Developed by Japanese company peakvox and published by Playism (Mitsurugi Kamui Hikae, D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die, Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight), GOCCO OF WAR is an instance-based action RPG reminiscent of Phantasy Star Universe. Released in 2015, the title offers a multitude of game modes and collectible cosmetics as well as consistent controller support and absolutely no microtransactions.
GOCCO OF WAR is available on Steam for $19,99.
Set over a hundred years into the future, GOCCO OF WAR has players immersing in a virtual reality known as GSJ (short for Gocco Studio Japan), a virtual playground where children may engage the environment as they see fit. Instead of following a linear story, GOW focuses on short stories that provide insight into the characters' backgrounds and events surrounding GSJ. From storylines involving the company behind the virtual world to strong commentaries on the video game industry and community as they are today, the quests offer an interesting and casual approach to storytelling that doesn't force players to keep track of convoluted subplots.
The most interesting aspect of GOCCO OF WAR's story is the aforementioned social and commercial commentary. The game is not afraid of criticizing game developers or trying to educate players on how real anything they feel should be when playing a video game. Some of these references make more sense for those who know the culture of gaming in Japan, but many others, such as the developer of GSJ asking players to debug the game for him, are universal. This fearless delivery is unexpected and may please gamers who struggle with the video game industry.
Very simple, the combat of GOCCO OF WAR consist of wielding two types of weapons and attacking with two buttons, one for regular moves and another for heavier skills. Although straightforward, this allows players to experiment with multiple combinations of weapons, their upgrades, and element types, which may change how their attacks are executed and how they affect enemies. Furthermore, since there is no leveling system, character growth relies on an item category called badge which bestows stat bonuses as well as additional effects.
Those familiar with Phantasy Star Online will feel right at home with how questing works in GOW. Upon selecting the desired quest and its difficulty from the quest counter, players can venture forth by interacting with a teleporter or, in case they're playing online, wait for others to join from the quest board, which lists all active quests. Unlike competitors, however, the game doesn't offer a party system or the ability to join quests in progress. On the bright side, every quest is its unique mode, although all of them consist of defeating enemies in order to progress. But the main objectives are generally unique enough. Furthermore, each map was carefully designed to favor exploration and make each instance feel singular. Finally, playing on offline mode can be a hassle for the NPC AI is awfully clunky, often getting stuck behind walls or halting movement altogether because the spawn radius of an enemy reaches very far into the map.
Indie developers as small as peakvox are not popular for providing customers the option to play with keyboard and mouse or a controller. The controller support present in GOCCO is comparable to that used in triple-A releases as it is pretty much full and even features XBox 360 prompts. Additionally, the controls are completely customizable and the options feature camera sensitivity for both normal and combat mode as well as double axis inversion for both modes.
Perhaps the weaker gameplay element, the interface is outdated and slow. It borrows the design choices from Phantasy Star Online and Universe but requires more button clicks than those to execute changes and access shops.
As mentioned, GOCCO OF WAR focuses on collecting cosmetics. There is a kiosk entirely dedicated to crafting cosmetics using the materials you find whilst questing. With over 200 wearables to craft and even an array of weapon upgrades that considerably change how a weapon looks, as well as how it performs.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO
With an anime art style known as "chibi", the game may not be appealing to everyone. Although the graphics are mostly simple, they are sharp, well designed, and consistent with the premise. However, there are very few options that even when turned off don't solve the performance issues in computers that exceed the minimum requirements but are not extremely powerful compared to today's standards.
The soundtrack is pleasing and the game features basic audio options. Some sound effects, such as that present in the NPC bubbles, are louder than other sounds associated with the same category, thus lowering the sliders will make the associated sounds nearly inaudible.
Overall, GOCCO OF WAR is a surprisingly polished indie game. It has its rough edges and the anime art style might not be for everyone, but it has more under the hood than it lets out. It's certainly more fun with friends although the online mode may not function properly at times. Furthermore, the performance issues are a real let down considering weaker computers should be able to power the game without a problem. Turning off the few graphic options slightly helps with that, but doesn't solve it entirely. The biggest surprise is the social commentary which resonates with a big portion of the gaming community.
In the end, for the asked price and all the content it offers, it's a fine solution for those who miss Phantasy Star Universe's synthesis feature and who enjoy collecting cosmetics. The fact that new cosmetics and quests are added as free updates instead of paid DLC is also a huge plus and should serve as an inspiration to other indie developers.
|+ Reminiscent of Phantasy Star Universe||– Performance issues|
|+ More content than it lets out||– Outdated UI|
|+ Solid commentary on the gaming industry||– Clunky AI|
|+ Low price and no paid DLC||– Anime art style might not be for everyone|
|+ A variety of game modes and collectibles|