13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim – Game Review


13 SENTINELS: AEGIS RIM

(Available for PlayStation 4 only)

Atlus might make some great games but they suck at localising their games to the west. The Persona games still come out half a year after their Japanese releases in spite of the fact of how quickly localisation can happen these days with a bit of effort and it doesn’t appear like it’s set to change with Persona 5 Scramble still without a release date in the west at this time and the remaster of Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne is coming to the Switch several months after Japan, though it has been confirmed that Shin Megami Tensei 5 will have a simultaneous worldwide release (though I suspect that’s due to Nintendo publishing that game. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is also part of this trend releasing in Japan in November of 2019 and only releasing recently just over 10 months after the Japanese release and which is being developed by Vanillaware and published by Atlus and has had not too much of a marketing push (I wasn’t actually aware the game was coming out until after I saw reviews for the game on YouTube after i’s release). It is now here and I was eager to try it out. the game is a sort of hybrid of both a narrative game similar to a point and click or visual novel style game and a tactical Mech game. you’d be surprised how much those 2 go together but they do with you advancing the stories of 13 characters with tactical Mech battles in between. The way the story structure reminds me a lot of Octopath Traveler though in this case you will have to advance certain characters before you can access more than others to avoid spoilers for other characters plotline. The story centres around 13 young people defending Tokyo in 1985 from a Kaiju invasion using the power of Mechs whilst dealing with plotlines involving personal struggle, conspiracy theories, time travel and a possible apocalypse. As usual for a game published by Atlus and developed by Vanillaware it’s very Anime in tone and look but even if that isn’t your thing I’d urge you to not be put off by it since publisher Atlus does a very good job bridging the gap between telling a good Anime style plot with good gameplay and this is no exception.

Pros

  • Graphics : Vanillaware has done an excellent job here the story sections are particularly stunning and resemble a Manga in motion with a visual style that’s very distinctive. The game looks stunning, the Anime style is certainly there but there’s also a bit of water colour effect to the story segments which do a good job making the world look vibrant where they be the scenes of Urban Japan or the more apocalyptic Sci-fi stetting the game also boasters. I also really think this game has excellent character designs which really make each one of them For a lot of people they are a bit disappointed with how the mech battle sections are designed but I actually quite like. The game reflects a classic arcade strategy game which I found really visually appealing even if it does require a bit of imagination, though there are also animations of what exactly is going on done in style of the story segments to give more of a feel
  • Story: I can’t go into too much detail about it to avoid spoilers but this is an incredible sci-fi story. the game does not have a linear structure and is almost impossible to play in a way that gives you that so you’re going to have to pay attention to every characters actions and a lot of it won’t make sense at first with the inevitable constant hopping around of settings. However once you peel that away you build up a structure of big mysteries to uncover and great character dramas which have excellent development which was what kept me going. I wanted to know the plot and what was going to happen to these characters to such an extent it was really annoying when I was blocked from pursuing certain characters plot lines and being forced to do another one or more missions in the other half of the game. in the end though this makes sense since it allows revelations to slowly unfold into the bigger picture
  • Gameplay: 13 sentinels is dived into 2 sections the story segments and the mech battle segments. The story segments involve you taking control of the characters in a structure that is similar to that of point and click games but you most of the time won’t be having to solve puzzles and figure out what you need to do so most of time you’re going along with the story and feels closer to a visual novel. These segments are the best and most gripping part of the game for all the reasons laid out beforehand when I was talking about the story. Now when it comes to the mech battles it’s not as enjoyable but it does have some tense moments and strategy is key to it. The early battles are easy and almost tedious in their difficulty but they do ease you into the combat but eventually it ramps up and they’re genuinely exciting in a lot of ways. the game involves you controlling 6 characters at a time and you have to have a good mix of characters since each character pilots one of 4 generations of sentinels and you need a good mix to face each of the enemy types you encounter. The game also gives you extra criteria each mission to earn experience points and add an extra level of challenge, something I usually took part in. The game is like a strategy game though you won’t need experience in that genre to play this, the game eases you in well and each time you attack or act the battle pauses to help you think on your actions. Honestly it was genuinely cool you can do each battle on any difficulty though I would say that it’s not too difficult until half way through the game and I only had to lower the difficulty on my first playthrough for about 3 missions on my first playthrough to keep the story going. I have a way more favourable view of this gameplay segments than most reviews and I will concede it is not as good as the story segments and I will echo other reviews saying that early on there feels like a discount from the story but I actually enjoy the gameplay in both areas and the battles did give a good amount of challenge. If you’re not a fan of it just swap it to casual and just enjoy the story.

Mixed

  • Difficulty spikes: the first time I went down a difficult level to beat a mission I assumed I was going to be at a lower difficulty for the rest of the game though I was surprised to find that when I raised the difficulty back up for the next battles I was perfectly able to beat them relatively easily. This is where my problem comes while it’s not a deal breaker I’m not a fan of really sudden difficulty spikes and this game has quite a few and they are a bit inconsistent though the ability to lower the difficulty meant they weren’t too big of an annoyance.

Cons

  • Kind of confusing structure to some chapters: the game does have an issue of being rather confusing on how to proceed in certain chapters which can briefly sour the experience. On a couple of occasions it didn’t make things obvious on how to proced and I had to look up an online guides to proceed and it made me rather paranoid to check all my action to make sure I wasn’t going to repeat something I already did. I also think having segments repeat gives off the impression that you haven’t finished a chapter and are repeating it which can be confusing to first time players.
  • Post-game content feels pointless: you do get some post game content with extra missions but after the story is wrapped up they feel rather pointless since they add nothing narratively and earning extra mystery points to fill in more of the encyclopaedia will lose it’s lustre given that by that point you know everything that is going on and it is well and truly over

Overall thoughts

13 Sentinels has one of the best stories in a video game in 2020 and creates a game which is incredibly fun to experience it. It probably could’ve scored more if it wasn’t for the difficulty spikes or the story structure issues but as it stands it is great that this game is finally available outside of Japan because it’s truly an excellent exclusive for the PlayStation 4 in its final year of being Sony’s primary console. If you like really good sci-fi you really should play this and if the gameplay of the mech battles aren’t for you , which I seem to be reviewing more favourably than most people, just go to casual difficulty and experience the story. it looks, great and plays really well so would recommend picking it up

Score: 9.4/10

Absolutely recommend buying it even if you are planning to upgrade to the PlayStation 5 since it will be backwards compatible though I suspect it won’t be one of the games to get the upgrade when playing on that console and is also an excellent pickup if you are staying on PlayStation 4 for the time being. PC gamers I would suggest keeping an eye out since I can see this going to Steam or Epic Games Store in the future.
 
Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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