|Release: June 12, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p||Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes|
by Becky Cunningham
How far would you go in the fight against injustice? Gungnir asks that question when its young protagonist gains the powers of a demonic spear. Sadly, the game's plodding pace, extremely linear structure, and presence on the PSP mean that it will mostly appeal to existing fans of Sting's strategy RPGs. There are some interesting ideas in the game, but it falls short in terms of execution.
Gungnir's story revolves around a revolution begun against the ruling government of Gargandia, a mighty empire. It seems the ruling Daltania race of Gargandia has crushed the minority Leonica race under its boot heels. The player, of course, controls a young Leonica warrior who is an important member of the Esperanza rebel group. When the young man, Giulio, is almost killed in a brutal attack by a petty minor Daltanian lord, he mysteriously comes into possession of a mystic spear that has fallen from the heavens. Giulio quickly learns that the spear gives him great powers, and seizes victory from the jaws of defeat.
The spear, Gungnir, houses a number of rather-unpleasant war deities that Giulio can call upon to aid him in battle, though they're rather indiscriminate about whom they hurt. The attendant moral difficulties of controlling Gungnir while mounting a revolution that continually sees Giulio and his friends in the underdog position propel the story forward, though there are plenty of plot twists and side-plots along the way. The plot is quite serious, fairly interesting, and even comes with some moral decisions for the player to make. Though the decisions don't alter the course of the linear storyline, they do lead to several possible story endings. It's a decently interesting story, though some of the scenes drag on longer than they should, and the main action can sometimes be derailed by minor plot points that take up too much screen time.
This being a strategy RPG, the main amount of playtime is dedicated to battling. Gungnir's battle system is fairly typical for turn-based SRPGs, with characters moving along a gridded battlefield and executing various positional attacks depending on their character class and equipped weapon.
The main twist that the game adds to this system is the addition of a timed turn order. A line of icons at the bottom of the screen tracks the turns of individual enemies and the player's party. While each enemy has an individual turn, the player can move any desired unit during a player turn—though there's a hit point penalty for moving a unit too soon after it has just had a turn. The player accrues tactics points while attacking, which can be used to move out of turn, buff the attacking character, or perform a multi-character attack (provided party members are suitably placed on the battlefield.)
Despite its importance to the story, Gungnir's usefulness in battle is rather limited. The war gods kept in the spear will attack both enemies and allies randomly. The problem is that the player is usually severely outnumbered, and losing even one troop member to Gungnir's whims can be devastating. Use it at the beginning of battle and risk being down a group member or two in battles that provide few spots for troop members in the first place. Use it near the end of battle and risk botching the entire thing with an unlucky hit. It's far less risky and is generally sufficient to simply rely on standard weaponry to come out on top.
Gungnir aside, the basics of the system are fairly sound, but they break down when it comes to the details. Surveying the battlefield and issuing orders can be unwieldy thanks to a somewhat clumsy interface. It's particularly difficult to work with battlefields that are on multiple levels or contain major terrain height differences. The turn order system also falls a bit flat, especially as the player's party is heavily outnumbered, so much of the battle is spent watching enemy troops shuffle about. Add enemies that take several turns each to kill and the battles become very long, frequently lasting an hour or more. The game can't be saved in battle, either, making it quite inconvenient to play on the go or in short bursts.