So often, it feels like we see ports of mobile games make it to console or PC, but we never see the initial mobile release. It may be because game critics as a whole generally don’t hop onto the Google Play Store and search out full game experiences, or it’s such a niche subset of titles that there isn’t much talk around the games that do premier on mobile platforms. This time around, we are here at the mobile launch of Armed Emeth, the latest from KEMCO and Hit-Point Co., Ltd.
A pseudo-sequel to 2014’s Rusted Emeth, Armed once again puts us in the role of a brooding and sarcastic male protagonist who must save the kingdom through the use of some sort of magic. What sets this apart from every other recent KEMCO release is the setting and art style, which invoke Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI more than anything else.
STORY – GUNS AND GOLEMS
The world of Armed Emeth consists of two large continents, once ruled by the powerful Dernier Empire. By manipulating a life force known as Edea, the Empire created golems and used them to control the populace. Suddenly, one of the planet’s two moons fell from the sky among a massive meteor shower. Using the chaos as an opportunity, the citizens staged a revolution, and now the population lives in clusters known as communes.
As expected, we follow a gruff young man with a mysterious past and no family of his own, Valess. A bounty hunter by trade, he teams up with a golem that has become self-aware and sets off on an adventure to rescue his lost mother. This storyline sets up the reasoning behind most of the quests in the game: as a bounty hunter, you visit the bounty office in each town to find the next job, which in turn moves the story along. It’s not a terrifically complicated method of ensuring story progression, but completing each bounty order is a satisfying way to keep the ball rolling when there isn’t much narrative to sort through.
There is some substance to the characters and setting, something that I don’t often see in these sorts of games. The larger plot concerning Edea feels a bit one-note; the vague conversations about a mysterious life force aren’t compelling to sit through. It’s during the individual conversations that the writing begins to shine. Of course, this is something I’d expect from the company that made Neko Atsume (bite-sized interactions seem to be their forte)! The attitude that Lock gives Valess is delightful, and every time a hooded NPC mutters something to me from an alley, I can’t help but smile.
World-building is generally a well-intentioned goal for RPG designers, but it’s not a characteristic that is easy to execute. The general way to beef up a title is to include more townsfolk and interactions, but in many games, the dialogue gets copied and pasted throughout, resulting in the same lines being spewed at the player. I was really happy to see that this wasn’t the case with Armed Emeth. Each NPC gives different pieces of world flavor or narrative background that meet a good balance between lore dumps and empty conversation.
The result is a largely empty world made up of small, dense hubs, with plenty to pick at while stopping at an inn or purchasing golem upgrades. Plus, it’s always nice to see a protagonist that isn’t completely good or completely evil (but turns good in the end). Valess is perfectly content with repeatedly hunting down the same bandit only to take a bribe and send them on their way. Apathy is a great trait to see in a character that’s been staged as alone and stoic, which means that Valess might be the best protagonist I’ve seen in a KEMCO title to date.
GAMEPLAY – TURN-BASED TRIGGER WORK
If you’ve been paying attention, there aren’t many variations of JRPG combat out there. Most modern games in the genre utilize some variation of the Conditional Turn-Based Battle System, designed by Toshiro Tsuchida and first introduced in Final Fantasy X. In Armed, we see this again, but without any sort of gimmick or twist on the mechanics that we’d commonly find these days. There are no funky super bars or spirit rings to fill to unleash devastating attacks, just weapons and a handful of special ammunition to blast your foes.
When taking into account the fact that I’m playing this on my iPhone, I really appreciated the relatively stripped-down approach to combat. I didn’t have to learn a new battle mechanic, I could just open the app and within seconds be running across the continent, shooting snakes and wolves as I wanted. Of course, this opinion may change if and when the title inevitably gets ported to consoles, but for now, I’m okay with a simpler state of play.
The golem mechanic is an interesting enough twist to play with, anyway. Basically a form of super armor in the style of Power Armor from the Fallout franchise, but integrated almost like a fully-fledged party member. Being able to upgrade and adjust the golem’s weapons and abilities was a great additional layer of management to play around with and felt like having a full party from the beginning of the game. There were times where the golem wasn’t available to use in battle, so ensuring that you’re leveling up the party in a balanced way is key to survival.
All in all, the actual gameplay of Armed Emeth is certainly lighter and more streamlined than recent KEMCO releases, which is actually a good thing for the mobile platform. If you’re looking to play a JRPG on the go, chances are you’re going to be playing in small chunks. In order to maximize your time, a balance between simple and fulfilling needs to be met. In my opinion, this game does that. Even the clean UI works great, even with a digital control pad. None of the elements are pushed together or unnaturally placed. The whole thing was a real treat!
GRAPHICS / AUDIO – SENSATIONAL STEAMPUNK
Ultimately, the thing that attracted me the most to this title was the art style and the graphics. The sprites are, quite simply, stunning to behold. All right, maybe not the humans, but those mechanical golems sure do look fantastic! For folks who enjoy details in their pixel art, seeing the different variety of golem that show up throughout this game is increasingly exciting. The detailed sprite work doesn’t clash with the surrounding environments, and the enemies look great as well.
Granted, there are only so many ways we’ll be able to draw a slime, but funky warthogs and different sorts of wolves are all displayed with individualized details and coloring, which helps keep encounters fresh. Alas, the human characters didn’t seem to be as interesting to look at as the rest of the game’s inhabitants. Trenchcoats and armor can only get you so far, I suppose.
A big standout, for me, was the music. From folk-style guitar to raging rock beats, the soundtrack runs the gamut of what you’d typically hear in a JRPG. Rather than phoning it in, it seems as though the developers went all-in on the sound design, layering environmental sound effects on top of the already fleshed-out musical tracks. This culminates in a full breadth of auditory bliss, surpassing my expectations and flexing the possibilities of a mobile RPG.
Armed Emeth was reviewed on mobile iOS. A code was provided by KEMCO.