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Written by  :  DarkDove (70)
Written on  :  Sep 07, 2003
Platform  :  PlayStation
Rating  :  4.4 Stars4.4 Stars4.4 Stars4.4 Stars4.4 Stars

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Medieval fantasy at its best.

The Good

What do you get when you mix a complex political plot, in-depth characters, and thought provoking strategy-based gameplay all set in a medieval fantasy world? Vandal Hearts, of course. Every ounce of Vandal Hearts offers only the best in every one of these categories, leaving you with a smile of complete content.

The plot in Vandal Hearts could be summarized as: a country fresh out of a bloody revolution against a corrupt and tyrannical government begins to crumble underneath the weight of newly gained responsibility, and it is up to you to make sure everything stays together. But simplifying it in this manner does a great injustice to the brilliance of the game's intricate web of corruption, deceit, greed, and most importantly, bravery. The heroic leader of the Revolution, Arris the Sage, whom all hoped would lead the new country after the revolution, has mysteriously disappeared, and now there are people scheming to take advantage of the country's vulnerability.

You will take control of Ash Lambert and his two comrades who work for the DSF, the Domestic Security Forces, and are sent to investigate the disappearance of a well-respected soldier named Magnus. From here, the story escalates to epic proportions, where you, as Ash, will realize that the world is in for much more trouble than anybody could have guessed. Along the way, you will recruit numerous allies, eventually ending up with a party of twelve characters to fight your battles with. Each of these characters has their own tale, adding a very personal aspect to the game's story. The basic classes in the game are swordsmen, archers, healers, and mages. But from there, you are offered a unique course of advancement, and you must decide the best way to go.

The gameplay in Vandal Hearts is probably most generally based on chess. But wait...don't like chess? Me neither, but I love this game. You will fight on a 3-D battlefield, and each battlefield has obstacles like trees, mountains, rivers, bridges, boulders, towers, and more. You will normally start off in a group, while the enemy is scattered about the battlefield. You will have to make the best of each character's maneuverability, strength in physical attacks, and strength in magical attacks, while also taking into account the same attributes for your enemy. You must always be one step ahead, planning before you move, predicting what you think the enemy might do, and that is why it is so closely related to chess. All of this also contributes to a great replay value, because not only can you experiment with changing classes each time you play, but the battles will never ever go the same way.

The Bad

There are a couple of negative things I am compelled to point out. First of all, this game was made around 1996 or '97, so the graphics are very poor. I personally have a very low emphasis on graphics when it comes to video games, but for those of you who bask in the superior modern graphics of the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube, you may have a problem here. Another thing is that for those of you who love exploring in RPG's, or at least like having some sort of freedom, you will be extremely disappointed. Vandal Hearts is the most linear game I have ever played. You go from the world map to a town, where you will have the option of going to the shop, the dojo, or the tavern, and in some towns there are specific places that become available. Everything except the battles are done from a menu, and the only freedom you have is that sometimes after a battle you can go back to the previous town to buy more items or possibly new weapons and armor before progressing on to the next battle.

The Bottom Line

This is the type of game that's addictively fun to play, and very rewarding to win. I honestly think that if you just gave it a chance, you'd have no choice but to fall in love. I have often seen Vandal Hearts compared to the popular Final Fantasy Tactics, but in my strong opinion, FFT isn't even worthy of being compared to this gem. An entertaining and rewarding experience.