Chinese Softstar Entertainment is back with its fourth instalment into the role-playing game series, Empire of Angels.
Empire of Angels IV is the fourth instalment in a series that has actually been around since the early 90s, but is now making its console debut. I haven't played any of the predecessors, but the story isn't exactly deep, as classical straightforward role-playing games of the past often were. As such, it hasn't been a problem to keep up with the game world.
Game mechanically, Empire of Angels IV is a bit reminiscent of Fire Emblem, though not with the same production value and game depth. So it's all about battles on a grid where you and your characters have to position yourselves as best you can, and then attack the enemy. The system is fairly inflexible and there are few surprises, although the developers have tried to shake up the concept by giving you a series of sub-objectives to achieve before each battle in order to get the highest possible ranking. These could include not dying with any character, defeating the enemy quickly or getting all opponents to flee the battle.
In addition, there are often secrets hidden on the tracks that may be worth checking out. Unfortunately, several fairly basic features are missing, making it often feel rather messy to plan your moves in the best possible way. There's a lot of trial 'n error and button mashing, and the menus are unfortunately messy as well.
The graphics are mostly colourful and nice, and the design is good. It's reminiscent of old blocky games from the first PlayStation era, but with much higher resolution and modern effects. I like the way the game looks, and the fact that the game worlds aren't overly detailed, at the same time, makes it exemplarily clear what's what.
But with all that said, something is off. Empire of Angels IV is an all-female game that often tends towards the so-called waifu side, and of course it's debatable how good this is both in general as well as in major close-quarters battles. You can have lots of opinions about this, but for my own part it unfortunately obscures some of what's actually good about the game. It feels puerile and often sexist on a level that prevents me from engaging with the story. Take just one such thing as all the characters losing their clothes (minus their underwear) when they are defeated. I dare say the game would have been much better without it, and is something that just makes you feel uncomfortable.
Chinese developer Softstar Entertainment offers a straightforward Chinese narrative with no localisation other than a seemingly questionable translation. Now, I almost always play with the original language regardless, but when the translation often feels unfinished, it obviously becomes a problem. People also go around calling things like Kefir and Jeans, which doesn't do super much for immersion either.
The single best thing about Empire of Angels IV is the system for how you can level up your characters. It takes a while to unlock everything, but as you get stronger and stronger, you can give your fighting ladies different alignments. That way, you can tailor your squad to your preferred play style. Unlike in many similar games, enemies far back often stand still before you get close, so I tried to prioritise mobility to start battles on my own terms.
Ultimately, there's a solid foundation for a good game here. I think Softstar Entertainment has put themselves on the hook with all the silly waifu inserts, as it will instantly make many people opt out. With more focus on the narrative and a bit more polish to the game system, this would have been a title I could instantly recommend to those craving a strategic role-playing game.
5 / 10
Easy to get into. Solid base for a good strategy-RPG. Upgradeable options are unique and varied.
Character design makes you feel uncomfortable. Poor localisation.