God Wars: Future Past is a strategy RPG developed by the makers of Natural Doctrine. Whereas Natural Doctrine attempted to do too many new and different things and ended up becoming overly complex, God Wars has taken a more traditional route and thanks to this, it definitely feels like a much more solid game.
Events kick-off with a sacrifice. With earthquakes, droughts, and the ominous rumblings of Mt Fuji afoot, Queen Tsukuyomi has little choice but to take her young daughter Sakuya to a lava-filled crater upon the mountain. The spirits of Fuji are angry, and unfortunately, the only way to appease them is by sacrificing poor Sakuya. In the thirteen years thereafter, Kaguya - another of Tsukuyomi’s daughters - has been imprisoned alone as a safeguard in case of a time when a future sacrifice is needed. After escaping from her prison, she goes off on a journey across Japan to find her mother and learn the truth about her fate. While the story initially appears compelling, it won’t take you long to realise that you’re on a bit of a wild goose chase, going from location to location chasing down vague clues which act as an excuse to send you off to the next area.
Visually the game uses numerous different art styles to tell its story. There’s a mix of comic book style cutscenes, beautiful animated events, and stylish character portraits. In-game, however, is a much blander affair. The characters are displayed in a cute chibli style but the environments in which they are placed are mostly dull as dishwater, with dated looking textures and, for the most part, small poky map designs.
Of course a game doesn’t need to have the strongest storyline or the best graphics in the world to be enjoyable - as long as the gameplay is compelling enough it can still be entertaining to play through. Thankfully this is where God Wars starts to come into its own with some fairly engaging strategic action. If you’ve ever played an SRPG before then you’ll instantly be familiar with some of the basics. Combat takes place on a grid-based map with each ally and enemy taking its turn one-by-one depending on their speed stats. All the usual things you’d expect are present, such as being able to inflict more damage if you attack from higher ground or from behind, as well as the typical status ailments and buffs.
There are a couple of elements in particular that spice things up rather nicely; the MP and job system.
Each character has access to a wide range of skills with which you need MP to use, but in a fun little twist, one which is very reminiscent of Tactics Ogre, when a battle begins, you start out with zero MP. You recover a small amount of MP every turn or by using certain skills or items. It’s a bit odd to get used to at first, but it’s actually a pretty neat little mechanic which means that you won’t feel the need to hoard MP, and as long as you pace yourself, you can instead use your skills freely throughout the battle. This’ll mean that you’ll have much more freedom to experiment, which is very handy since there are a huge number of skills to mess around with.
God Wars has a job system whereby characters can equip up to three classes; a main job, sub job, and a unique job. The jobs are mostly fairly standard with typical stuff such as warrior, archer, and magician making an appearance. What makes it interesting is the range of skills that each job has, with a great variety of offensive and defensive skills. All the jobs feel useful in their own way and equipping multiple jobs means you can really mix and match to build the perfect battle unit. Each job has its own skill tree which you can upgrade by using Job Points that are awarded whenever you take action in battle.
While each character has access to the same jobs they all get one completely unique job that only they can equip. This means that every character has some degree of individuality thanks to specialised skills, and in turn, this helps keep things fresh. There are a multitude of jobs available and it’s fun to unlock new ones and see the diverse range of new skills you can play around with.
As with most SRPGs, if you’re not well prepared and don’t have a good strategy planned, then things can get pretty tough. Thankfully there are a couple of things that can help you out: the ability to change the game's difficulty and side quests to help you level up.
As long as you’re outside of battle you’re free to change the difficulty whenever you like. This is great for newcomers as it means that they can start on easy and switch to a harder difficulty once they’ve got to grips with the gameplay. On the flipside, this also means if you are a genre veteran but have overestimated your skills then you can make things a tad easier on yourself without needing to completely restart.
There's also a sidequest system for when you want to level up or grind job points. You can accept numerous requests from various shrines across Japan. Requests usually just involve battling a handful of enemies on previously visited maps, and while this is a good way to grind job points and level up, it ultimately ends up making the game feel repetitive as you’ll already be familiar with the locations. The lack of any compelling narrative reason to complete them feel like a bit of a chore.
God Wars: Future Past is an SRPG which feels less future-facing and more like it’s stuck in the past. It does nothing to try and redefine the genre, but it does have a number of well executed mechanics including a compelling job system. SRPG fans should find just enough to like, and newcomers may also stumble across some tactical fun.