God Wars, not to be confused with God of War, is a relatively new strategy RPG franchise. Though it debuted on the PlayStation 4 and Vita just last year, the recent trend of porting games to the Nintendo Switch has given it another chance to catch fire. Does the tactical alternate take on Japan’s fantastical creation story reinvigorate the franchise? Or should it have been left in the land of the yokai?
Spiritual Content: God Wars is rife with spiritual content, particularly of the classic Shinto belief system. The game mentions everything from human sacrifice quelling the gods’ rage, to angry spirits embodying gods, to elemental demons and notable kami (principle deities) like Amaterasu, the sun goddess, Susanoo, the god of storms and Tsukuyomi, the moon god. Much like the Norse pantheon in God of War, it’s fascinating to be steeped in the mythology of another culture, learning about the creation story from the eyes of their faith.
Violence: There is some animated violence in God Wars. In such scenes, blood is shown. There is no gore or viscera to be concerned with. When characters are defeated, they either fall to the ground or vanish from the playing field.
Language/Crude Humor: There is some mild profanity used in the game. Words like a** are invoked.
Sexual Themes: There is nothing sexually explicit shown. As with many games from the East, there are several female characters shown in revealing clothing, such as a character with bunny-like features and panties instead of pants. There are as many sensual ladies in the game as there are proper ladies.
Positive Themes: Some characters pursue things for the good of their homeland. Others will follow through with something because it is the right thing to do at the time. Efforts for peace and freedom are major themes.
On the scene for roughly a year, the God Wars franchise is looking to establish itself as a contender. Though it is clearly reminiscent of established SRPG franchises like Final Fantasy Tactics or Disgaea, God Wars uses its gameplay trappings as an engaging medium to drive an enchanting tale with a fun, cerebral experience. The decision to port the franchise to Switch feels like a smart one, giving those who crave this style of game a meaty offering the platform otherwise has yet to provide.
First, let us start with the narrative. God Wars opens with the tale of Kaguya, the daughter of goddess Tsukuyomi, imprisoned in Fuji as a contingency sacrifice should the gods lose their temper. One night, amidst a raid for food with some other locals, a young man named Kintaro frees the young maiden with help from his ursine friend Kuma. The three set off to help Kaguya begin her journey to locate her mother and open a dialogue with the chief deities her mother may have last spoken to. Along the way, they pick up a magic polished mirror and some friends, setting the stage for a whirlwind adventure that can ultimately take nearly a hundred hours—and that is before considering any of the newly added content for the Switch release!
The lore itself is fascinating to uncover. Much of God Wars’ telling of the story offers players a glimpse of deep lore. The game can throw an overwhelming bit of lore at you, especially up front. But as you progress and become familiar with the characters, the lore eases up. The strategy RPG format also does a decent job setting up scenarios to drive narrative.
At its core, there is not much here that a fan of strategy RPGs will be unfamiliar with. Everything is turn-based with a tiled playing field. Terrain can present tactical advantage and obstacles. None of the basic combat is really anything special. The character loadouts and customization, however, are more in-depth than I was expecting.
Each character can have a main job class, a secondary subclass, and a class unique to themselves. As you use skills in combat, you earn job points for the associated classes. Job points let you unlock or upgrade skills. Earning enough experience in a class will grant you level-ups; like FF Tactics, reaching certain level requirements with a job class allows you to unlock more jobs. Within a few hours, you’ll have more available to you than you know what to do with, and the game has over 30 classes to tinker with. With enough time and patience, you can create some pretty wild combinations, giving players plenty of reasons for grinding and experimenting.
I do have a couple issues with God Wars‘ combat. At times, it feels like there is a cloaked Oni holding the magical dice and he’s manipulating things to his whim. Who misses 4-5 attacks in a battle with a 70-95% chance to land? Apparently I do, and fairly regularly. Some story encounters can also feel harsh, leaving you in more of a survivalist mindset than one of an attacker. For that reason, you’ll probably want to play this game in short bursts instead of long, drawn-out sessions.
God Wars feels a bit basic from a visual perspective. Despite the bevy of unique foes, this is a game that was originally designed to run on handheld platforms and it shows. The character design is evocative, but they often feel relatively low-poly and, frankly, dated. That said, the interludes are directed beautifully, and the big story moments are accentuated by gripping manga-like cutscenes complete with voice work. The dialogue isn’t always the sharpest, but the generally well-performed voice acting lets you look past some of it. The game’s fantastic, culturally-appropriate soundtrack also helps pull players into the world of ancient Japan while keeping the action going.
God Wars: The Complete Legend is an immense offering that strategy RPG fans will find some enjoyment in. It certainly has a few issues, but the game features a variety of encounters and a substantial range of jobs and abilities to play around with. It also tells a fascinating tale, and although the dialogue can be poor at times, the great voice work and wonderful soundtrack help it seem less grating. While God Wars: The Complete Legend probably is not going to be the most memorable game of the year, there is more than enough here to keep fans busy for dozens of hours. And at its release price point, it provides a great bang for your buck. If you are not sure whether SRPGs are your cup of tea, you may want to ponder on this one before purchasing.
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The Bottom Line
God Wars: The Complete Legend is an enjoyable strategy RPG with a lot of customization options to keep hungry fans chewing. The lore is intriguing and the voice work is great. Unfortunately, it has a few issues that hold it back from greatness. For SRPG fans, there's a lot of meat on the bone. If you're new to the genre, though, you may want to sit a while on this one.