By Steve Baltimore / November 15th, 2023
|Title||Gears of Dragoon: Fragments of a New Era|
|Release Date||October 20th, 2023|
|Genre||Visual Novel, RPG|
|Age Rating||All Ages on Steam, 18+ on JAST|
I got a chance to check out JAST’s release of Ninetail’s Gears of Dragoon: Fragments of a New Era. This is actually the second game in this series, but you need no knowledge of the first to enjoy this one. I had a blast with their two VenusBlood releases, so I was pretty stoked to get my hands on this one. It plays a bit differently, being more of standard RPG with dungeon crawling, but I figured the story would be fantastic like the other releases. Let’s see if this one met my high expectations for it.
The story begins in a city called Carnas, a city of magical wonder that hides a secret underneath its busy streets. There lies the Dragonshaft, many tunnels filled with mechanical relics of the past. Machinery is considered taboo in the very magical society of Carnas, so the city’s ruling class are not impressed when powerful machines of the past are unearthed. The two factions live in a general state of peace, but there is always tension under the surface.
A young man named Rustar is an exceptional prowler, people that explore the depths of the Dragonshaft. He is different than most others in the fact he can use both magic and machinery, most can only use one or the other. His late father passed down to him a special key that is said to lead to the Sage’s Treasure, and would grant him a single wish. Having little luck, he soon encounters another young adventurer named Percy. She has a key just like his, and the two decide to team up to seek the treasure together. As the two dig deeper into the Dragonshaft, they will discover more about their world than ever before, and find some great friends along the way as well.
I have to say, I really enjoyed the story of Gears of Dragoon: Fragments of a New Era. It is pretty basic and goes how you would expect, but the characters really give this one a lot of personality. I played the Machine Route for this review which gives most of the focus to one group of girls, while the Magic Route will do so for the other. Ashley was by far my favorite girl here. A songstress tsundere dragon girl, I was like a moth to a flame. She is the main heroine in the Machine Route, but you will also spend time with the cute catgirl, Kay, the amazing scientist, Chris, an adorable machine girl, Sheirrah, and the leader of the Machine Faction, Echidna. Each of these girls were interesting, and no matter which one you choose to spend your time with, you will be entertained. Though I do wish Sheirrah would’ve gotten a bit more time. A mecha obsessed machine girl that is chunni as hell, that’s just a win!
Before we delve into the gameplay, let’s talk a bit about the graphics. The dungeons look pretty plain, but each area is well represented. From dark caverns to hellish lava filled craters, each area looks great. The artwork for the various enemies looks great as well. I do wish there were more varieties of enemies, but there are enough here to get by with. The boss monsters all look great. These beasts look every bit as fierce as they are, and are nicely detailed. All of the CG work is great here as well. There are plenty of good H-Scenes for each girl, and most of these are pretty vanilla outside of some that occur when you lose certain boss battles. I was good with this since I got plenty of crazy scenes while playing VenusBlood, so this was a nice change of pace.
Now let’s dig into the gameplay here. You will begin by taking on various quests that will have you explore the dungeon and battle various monsters in turn based combat. This is all very basic RPG stuff, but honestly I found it a lot of fun. You will have to equip each of your party members with some great gear in order to survive the monstrous bosses the game throws at you. Equipment will not only boost your stats, but it will also give better elemental attack, better defense against certain creature types, or status aliment immunities. That last one is very important because the RNG here can really screw you over at times.
Equipment can also be upgraded at your base, provided you have materials and some upgrade points. As you probably guessed this will raise the stats of the item, but I rarely used the upgrade points for this. The upgrade points can also be used to add magic stone sockets to your gear. These stones are very helpful since they add buffs and status protections to any weapon or piece of armor they are attached to. You will obtain these from the dungeon at mining points, or sometimes as random drops.
When you complete story quests you will be given some gold, guild points and a heart stone. Gold is always helpful in an RPG, and makes the world go round here. You will need that for gear and consumables, as well as upgrades. The guild points will give you various effects depending on which one you choose to spend your precious points on. The Fighters Guild will give you a damage boost with every rank and the shop will get better items. The Thieves Guild give you a full map of the dungeon without you having to find it, if your rank is higher than the dungeon’s. The Priest Guild will reduce incoming damage and let you regen a bit more health and MP while walking. Lastly, the Mages Guild nets you some better magic stones for your gear and the ability to craft new ones as well. I personally pumped a lot into the Mages Guild to start with, since the status immunities the stones can grant you are a lifesaver in battle, but the choice is yours.
Lastly, let’s talk a bit about the heart stones. These are required to view the heroine events in the story. There will be some for each girl in the common route as well as the two branching ones. The Machine Route requires less of these than the Magic one, so you should probably do that one first if you want to see everything both have to offer. You can always use the casual mode option to skip all the dungeons the second time around if you just want to focus on story, or either of the no encounters options if you want to speed along the second route a bit. Add these with the different difficulty options that allow you to casually skip battles or play a hardcore grindy RPG, and you have a very customizable game. I feel like this is an excellent way to do a game like this, since you can tailor it to your play style.
Gears of Dragoon: Fragments of a New Era is another fantastic release from Ninetail and JAST. The story is great with a ton of interesting characters, the dungeon exploration is a lot of fun for us old school RPG fans, and the game can be adjusted to fit the play style of almost anyone. Throw in some of the best CG work I’ve seen in a long time, plus a great soundtrack, and you have one of my favorite releases of this year. I wish the RNG had been a bit kinder at times and the game would tell you when there was CG scene for losing a battle, but these are very minor things. This game is worth every bit of the $34.99 price tag, and I hope JAST brings over the previous game in this franchise since I enjoyed this one so much.
Game was provided by the publisher for review.
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