“God Wars: Future Past” is a new title in a genre that doesn’t see enough diversity. The SRPG is crying out for competition, lest it be lorded over for all time by the likes of Fire Emblem and Disgaea. Enter God Wars, a new but thoroughly old-school SRPG by the folks at Kadokawa games.
God Wars eschews the standard SRPG tropes of knights and valour and civil wars and instead opts for a very Eastern motif, with the many myths and legends of Japanese folklore instead providing the backdrop for its tale. I can’t stress how fresh this felt – aside from Disgaea’s dives into the underworld, SRPGs have followed a fairly strict pattern of narrative formalities that I’ve grown tired of over the years. Whilst I know nothing about the Kojiki – an ancient Japanese text the game draws a lot of its influences from – I was thrilled to see something genuinely unique and alien on screen.
This backdrop is by far God Wars most unique card in its deck, and one of its strongest too, so it’s a shame to see it squandered a little on a somewhat meandering storyline. Whilst it starts strong – with the blood sacrifice of a child, obviously, and a jail break – it slows down from there and, in typical JRPG style, loses the great pacing of its main storyline in favour of dozens of little sub plots, none of which are quite as interesting. Regardless, at least the world itself is an engaging and unique place.
God Wars is a traditional game with tradtional values. What that ambigious remark ultimately boils down to is that God Wars does everything you expect, and very rarely surprises you. It’s a thoroughly by-the-numbers SRPG that deals in isometric view points, movement grids, attack values and job-systems. If you’ve played any title in the genre over the last couple of decades you’ll mostly know what to expect.
What gives God Wars its flavour is the folklore inspired backdrop, with fantastical buddies joining your team (or squaring off against you). The customization of these characters is satisfyingly deep, too, with the generous job-system really allowing you to deep dive into each of your party member’s fundamental build. I enjoyed God Wars the most when I was tinkering with these systems.
Battles play out in generic fashion. You’ll deploy troops, move them around on a grid and wipe out enemies. God Wars rarely challenged me in the same way other SRPG stalwarts have, but that might be because of how much the various systems allow you to game them.
God Wars looks fairly simple, even by SRPG standards. Strangely this look is evocative of a couple of my favourite SRPGs from the PS1 era, and it has a sort of nostalgic charm that genuinely resonated with me. But taking a step back from subjective nostalgia, I’m not sure any game released nowadays that is reminiscent of the PS1 is a good thing.
Perhaps I’m being overly harsh with that comparison, but it just doesn’t measure up to the contemporary standards set by genre heavyweights. It’s tiled textures are what truly feel like an artifact of the past, though character art and sprites fare better. What it lacks in visual fidelity however – most likely a by-product of its second home on the Vita – it makes up for in colorful design. There are certain stages and areas that are beautiful dioramas, and these were the visual standout for me. Character designs… were not. A main character seems to be forever stuck in his Naruto pose and its this kind of rigid artwork that starts to work agains the title as the hours drag on.
God Wars also boasts some fully animated cutscenes, which I really appreciated. There were plenty of visual anomalies too, however, such as text running out of it’s text box and across the rest of the screen in an ugly fashion, or the clunky way certain actions play out. The sound design is good though, with some predictably eastern music scoring the experience nicely and some decent voice work.
“God Wars: Future Past” gives a fairly generic SRPG a unique flavour by drawing upon relatively untapped Japanese folklore. This is a great move, and one that developer Kadokawa mostly capitalizes on, though its main narrative starts to meander. There’s plenty of minutiae for min/maxers to sink their teeth into as well, and whilst there’s nothing particularly fresh from a gameplay perspective here, it doesn’t stop the core experience being fun.