“Hell is full of good intentions or desires.” – Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
This quote, attributed to a 12th century saint, has been adapted over time into today’s more common saying: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Idea Factory’s newest US release, Blazing Souls Accelate, fits extraordinarily well with this quote. The game, itself a mildly modified version of something that came before (a 2006 Japan-only PS2 title), has a number of ideas that are good in theory, but fall short in terms of execution.
To put it bluntly, the result is a disaster.
The game, a traditionally crafted turn-based strategy RPG, is overstuffed with ideas and overly-complex gameplay mechanics. In the end, the game is broken, and borderline unplayable unless you’re willing to dump a great deal of time into grinding. And I’m not.
I came into this game wanting to like it. I really did. And at first, I thought it might be all right. The overall design, the sprites, and the level of customization were all items that appealed to me out of the gate. I’m a longtime fan of strategy RPGs, so this game should have been right in my wheelhouse.
Before digging into the gameplay too deeply, it’s important to consider the game’s story. The lead character, Zelos, is “an amoral contractor” and a total jerk. Zelos is almost entirely unlikable, continually putting down everyone he surrounds himself with. And for whatever reason, “against his will,” he keeps collecting a crew of other mercenaries to… well, that’s remarkably unclear. Seriously. Until the game gets moving midway through, Zelos and his cronies seem to be just screwing around, traveling from town to town, engaging in random battles for the heck of it. And even when the plot picks up and revelations are revealed, there’s no urgency to the story and the characters are flat and boring. Motivations are completely nonsensical, even by low stock-character standards.
So, returning to the gameplay, there’s a world map littered with locations for your party to battle the forces of evil, much like many of the other SRPGs of Blazing Souls’s ilk. But in the case of Blazing Souls Accelate, there’s an interesting wrinkle thrown into the mix: you don’t know where these locations are. At least not at first. In order to find the battlefields and progress the story, your party must first earn Work Points (WP), and then spend those WP to scour the world map based on clues from townsfolk. In theory, this is a fun little minigame, but in practice, I found this aspect of the game unbelievably bad. Singlehandedly, this aspect turned the game from a dull but ambitious SRPG to a complete, unmitigated wreck.
You see, WP are relatively tough to come by – the only ways to earn them are from moving the plot along, or to convert them from CP, a currency gained by hitting enemies with extraordinarily long combo chains. Which takes time. A lot of time. And without a strategy guide or a friend with the knowledge to find new areas, they can take a lot of time and WP to find. At this point, the game becomes a serious chore. I started referring to the world map as the “dartboard” due to the game of chance involved in exploration.
CP and WP aren’t the only types of points you’ll stock up while working on Blazing Souls Accelate. With customization of equipment, skills, characters and more, you’ll have to keep track of AP, CP, EP, PP, SP, WP, and at times the alphabet soup of points that must be kept track of can threaten to overwhelm.
The other major gameplay issue is also a classic example of a good idea gone bad. Before battling on some battlefields, Zelos has the opportunity to manipulate the battlefield, changing the game into kind of a de-facto platform puzzle. Moving about the battlefield can allow the party to move to another battlefield most often, but can also allow the group to remove obstacles or access crystal-like items. Yet, there is a powerful deterrent to moving about the battlefields in this way. This game mode’s controls are slippery, and after a certain amount of time, you will have to fall into a random battle on the site. Trying to get to your destination on the battlefield could take you multiple battles, which again extends the experience from game to chore.
There are positives to Blazing Souls Accelate, most of which center on the simple but well-designed visuals. The sprites are distinct and colorful, and the drawn art used in the game is abundant and of high quality. There are a remarkable number of items to unlock, from galleries to lists of weapons or skills to alchemy-based special items.
The sound in Blazing Souls Accelate is average, with nothing in the score standing out as positive or negative. The voice acting grates after a while (with Noel’s voice being one of the more annoying ones), but I didn’t notice any terrible errors or horrible lapses in editing or translation.
There are more little gripes with the game, but nothing game-breaking or truly miserable. It’s the larger issues in gameplay, combined with an almost indifferent attitude to plot, character, and story that send this game into the realm of nigh-unplayability. Even so, it must be admitted that there are a few redeeming factors in terms of game complexity and the ability to customize your party. If you are already a fan of the Idea Factory-developed strategy RPGs like Spectral Souls or Cross Edge, then you’ll probably find this game an even better version of those games, but I have a hard time imagining that any other players will be flocking to the store (PlayStation or otherwise) to pick up a copy of this game. Blazing Souls Accelate had many good intentions, but the end result is just as the cliché says.