forgivable in its deep early access period, Edge of Eternity is a rough game, given the scale of the team's ambitions that's probably to be expected. I encountered a relatively large range of bugs as I played, although nothing was particularly game-breaking. Most of them pertained to animations, where mobs would get stuck in a frozen state during battles, or character's capes would clip through their models and also get stuck.
Edge of Eternity has high-quality music and gorgeous environmental detail, and surprisingly excellent user interfacing too, but the animations, in general, leave a lot to be desired.
Still, as someone filled with nostalgia for games like Final Fantasy VII, which, let's be honest, had pretty rough animations as well, it hasn't stopped me from getting immediately immersed in the game. As I said, it took a bit of adjusting on my part, but I'm excited to play more.
Edge of Eternity could be big someday
Despite a limited budget and a very, very small team, Edge of Eternity already feels like it could become something special. It reminds me of a small game from 2007, built by an independent studio inspired to build a game based on an established franchise. That game was The Witcher 1, which was janky as hell. The Witcher 3, however, is arguably one of the best games ever made.
Edge of Eternity speaks to the desires of millions of jaded ex-Final Fantasy fans who wish Square Enix would return to simpler times instead of trying to turn the franchise into something it decidedly isn't. I'm excited to see how far Midgar Studio can push it.
On the edge of greatness
Edge of Eternity has a lot of rough edges, but this passion project could turn into something truly great.
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