After producing a truly entertaining third instalment into their growing Inotia franchise, Com2uS decided not to rock the boat and stuck with a formula that worked. Instead of the massive visual change between Inotia 2’s semi-serious feel and Inotia 3’s more anime inspired aesthetic, the fourth and currently final instalment in the series plays it safe on almost all fronts.
Not that there haven’t been slight changes, the game now sports a slightly isometric perspective rather than traditional top-down viewpoint, but this doesn’t have any real impact on the game itself. Gameplay elements remain almost completely unchanged, and sadly that includes the ridiculously over-priced cash shop and horrible inventory system designed to take advantage of it.
Visually the game still retains a pixel-art style similar to that of a high-end SNES title, however things have taken a turn for the emo with the series’ fourth entry and rather than be introduced to a colourful and lively cast of misfits we’re instead thrust into the shoes of a band of assassins and soul-searching near-do-wells. Visually this means darker environments, spikey haircuts and female characters who fall into the femme-fatal mould. Graphics are still well presented however and the character art is still nicely drawn in 2D illustrations to give players a more detailed version of their leading man and his friends. The menus and buttons retain much of their layout and structure from the third instalment and as such are well done and suit mobile play perfectly.
In terms of sound this title makes great use of combat effects, in particular sword slashes and grunts from both male and female characters when struck, but dips in quality when presenting noises outside of combat. The music fails to set itself apart from other moody RPGs in any way, focusing on simple melodies played on instruments such as the flute, in this case produced using synth. The overall experience does lend itself to an oppressive atmosphere for the characters but robs the game of much of the identity that the series had been building. Worse, the tracks blur together and become repetitive over longer sessions.
The narrative of this game sees you take on the role of Kiyan, a warrior for the Shadow Tribe and all-round bad-ass (read ‘arsehole’ into that if you will) who accidentally becomes involved with a girl who is the ‘Channel of Light’. What follows is a predictable story that uses many anime clichés without even attempting to wrap them up in new presentation or circumstance. The game also has a rather sporadic and dark sense of humour that can be quite jarring. On one occasion the otherwise quite likable Eara refers to the player as an ‘insufferable prick’ which is played entirely for laughs but falls flat. Dialogue is actually written in a relatively strong manner that gives characters dialogue that feels natural, so these occasions stick out all the more. Themes of redemption, darkness and light are all explored and eventually come to a head in an epic showdown.
Gameplay does manage to remain a highlight however, with the control scheme performing extremely well for virtual controls and the ability to fade elements out to be almost invisible and save obscuring a cramped screen is much appreciated. Some icons and readouts on the HUD can be moved around and rearranged to your liking, adding further functionality to those who require it. Combat continues to work through an ‘attack once and auto attack after that until the monster dies’ system inspired by MMORPGs, with spells and items on cool-downs and represented by icons on screen. These need to be rearranged periodically as you’ll usually have more options than icons and will want to switch out skills before battles. Characters gain experience through combat and level, but also grab items which can be turned in for rewards from a wealth of NPC given quests and serve to fill up inventory space. The big gripe that sours the experience is the inventory system once again, which is extremely limited and attempts to funnel you into paying for an enlarged bag to prevent you having to deal with it constantly. Character creation for additional party members also returns and this is still a fun system, acquire (or buy) a special item and turn it into a character who gets a random pull of skills and abilities from its class based on the rarity of the item. Obviously to have a character possessing all the skills of a class you’ll need to invest in a premium item, but the game doesn’t require that for completion and the story-dropped items will fill your party, in addition to characters required for plot purposes. Item synthesis and synthesis inspired quests also return and these do serve to take up more inventory space, but at the same time the rewards are usually worth the effort. Your leading man can start the game with one of six classes, and regenerates health at quite a steady rate, which messes up the balance of the game a little, leading to encounters being easily tackled with a full life bar at all times.
In theory this game should be just as good as Inotia 3, but in practise the gloomy tone and lack of advancement for the series makes it feel like more of a placeholder. The title has a free to play model that allows you to pay to turn it into the full version (removing ads but not the balancing issues mentioned above for items and characters) so it’s easy to download the game and test it out for yourself. We’d recommend skipping it in favour of the third entry, or playing through this one if you’ve completed that and wanted something else to chew on whilst waiting for a larger game to see release.