By Josh Speer / March 3rd, 2022
|Title||Rise of the Third Power|
|Release Date||February 10th, 2022|
|Platform||PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One|
|Age Rating||Teen – Blood, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Mild Suggestive Themes, Language, Fantasy Violence|
After I discovered Stegosoft Games was working on a new title, I knew that I had to review it. Even though Rise of the Third Power isn’t set in the same universe as their retro masterpiece, Ara Fell: Enhanced Edition, it was built with similar bones. It features many familiar mechanics and features, though there are some notable differences. One of which is the world this game takes place in is much less fantasy focused than Ara Fell was. Instead of vampires, elves and floating continents, the setting for the land of Rin is meant to evoke comparisons to World War II. The question I had was this – is Stegosoft Games able to successfully make lightning strike twice? Or was Rise of the Third Power an inferior follow up to Ara Fell: Enhanced Edition?
The land of Rin has just suffered through a horrendous Great War. While many just want to go about living their lives in peace, the Arkadyan Empire wants no such thing. They see the opportunity to make more strides during peacetime, and perhaps even bend events to their will. The only kingdom in their way is the Republic of Tariq, which remains ignorant of their schemes. Alone against Arkadyan dreams of conquest is a meager Resistance force. They’re the dredges of the world, pirates and vagabonds and even one unusual priestess. While they can’t hope to defeat the Arkadyan Empire nor their new Cirinthian allies, they hope to stall for time until they can pull a miracle out of their proverbial hats.
Let me say now that while the plot of Rise of the Third Power isn’t bad, and tells an interesting tale, it lacked something that Ara Fell had. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but as I played through Ara Fell, I felt the world and my understanding of it expand at the same time. I grew to slowly glimpse the complete picture, and appreciated it more for the process. Whereas in Rise of the Third Power, I felt they kept doing something I was taught to be a cardinal sin in school – telling instead of showing. We get huge info dumps early on about the Great War, and how it affected the various peoples of Rin. And while that’s okay, I would have much preferred seeing it myself firsthand. Because otherwise I felt like a random tourist hearing about the history of a place, not actually feeling it.
Which isn’t to say the writing is bad in the game, necessarily. Just that I didn’t feel quite as connected to this world as I did in Ara Fell. Sadly, the same can be said for the characters. Because while there’s an eclectic and diverse cast of characters that will join your adventure, I never felt all that connected to most of them. The lone exception is the fiery princess Arielle, who very much felt like a stand in for Lita from Ara Fell. Though I did grow to enjoy some of these heroes and heroines, I also felt the game used them more for comedic one liners than actually diving deep into their personalities. Which is a shame, since that was one of my favorite things Stegosoft Games has done in the past.
Another problem I have with Rise of the Third Power is the fact that Arielle isn’t technically the main character. I don’t know if my brain operates on baby bird logic or what, but in RPGs, I usually feel the first hero I’m introduced to is the main character. And in this game, that hero is actually a pair of vagabonds – Rowan and Corrina. Rowan is a hard drinking pirate that likes to deflect from his real emotions and Corrina is a sharp tongued young woman looking to die in a blaze of glory. There’s a bit more to their stories than that, but not as much as I was hoping for. Worse, I never really connected emotionally to Rowan, which hurt my immersion in the story. Sure, I grew to care deeply for Arielle, but as I stated before, she’s not really the main character, even though she is vital to the story itself.
Earlier, I talked about the many similarities between this game and Ara Fell. One is that in both games you craft and upgrade permanent equipment with resources you come across. I like that mechanic, and appreciate it returning here. What I appreciate less is the removal of natural resources you’d find on the world map. That really took away my drive to explore in Rise of the Third Power, since I knew any resources would only be found after battles or in sporadically placed treasure chests.
A handy new feature is that your entire party levels up together, which really takes away the need to grind overmuch in battles. That’s wonderful, but it comes at a cost – you also no longer can change classes for any characters like you could in Ara Fell. Sure, you can spend Talent Points to have each character learn new skills or traits. But since your team levels up together, that also means they share the same pool of Talent Points. Granted, you can reset their personal tree of Talents with items, but I would have much preferred having a more hands on way to customize my party. Lastly, while the last game employed Ultimate attacks, here you have combination attacks utilized with specific pairings of characters. I did like this, since it forced me to be more tactical in who I fought with.
As far as the combat in Rise of the Third Power, I enjoyed it just as much as I did in Ara Fell, and it works similarly. It does some things better and some things a bit worse, but it still works very well and was generally intuitive. The game even has handy tutorials, though I strongly suggest you screencap them when you have a chance. Reason being, you can never find a glossary of information or view a tutorial after the fact otherwise. Combat is pretty fast paced and you can even swap active members of your team with those waiting on the sidelines, which was neat. My biggest issue was that the game felt a bit too easy. So much so that after playing for a few hours, I turned the difficulty up to Hard just to challenge myself. Which it did, but not by very much. I can’t honestly remember if the difficulty was steeper in Ara Fell, though I do vaguely recall a couple of bosses that drove me nuts.
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