This week’s review is about a game where you click on little stone people and make them explode on a loading screen.
What do you mean that’s not the game? Alright…
This week’s review is about an indie role-playing game that likes to play up the usual gaming tropes to great effect while changing up the JRPG formula. Epic Battle Fantasy 4, here we go!
Epic Battle Fantasy 4 is, as the title might imply, the fourth and currently latest game in the series of RPGs by Matt Roszak, with his website KupoGames.com. Team up with our group of four heroic(?) adventurers as they travel the lands fighting everything that gets in their way as they make their way towards whatever is causing all of these plot points. Gather weapons and armor, upgrade your armaments and your characters, and prepare for a lot of combat. Fight through waves upon waves of enemies, from slimes and living bushes to golems, robots, and the very deities of the realm. Sounds like a pretty typical RPG so far, but fortunately, there’s a lot more to go on than just that.
Visually, most of the game is rather cartoon-y, the overworld filled with little chibi-esque character sprites. Battles get to see more detailed characters that still carry a certain amount of anime influence in their design. As previously mentioned, there is an equipment system with weapons and armor, and another category known as flair, which provide passive bonuses. Epic Battle Fantasy uses a paper doll system, making all equipment show up on your characters, meaning that all three varieties of equipment change how your character looks. If you want to dress up in mammoth skins and pope hat while wielding a bottle-covered bow that would be a cosplayer’s worst nightmare, you totally can.
Musically, the soundtrack is really solid, and has a good bit of variety in its score for the game’s large number of locales. From western guitar to melodious chimes to heavy metal riffs, there’s something there I think everyone can enjoy. The soundtrack was done by the artist known as Phyrnna and can be found here.
As I’ve mentioned previously, if your game has funny dialogue, I’ll probably like it. Non-player characters, of which there are many, all have something to say, most of which play on genre tropes of video games or breaks the 4th wall, sometimes at the same time. Even the main characters you control have dialogue, both with other NPCs and to the environment as you explore new areas. And of course, their dialogue is just as cheesy and trope-y as the rest. No part of this game takes itself too seriously, and it’s really refreshing to see in a RPG like this.
Most of the gameplay, similar to other Japanese role-playing games, is in the combat. In EBF4, the usual turn-based combat is modified by having waves of enemies in a single fight, where one encounter might have you fight up to a dozen enemies, making strategizing for longer fights more important. In other games, you fight three, maybe five or six enemies in a single battle, and you’re done. The problem seen in a lot of JPRG-style games is the random encounters. While crossing the overworld, suddenly you’ll be placed into a fight that you have to deal with, which are basically required to progress, both through the story and to level up your characters. Most of what constitutes strategy in these games is simply “hit them ‘til they die.”
Epic Battle Fantasy is vastly different in this regard, as EBF is designed without random encounters. Yes, a RPG without random encounters to fight enemies. They’re all on the overworld, minding their own business! You can see what you’re about to get yourself into every time you engage in combat. Because of this, as a player you can always know what power level you should generally be at, as if you defeat every enemy as you come across them, you should be the appropriate level to continue.
Moreover, strategy plays an enormous role in the combat, as you can tell what you’re going up against before the battle even begins. Both the player characters and enemies have strengths and weaknesses that can be exploited for an edge in combat. If you go into a fight with fire elementals wearing only grass skirts, you gonna have a bad time. Knowing what enemies are weak to, both for damage types and status effects, is a huge aspect of getting through the combat easily.
Very quickly, I want to go over the list of features and changes that Epic Battle Fantasy as a whole has over other RPGs that I think greatly improve the genre itself, including:
- Enemies in the overworld, no random encounters
As previously mentioned, this changes how the entire game unfolds
- A collective summon menu that any character can access
Some games have a way to summon monsters to fight for your side, but usually this is limited to one character’s special ability, which can be frustrating. Now, anyone can summon the giant slime monster. This is relatively minor, but as someone whose first major completed RPG was Final Fantasy X, it meant a lot to me.
- A menu for the 6 most recently-used abilities
This saves so much time in menus when you need to use the same move on enemies multiple times, as you can just use it directly after the first use in the battle.
- Auto-saves on every screen change
Nothing in worse than going through a dungeon, facing the boss, messing up, dying and losing progress. Even an hour of progress can be greatly annoying. Now, you reload from like five minutes from before the battle.
- A collective skill menu that allows for greater customization and specialization
EBF has a menu for leveling up skills, and very few skills are exclusive to one character. This allows for different party builds and playstyles as you level up and progress.
- The ability to flee from any battle at no cost that almost always works
Nothing’s worse than going into a battle unprepared, getting wiped, and having to reload from an hour ago. Except for a handful of exceptions throughout the game, you can just leave the fight and come back later.
- A list of quest NPCs and what they look like
This could be difficult for larger games, but this is a very helpful feature, as it lists what they wanted, what they look like, and where they are.
- A bestiary of scanned enemies that includes drop tables
When trying to get a specific item from an enemy, you can now just look at which enemy drops it and how many you should expect to kill to get what you need.
- Difficulty settings that can be made at any time
On the fly, you can make your experience easier or immensely harder, if you’re a hardcore player of RPGs.
- A warp system
Tying in with the quest-giving NPCs, being able to traverse the game quickly is very useful. More useful I would say, if less cool, than the usual airship seen in Final Fantasy games.
Epic Battle Fantasy at its core is a role-playing game similar to a lot of older role-playing games, like Golden Sun, Suidoken, and much of the Final Fantasy series. But instead of just taking what was there and making his own version, I’d say that Matt Roszak has added quite a bit to the formula, enough such that Epic Battle Fantasy 4 stands out from most other RPGs, not just for its unique story, clever dialogue, or detailed combat, but for the improvements to the system that is the role-playing game. Not to say that this is the best game ever, or that it’s the best RPG ever. If you don’t like role playing games at all, this probably won’t change your mind. If you don’t like RPGs because of specific design issues, perhaps the above list of features may interest you in playing Epic Battle Fantasy 4.
I had a lot of fun with this game, and will be grabbing Epic Battle Fantasy 5 when that drops, which should be sometime in 2018.
Also, keep an eye for a smaller piece I will be doing on the earlier EBF titles, specifically the first and second games. See ya!