By Marisa Alexander / November 16th, 2017
|Release Date||September 13th, 2017|
Over the years, I have been increasingly interested in strategy and tactics games. This ranged from Sting’s Union series and Gungnir to the XCOM reboot series. Even when they can become very challenging, they make me very relaxed as I simply love to think. So when I had a chance to play through one for review, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Garden Tale is an SRPG specifically in the vein of Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics. Unlike those two games however, it places emphasize on chaining explosions with plants called bonions. It is a unique twist for the genre, but how is the execution?
The story begins with Kurtz tending to his garden. However, his garden is ravaged when human-beast hybrids called Zoolians attack and ruin the peace of Garden. With help from his friends Alec and Olivia, he fends off the initial invasion. In order to accomplish vengeance and discover why the Zoolians attacked, the group heads off to the Zoolian Empire’s stronghold. There, they discover the harsh conditions and political divisions the Zoolian people face. As such, they take a vow to accomplish coexistence between the Zoolians and Garden in peace.
Overall, the story is very simple and easy to understand. There are no sub-plots and not much background is established behind the setting. The characters are all very distinct due to unique personality traits. Kurtz is the most determined, Alec is the most hot-blooded, and so on. Otherwise, they will commonly mention accomplishing their dream of universal dreams, vengeance in the beginning and coexistence in the end. While the story and characters are harmless, the plot felt very bland. There could have been more background details or more character development in order to keep things from getting stale. This is also a game about using explosive plants, so more humor would be very much appreciated.
Unfortunately, the gameplay also felt flat. For a game about setting up explosive plants to inflict damage, the design was very limiting. Due to only having six units over the course of the game, it’s difficult to manipulate bonions against the enemy. The best I could ever do is move a big bonion to explode other big bonions across the map. Other than that, I had to face enemies directly. This is an issue as the game’s balance expects full use of bonions. Enemies can come in groups of five or six. Coupled with a lack of abilities to inflict damage directly, these groups can ruin the game’s pacing.
Another issue is the shared mana pool. There is a bar on the left side of the screen, indicating the party’s mana. This can be raised up to a hundred by defeating enemies and causing explosion chains, the latter being the most effective. After turns, it is raised by five as well. As mentioned before, it is difficult to cause chains to begin with. As such, the bar rarely breaks even fifty. When abilities can cost up to fifty mana, this system is extremely restrictive. This is made clear with the character Cagliostro. She is the support buffer but her abilities can cost 30 mana a piece. So most of the time, the best I could do with her is use a fireball, costing five mana.
Enemy variety is also abysmal. There are effectively only two types of enemies, one that uses melee attacks and one that uses ranged attacks. They do not have individual abilities nor do they attempt to take advantage of bonions. Only bosses take advantage of bonions and even then that is only in two chapters in the game. Objective variety typically amounts to simply defeat all the enemies or defeat the boss. There were only two chapters that deviated from the norm. All of these issues about gameplay quickly wore me down even after a half hour of play.
In terms of presentation, the game is passable. Character designs have enough intricate details to make them interesting visually. Sprites are drawn well but animations are very stiff. Appendages have very basic movements akin to very basic Flash animations. The music is hit or miss. This is mainly due to the pitch of certain instruments sounding very high in comparison to others. This causes certain tracks such as the preparation theme during the mid-game to be obnoxious.
In comparison to the presentation as a whole, the localization feels rushed. There aren’t really many typos. Instead, certain phrases feel off, as if they were directly translated but not rearranged to fit naturally in English. A phrase such as “I always trusted!” sounds off, even when a character themselves speak it. There are two other instances that gave me the impression the localization was rushed. When using the escape key, the confirm message is still in Japanese. The other instance is Cagliostro’s class title Buffoon, despite being referred to in chapter titles as a Jester.
Personally, I found the game simply tolerable. It sets out what it wants to do and nothing else. It fumbled with execution in terms of gameplay but even then is still functional. With a five hour run-time, $9.99 is rather shallow as SRPGs typically have an abundance of content. Garden Tale had a very interesting idea and I would gladly see it explored once more. Sometimes it takes some execution mishaps in order to make an idea work.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
AGM PLAYISMBonion GamesGarden TalePCSRPG