Although the combat makes use of some attractive mechanics, the characters are boring and the plot underdeveloped, making what could have been a quirky but satisfying Tactical RPG into a dull and overly long experience.
Pandora’s Reflection is the sixth installment in the Generation of Chaos series, a Japanese franchise of role-playing games that time and time again has been compared to Dragon Force. Interestingly, Pandora’s Reflection deviates from the formula so characteristic of the series and that’s both a blessing and a curse. Although the combat makes use of some attractive mechanics, the characters are boring and the plot underdeveloped, making what could have been a quirky but satisfying Tactical RPG into a dull and overly long experience.
In Pandora’s Reflection, you assume the role of a few travelers that live in the dark world of Hades. The story revolves around alchemist Claude and his young sister Yuri. Yuri is cursed with a butterfly mark and since Claude has vowed to protect his sister, he manages to find a temporary cure that buys Yuri some time. Claude and Yuri decide to travel around the world looking for a permanent cure and soon enough, the alchemist and his sister find other travelers who join them in their daunting endeavor.
The rest of the travelers represent several archetypes: we have the beautiful blond woman who’s in the army, the mysterious man with red eyes and of course, the timid girl who barely speaks during the course of the game. Needless to say, the story is pretty standard and it shouldn’t be the main reason to play Pandora’s Reflection. The gameplay, on the other hand, features some attractive elements.
In terms of gameplay, Pandora’s Reflection combines elements from different genres, including strategy, role-playing and rhythm games. Unlike previous entries in the series which contained large scale battles, in this game, combat takes place in a large map where there are several points of interest that you need to occupy before your enemy. These include your base, unit points, event and strategy points, field artillery (such as cannons, rotating bows, ballistas and magic cannons) and the enemy base.
Here’s a sample war story: in order to clear a stage you need to pay attention to the win conditions which usually involve capturing the enemy base or defeating an overpowered boss. First, you deploy units from your base to multiple locations in the map, such as strategy and unit points, so that you can dispatch extra units (the maximum allowed at any points is five and you start with only two.) Additionally, you need to capture enemy artillery to damage nearby foes. Not only will you eventually encounter regular enemies, but also powerful bosses. While this process sounds simple enough, taking and defending all the aforementioned points of interest takes practice and finesse.
Bumping into an enemy automatically initializes a battle. Each unit can attack once per battle and at the beginning of the fray, each character must choose a weapon to attack with. The way in which the weapon system works is quite simple. Basically, some weapons are better than others, like in rock-papers-scissors. Thankfully, the game always tells you which is the best one, so you don’t need to keep track of all weapon types. In addition, once you have selected a weapon, a rhythm minigame of sorts come into play in which you need to press the X button at the precise moment for extra damage.
Once you have fought an enemy, the attack will create an “impact circle” which is indicated by an energy field around the enemy. If one of your characters is inside that circle, you can attack again without receiving damage and should you attack five times in a row, your characters perform a special attack. Furthermore, performing attacks fills up a meter called the summoning gauge. This gauge can be used to invoke familiars, special beasts that can heal all of your allies, damage nearby enemies, increase the power of your attacks and so on and so forth. As you level up Claude, more summons are unlocked, but it’s worth mentioning that some summons can only be obtained through special items.
There are two other elements that come into play during battles. First, the units’ movement is affected by the terrain, so you need to pay close attention to their special abilities before sending them into battle. Some are faster in cities or during certain time of the day, for instance. Second, there’s a day/night cycle. Every 150 seconds of real-time, the game changes from day to night or viceversa and this affects the way in which your character behaves.
Finally, clearing a stage gives you numerous rewards, including experience, alchemy points and weapons. Alchemy points can be used to level up characters or improve your equipment. Additionally, after each stage the MVP is chosen and that character gets extra HP for his/her efforts.
Although I found the combat to be quite entertaining even after dozens of hours of playtime, Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection has some serious issues. The story is told through static character portraits and even though the art direction is stupendous and the Japanese voice acting exudes a genuine anime style, this doesn’t make up for the fact that the characters are one-dimensional.
The other important problem is that, for the most part, the game is really easy, especially for the genre’s standards. I never failed a single mission, but when I reached what I assume is the very last battle, I couldn’t even touch the final boss. This feels absolutely cheap and unfair, especially if you take into account that reaching the final boss means having played for around 20-25 hours. The least I expect from a game after so many of hours is to see the resolution of the story.
Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection mixes some compelling mechanics in an unconventional manner. Sadly, the experience is marred by the inclusion of archetypal characters, a forgettable story, and an inconsistent difficulty. On top of that, the game’s length is excessive. In the end, the only image this mirror reflects is one of dullness, indifference and tedium.