It's about damn time the Xbox 360 got an offline role-playing game (sorry, Final Fantasy XI). Unfortunately, the first one we got was Enchanted Arms. It's likely to reap the sales benefits of being the only game in town, but it's precious little more than a color-by-number exercise in tired RPG traditions.
The bright colors and skillful use of fancy lighting make Atsuma's world of enchanting and forgotten ancient magic light up the room, even if the too-frequent random battles barf more than their fair share of snazzy special effects on the screen. For a while, these fireworks are almost enough.
The visuals may be head and shoulders above PlayStation 2 RPGs but everything else is stuck riding around on training wheels. Battles feature a marginally interesting divided grid system, where different attacks and support measures affect seemingly arbitrary ranges of squares. Trouble is, there's nothing intuitive about how they're laid out, and you'll constantly find yourself undoing decisions as you try to get into a useful position.
The grid system lets you put weaker allies behind others for health-preserving cover, multiple characters can attack the same target for combinations, and punishing special attacks can be learned by all human party members, but the rest of combat is an exercise in the same stale water-beats-fire elemental tug-of-war we've been sick of for years now. Since most of your time is spent in one fight or another, the developers needed to get the balance right, but here they seem to have contented themselves with providing a fast-forward button and calling it a day.
As tiresome as the fighting encounters come to be, the real ennui source is the strictly linear "exploration." Every step of the way is dictated by strategically placed debris and irritating "we shouldn't go that way right now" dialogue. The characters - the dunce leader, the incredibly effeminate sidekick, the quiet protector - are little more than one-note cardboard cut-outs in this supposed epic. Equipment upgrades top out at synthesizing a new weapon now and then, and the skills you can purchase don't make enough of a difference in the field.
Enchanted Arms manages to land just on this side of the "worth-playing" cut-off point, mostly thanks to online golem battles - but even as the only RPG out for the system it's hard to argue that it's worth the asking price. If you absolutely must get your hands on a next-generation RPG now, give it a shot, but don't be surprised if these Arms feel weak.