Adventures To Go - PSP - Review
The life of a fantasy RPG hero is hard work. Forget having to fight horrific beasts and save the world from megalomaniacal wizards, and just consider the fact that they travel to every single location on their planet – usually on foot, no less. It’s a wonder they’ve even got the energy to save the world, given that they’ve just hoofed it across three continents! Wouldn’t it be simpler if a hero could quest through forests, mountains, caves, and dungeons, all without even having to leave their home town? Adventures to Go! gives us just that: an RPG where every quest is custom built to your specifications.
Hard economic times have hit the kingdom, but 16-year old Finn Courtland has come up with a foolproof plan for making some quick cash. See, there’s a training facility in his hometown called Adventures To Go – for a fee, wizards will summon tracts of land filled with monsters, so would-be heroes can get some hands-on experience before setting out on a real-world quest. But Finn figures, why not just run through adventure simulations and sell the spoils for a profit?
While it seems like a no-brainer, apparently Finn is the first person to consider exploiting Adventures To Go for easy money.
Ok, so it’s not the deepest or most original plot you’ve ever seen in an RPG (Spoiler Alert: eventually it’s up to Finn to save the kingdom from an all-powerful evil force!), but at least it’s pretty funny. Most of the humor comes from the side-characters you encounter, like the aging frat guy running the armor shop (who at one point declares his armor “worth droppin’ some skrilla on”) or Finn’s sister, who runs him out of the house every morning with incessant nagging. Other jokes come from the characters’ no-nonsense attitude toward RPG genre clichés – instead of silently listening to a kind old woman NPC prattle on about her son, Finn tells her to shut up because she’s boring him.
Going on an adventure is pretty straightforward. After stopping by the Guild Office to pick up new jobs and requests, Finn and his party head over to Adventures To Go, which is set up like the fantasy version of a mall. Weapons, armor, magic, and item shops are lined up in a strip, so restocking your inventory and getting your hands on the latest equipment is a snap.
Getting your hands on new gear has rarely been so easy in an RPG before.
From there, you’ll go to the Information Kiosk, where you can place your order for a custom-made quest. Here you’ll pick what kind of landscape you’ll be exploring (forest, plains, and so on), what kind of monsters will inhabit it, and whether or not you’ll finish the adventure by conquering an underground labyrinth. You can add an unknown element to your quest if you use an Event Ticket, which could do anything from advance the storyline to generate an uber-powerful boss creature. Once you’ve worked your way through the day’s adventure, you’ll earn a completion bonus if you survived, then its back to the Guild to cash in any quest-solving items you found.
The actual adventuring part of the game consists of exploring each area and fighting monsters. Exploring’s pretty simple, at least a first when you’re stuck with mostly wide-open locales like badlands and plains, though as the game goes on you acquire new, more difficult terrain types. The only thing you’re really looking for is the area’s exit, but along the way you’ll encounter black monoliths, which could have positive (free money!) or negative (severe damage!) effects. Each area is generated randomly every time you adventure, so even if you’ve run through the forest area before, you never know what you’ll find the next time.
Battles occur randomly, but they aren’t your standard RPG fights. Instead, combat play out like miniature turn-based strategy encounters. When you come upon enemies, a 6x6 grid is highlighted around your party and the enemy. Speed determines who acts first, and units take turns moving around the grid and attacking. To take combat actions you’ll spend a character’s AP, or action points; a character’s turn isn’t over as long as they have AP left. Every in-battle action has a different point cost, and while some actions (moving, attacking, and using items) are relatively straightforward, there are a few unique options at your command. Choosing Defend will end your turn immediately and give a defensive bonus until your next turn, whereas choosing Ambush will see your character prepare their weapon – should an enemy unit cross their path before the next turn you’ll attack, dealing higher damage and depleting the enemy’s AP.
Unspent AP rolls over to the next turn, so conserving AP is usually a sound strategy.
The battles are fast and the exploration is exciting, so at first the game’s a lot of fun. Story events come rapid-fire for the first three hours or so, and do a good job of drawing you in to the world and its characters. Unfortunately, it’s after this initial period that the game’s flaws start becoming apparent. For starters, while dungeon areas are randomized, they’re still far too similar from one time to the next. After you’ve explored a terrain a handful of times you’ll become familiar with everything it has to show you.
Combat, too, starts to get a repetitive feel after the first few hours – which isn’t helped by the fact that there’s very little to differentiate your party’s characters. Sure, some can use magic and others use long-range weapons (read: bows), but melee characters have no unique attacks or special moves. After a while, combat becomes a matter of surrounding the enemies in turn while wailing on them with standard attacks, while your mages rain magic down from a distance. Speaking of the game’s magic system, it’s overly complex (you combine crystal shards to create different spells, which must then be equipped before being usable) and poorly explained in-game, creating too much guesswork for the player.
I really enjoyed Adventures To Go! when I began – the tactical fights are quick and fun and the game’s got a lighthearted vibe that was refreshing. But it soon became obvious that this is a game designed for quick bursts of play, not multi-hour sessions. Its unique combination of RPG exploration and strategic combat is definitely worth a try, but at the end of the day it’s a better game in concept than it is in execution.
ATG makes a great first impression: combat is quick and strategic, and dungeon exploration is randomized so each excursion is fun and exciting. Once you’ve put a few hours into the game, though, you’ll realize you’re doing pretty much the same things over and over again. It’s fun in short bursts, but feels lacking over long periods of time.
The 2D character art that accompanies conversations is nice, and the in-game 3D isn’t bad either, though it’s not going to knock your socks off. Environments suffer from repetition, though – if you’ve seen one forest area, you’ve seen them all.
The music is upbeat and energetic, but not particularly exciting or memorable. Sound effects serve their purpose without standing out, and there’s no voice acting to speak of, unless you count grunts of pain when you get hit in combat.
Enemies aren’t particularly smart in combat, so it’s easy to out-maneuver them on the battlefield. Sometimes as part of an event you’ll encounter a nasty boss significantly stronger than you are, but since there’s little to no penalty for failure (you just go back to town, and can try again the next day) you can always grind for experience then try again.
ATG has such a great concept that it initially feels like a much better game than it really is. The ability to custom craft a fantasy world to explore is liberating and fun, and does give you a good amount of freedom as to how you approach completing each quest. The funny, self-referential story is a nice touch, too.
Adventures To Go! is a great idea brought down by a sloppy execution. With a little tweaking (better pacing, better explanations for in-game mechanics, more randomization and changes from one adventure to the next) a sequel could definitely be a must-play. As it stands, though, it’s just a quirky diversion between more substantial RPG fare.