Imagine an empty chessboard. Now, populate the board with 3-dimensional medieval architecture (think cathedrals and fortress walls), infuse the game pieces with distinctive personalities and motivations, and steep the whole concoction in rich historical context, with a twist of the fantastical thrown in – that should give you an idea of how complex and amazing the strategy RPG Jeanne d’Arc is.
Technically, Jeanne d’Arc retells the story of the French heroine-turned-martyr Joan of Arc, but don’t expect a History Channel type of rendition. Instead, the game “reads between the lines” in a more creative historical interpretation that includes anthropomorphic characters, demonic underlings, and more plot twists than you can shake a history book at. Anime style cutscenes are scattered throughout the game, but most of the story is told though wonderfully written dialogue. An added bonus is that characters have their own speech quirks – like the alliteration-adoring wood elf or the prideful Frenchman who speakz like he eez somezing extra-ordinary. It really sets the mood for a delightful, though slightly warped, romp through pseudo-history.
Jeanne d’Arc jots a couple of new rules down in the strategy RPG handbook. First, the game is completely 3D, with a camera that can zoom in and rotate, letting you admire the pretty terrains. Next, the game introduces some nifty gameplay elements. When you physically attack an enemy, it forms a Burning Aura behind him, giving any allied character who steps into it an attack boost. Also, when your party members stand close together, they receive a defense bonus called Unified Guard. Lastly, some of your key characters can transform into more powerful beings, granting them an extra skill as well as a passive ability called Godspeed, which gives an extra turn for every killing blow. Added together, these elements offer a ton of flexibility in terms of battle strategizing.
Robust character customization gives the game its final polish. Instead of preset classes, characters are given empty skill slots, which can be filled with Skill Stones that grant spells, melee skills, and stat bonuses. Does your strategy call for a decoy archer to lure enemies away for two turns? No problem. Just equip him with defense and health buffs, and he’ll have more survivability.
When all these ingredients – story, gameplay, and character customization – are thrown together and stirred, the result is an irresistibly scrumptious strategy RPG that would be an absolute shame to pass up.