Ys: The Oath in Felghana review
The action role-playing series Ys (pronounced “ee-ss”) is one long, continuous adventure cut into digestible pieces. The Oath in Felghana, in particular, acts as a remake of Ys III: Wanderers from Ys, which developer Nihon Falcom released in 1989. The updated version came to PSP in 2010 with a localization courtesy of Xseed Games, but the game hit Steam only last month. Is it worth the $15 price point? For gamers looking to tap into the market of shorter RPGs (10-15 hours in this instance) or anyone seeking a good challenge: yes.
In The Oath in Felghana, adventurers Adol Christin and Dogi arrive in Felghana, home to the little town of Redmont where Dogi grew up with his childhood friend Chester and Chester’s sister, Elena. In typical RPG fashion, monsters have been encroaching on the usually peaceful locale, a disturbance exacerbated by the rash actions of the corrupt Count McGuire. The game involves a tight-knit group of characters, mostly townsfolk and the ruling class, and centers around Redmont. As the silent protagonist Adol, players must unravel a dark plot that has caused Chester to serve the sinister Count, who has been inflicting hardship on the people of Felghana.
Gameplay consists of fighting enemies in dungeons and confronting much tougher bosses, using a blend of physical attacks and magic. It’s easy to relax and enter the flow of combat while you’re exploring, but bigger battles require your full attention. The game features three basic modes, and the intensity of the Normal setting should clue players in that the game offers merciless challenge, testing a player’s endurance and skill as they fight keepers of treasure with obscene amounts of HP. The default mode of Easy provides considerable difficulty without mopping the dungeon floor with the player.
The directional controls aren’t ideally suited for PC play, but the game does support controllers, which is the better option by far. Elemental powers can be hard to master even then. The Ventus Bracelet, for example, lets players traverse long gaps, but reaching the other side can take work and a little experimentation. Failing to make it across means slogging through an aggravating period of backtracking before the player can return to the spot and try again.
The Oath in Felghana does include some conveniences. After dying in battle, players can choose to retry from the checkpoint or return to the title. The game always gives players access to a save point before a boss screen, also indicated by the complete absence of the frenetic background music (an impressive rearrangement of what was a very highly regarded soundtrack to Wanderers from Ys). Changing magic during battle is easy, too, along with sorting through weapons, armor, and accessories from the inventory.
While combat is complex and interesting, the story lacks depth in both dialogue and plot. The few cut-scenes reveal the game’s age, but the sprite work is nice, and that’s what you’ll see most of. The environments — from the lava streams of the Illburns Ruins to the snowy peaks of the Elderm Mountains — use fully realized 3D and a fixed camera, keeping players’ attention focused on the action at hand, at least when they’re not busy admiring their surroundings.
Bottom line, the bosses are the real meat of the game, with 2-3 appearing per area, but casual enjoyment comes from investigating dungeons and slicing apart enemies. Ys: The Oath in Felghana combines simple action with a small-scale story and brutal showdowns, and the three-course meal is fit to satisfy the heartiest appetites. The game never feels light despite its length, and the few irksome problems that exist seem to vanish before the gorgeous design and the addicting gameplay.