The newest Arc the Lad installment, Twilight of the Spirits, picks up thousands of years after the previous games and centers on a quest to find the mysterious Spirit Stones. The game begins in a small human village where an age of peace has lasted for many centuries. The battles between humans and Deimos from the previous games have long since passed, but this détente won't last. Both species have co-existed on the planet for thousands of years, inhabiting separate areas of the planet and rarely coming into contact with each other. A lot of this is due to the presences of the Spirit Stones, which are used to power the human society and keep the balance of the world. Unfortunately, this Deimos use these to perform powerful spells, and have begun to clash with human armies at the edges of the world. While most of the living humans have limited contact with them, the Deimos have resurfaced and as they game begins, we find out that their forces have attacked a group of miners.
It's here where you meet the game's protagonist, Kharg. Kharg is a young, headstrong warrior who is descended from royalty. He is the heir apparent to lead the village defense forces and his father is readying him to fight. His mother is a peaceful soul who is allied with the spirits and tells Kharg stories about the mysterious creatures who used to populate Earth. As the game begins there's an extensive exposition where all this is explained and we see him sparring with the Village Defense Leader Lloyd and winning for the first time. While he has the will and desire to fight, Kharg is overprotected thanks to his royal lineage. People fear he is too young to battle, so his mother keeps him in the village. In a reckless move, he leaves the village to help the miners who've come under attack. While Kharg is the main character, there are others including a mysterious scientist and his childhood sweetheart Portia, who also happens to be Lloyd's daughter. As he begins to explore the jungles outside his village, he meets a young boy who and other fighters, who join him in his battle with the Deimos. As in most RPG's, players can choose to select which fighter in the partty they'll use, or can combine forces for group attacks. While the initial party seems stable at first, characters have a way of dropping in and out of the game, so these first allies are just a few of the characters who enter and leave the party through the course of the game.
Arc The Lad's control interface and menu system is smartly designed and follow most traditional conventions. This makes for an accessible game should be simple to understand for RPG veterans. Arc the Lad's main action takes place from an angled top down perspective that stays consistent whether you are in the heat of battle or walking around. Likewise, interacting with other characters is simple. You can skip some of these conversations, but you should talk to these NPCs in order to gain the crucial information. While this is fairly standard stuff, Arc the Lad throws a few curves at players. The most interesting aspect of the game is its battle system, which seems a lot more natural than the stilted, removed battles seen in most other role playing games. In many other RPG's, the action is static and feels removed from the game's plot and storyline. Twilight of the Spirits addresses this problem by using voice-overs during battles. The elaborate voice-acting more effectively integrate confrontations with the game's storyline, allowing you to hear the character's reactions during the battles. This makes the battles feel much more a part of the quest, and less like interruptions in the narrative.
Before each battle begins, you can choose which two members of the party will participate in the attack. This is a traditional turn-based system that offers players the usual options such as attacking, dodging and casting spells. Players can use items to regain health during battles. In addition to battling foes, there may be items hidden in trees. Choosing to attack a tree leaves you vulnerable to attacks, so you need to choose when you go after these wisely. Another interesting tactical aspect in the battle system is that the game allows you to move your characters around in a small radius. You can position your party to avoid attacks or position your characters safely away from enemies. Players can also use Combination attacks, where both members of the party attack simultaneously. These can be used when an aura surrounds your player and are quite damaging to foes, but you don't have to use them immediately. Overall, Twilight of the Spirits' battle system is easy to use because it follows standard conventions yet allows the player plenty of flexibility with some excellent tactical maneuvers as well.
From a visual standpoint, the game looks excellent and sharp. While it takes a somewhat conventional approach, fans of the genre will enjoy it. Arc The Lad: Twilight of the Spirits features many impressive cinematic sequences that are elaborate but still fit in nicely with the in-game game engine. The game's overall design is decent, and the bright, colorful graphics draw you into the action. It won't set the world on fire, but the game takes reasonable advantage of the PS2's graphics processors. Arc the Lad's environments come alive with lots of detail evident throughout. It uses an interesting approach and takes place in an isometric, top-down, angled perspective that allows you to see most of the goings-on easily. Arc the Lad's character animations are fluid and smooth with an appealing anime look throughout. Character and enemy designs are nicely done and proportionally realistic, which gives the gameplay a firm grounding to create a consistent and believable universe.
While the battle sequences are turn-based, the animations are smooth and fluid, lending the action an appropriate drama and intensity. While other games offer little or nothing in the way of character development, ATL differs in that you can see the characters change and evolve as the story moves along. This effect is helped along because acting is above average. The game's plot moves along at a good pace with some interesting ideas about renewable energy and commitment. These ideas touched on in a subtle manner that make the plot feel more fleshed out than usual for the genre. While the bits that are there are good, it's disappointing that not all the dialogue occurs in voice-overs. Much of the storyline conveyed in text-based windows, which can be a bit jarring initially. However, this is mitigated by the game's strong narrative. Arc's dramatic music underscores the action effectively without overpowering the gameplay, though at certain points it definitely underlines significant moments effectively.
While Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits has
many traditional RPG elements, there's plenty of innovative features that
separate it from the pack. It's true that the combat is turn-based, but the
ranged attack system makes for a more realistic attacking and defense system
that adds a lot of strategic elements to the game. The battles also don't feel
static and separate from the rest of the adventure because of the voice-overs,
which move the plot along while creating a more cohesive experience. The
storyline itself is surprisingly interesting with engaging characters that
players can relate to, and the numerous twists and surprises should keep players
interested throughout. While there are more than a dozen characters you can
place in your party, they come and go for a reason which gives the narrative a
strong flow. Arc the Lad's production values are highlighted by impressive
environments and an outstanding soundtrack that creates an epic, evocative feel.
Overall, Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits is a smartly designed and
surprisingly accessible RPG that should satisfy both hardcore and casual fans of