Developer(s) – Kisareth Studios
Publisher(s) – Kisareth Studios
ESRB – T for Teen
Continuing the saga of the sinister dark lord of the Kisareth Empire Magus Lee, Chronicles of a Dark Lord Episode II: War of the Abyss was released last week on Desura, and after having been given the green light to release the first game on Steam, Kisareth hoped to get the second installment to the franchise released on Valve’s online gaming service even faster; and after having played it, I can’t see why that would have been unreasonable.
Graphics – 9/10
Following on from the splendid hand-drawn visuals of the first game, Kisareth has stepped up their game by providing infinitely more detailed scenery, settings, character sprites, and enemies. The world in the second game is a lot more open and vast than that of its predecessor, and there is a lot more diversity in the game’s visuals; particularly in its enemy designs. Influences from other sources have been made far less obvious with a lot of the unique enemies that can be found in the game, such as the Abyssal Soldiers and the Scorlanis. As well as there is more effort put into the hand-drawn visuals, the character portraits have also been re-imagined, deviating away from the Japanese anime style used in the last game and making use of a more unique visual style.
Gameplay – 9.5/10
The gameplay remains largely the same; a traditional turn-based RPG reminiscent of the likes of Classic Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest games; and as such, it is wonderfully addictive, immersing, and challenging, like its predecessor. The game also throws the player straight into the thick of the action, starting from the battle between Magus and his allies and the dark god Xe’on, creating an extremely explosive first impression on gamers. The developers have also rethought the level-up system by introducing the scion grid, which is used to upgrade the character’s weapons and teach them new fighting abilities. It’s somewhat similar to Final Fantasy XIII’s crystarium system, albeit, much less complicated and easier to work with. In any case, it’s much more satisfying to level up characters than it was in the previous game, and therefore, more enjoyable to play, to say the least. Although there are no more random encounters, and that enemies instead appear onscreen, there is still plenty of room for level grinding and hours of fun gameplay. There is also more to play for throughout the game, as the story splits off into several different directions, giving the player multiple characters to work with intermittently, maintaining a massive amount of variety.
Controls – 9.5/10
The only very minor gripe I had about the game’s control scheme was that managing the scion grid was a little bit awkward. They make use of a scrolling system similar to a mouse on a computer, which is pretty slow and makes me think it would have been easier to tailor it in the same manner as every other menu found in the game. But apart from that, the game’s control scheme is flawless, thankfully having no other unnecessary complications that make it impossible to cope with.
Lifespan – 7/10
CoaDL II lasts roughly 25 to 30 hours, making it slightly longer than its predecessor, but in my opinion, the third game, Episode III: Rise of Nihility, which is currently in development, needs to be much longer. Typically, turn-based RPGs can be made to last around 80 to 100 hours, and whilst 30 hours is still a very substantial amount of time for a video game to last, I think if Kisareth wants the Chronicles of Dark Lord saga to go from being an indie cult classic to something much bigger and successful, then the next game has to last much longer since although episodes I and II are exceptional games, they have both left me hungry for more Chronicles of a Dark Lord excellence.
Storyline – 8/10
Taking place a year after the events of the first game, Magus Lee, the Kisareth Empire, and the rest of the world of Cora face the much greater threat from the forces of the Abyss, and it falls under Magus, his clan, and a mixture of both old and new allies to put a stop to the looming invasion. The story of the second game is just as wonderfully engrossing and daring as the first, with just as great a sense of character development, tragedy, and tension throughout to keep this narrative as magnificent as ever; coupled with the conveyance of both friendship and family unity; which albeit is at times handled in a delightfully dark manner, as some side quests involve sadistically punishing some NPCs who may displease Magus, present players with choices of how best to go about doing this.
Originality – 8.5/10
With a new level-up system, new narrative, new characters, and a plethora of new enemy creatures in the game’s bestiary, the franchise has been kept very much original, speaking of Kisareth’s own company policy of providing players with fresh new perspectives on gameplay and visual style. In particular, developing a turn-based RPG that stands out from the many others that have been released over the years I no easy task, and I believe Kisareth has done that in style with not only the second game but with the whole series so far.
In summation Chronicles of a Dark Lord Episode II: War of the Abyss is better than its predecessor, and Kisareth has managed to deliver yet another greatly immersing gaming experience. It’s almost like an extension of the first game, but with much better visuals, more engrossing gameplay, and lasting fractionally longer. My biggest hope now is that the next game in the series dwarfs the size of the first and the second combined, as a game series that could potentially be of the same magnitude as either Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, deserves to have a game that lasts as long as a game in the aforementioned examples.