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‘Antiquia Lost’ Review: Fun Combat, Irritating Dialogue

Kemco title, Antiquia Lost,O just released for XBox Live in June. The game, much like the rest of Kemco’s titles, has a quaint narrative and intuitive play style. The story is a simple one: four adventurers cross tribal boundaries to find the leaders of Edelstein who have disappeared mysteriously. With its 8-bit art style and catchy MIDI theme, Antiquia Lost will have you warped back to 1990 in no time.

What Worked in Antiquia

Skill Leveling and Organization

I enjoyed returning to strategic, turn-based combat. Antiquia‘s menus felt well-organized and easy to navigate. Ultimately, you have two skills: physical, and magic. The more often you use a skill in battle, the more powerful it becomes. It’ll become clear pretty quickly what your play style is like. The skills for each character keep track of how many uses each will need before it levels up.

The tribal elements, (Fai -fire, Eeth- earth, and Ruta- water) contribute to combat as well. Anyone even vaguely familiar with Pokémon will find the dynamics between the three easy enough to grasp. Fire beats earth, earth beats water, water beats fire. The developers have added additional features to each tribe that keep this from feeling rote. For example, Bine, who is of the Fai Tribe, is a well-rounded character. Saphira of the Ruta Tribe is nearly impervious to physical attacks, which comes in handy if you’re depending on her for heals.

Auto-Battling

It was also nice to be able to use the auto-battle function. While traveling through caves and between cities, you will consistently be attacked by beasties. (You know, the usual: sheep, pastel poodles, fanged mushrooms, etc.) While this could get irritating, all I had to do was either put it into auto-battle, or tap my left bumper to retreat, which never fails. I typically chose auto-battle if I was feeling impatient. Taking on the extra battles is useful for loot and experience. I was over-prepared for bosses because I had taken on so many extra fights.

Weapons

Weapon refining was also fun; if you have a base weapon you really like (or just like the look of) you can “amalgamate” other weapons with it to make them stronger. You’ll encounter a lot of weapons as rewards for battles throughout the course of the game. I never bothered to sell any of these (or anything else, for that matter) because I was flush with gold. Instead, I just cannibalized them to make what I had stronger. You may actually become fond of some of the weapons; I found watching Jade beat dragons with a candy cane hilarious.

What Didn’t Work in Antiquia

This brings me to what I didn’t like about Antiquia Lost, which primarily boils down to two components: difficulty and dialogue.

Difficulty

I played on the normal difficulty the first time around. Quickly I realized I would have enjoyed the “Hard” or even “Hell” difficulties more, as the loot drops were so plentiful. When guards encouraged me to visit them because they just received “new stock,” I was rewarded with the same equipment I had just purchased in the store. After that, I didn’t bother.

Lunaria, a character whose parentage is of Fai and Ruta tribes, also introduces some OP features because of this. Her stats can only be raised through feeding her fruit and gems. I started to feed her gems early on, instead of equipping them. I thought, naturally, limiting her this way would add a challenging aspect to combat. Instead, she quickly became so OP from my liberal feeding schedule I barely needed to utilize other members of the party. I used the characters anyway, because I liked their skills and wanted to upgrade them, but I could have easily just put them all in the rearguard.

Dialogue

While trust is a primary theme of the game, its resulting mechanic can become tiresome. ‘Brave Arts,’ are team skills that can be used in battle. The more trust has been built between Bine and the other members of the party, the stronger the Brave Arts become. This trust can be built during stops at villages and cities after its ruler offers to put you up for the night. As you “break,” you can choose to talk to each member individually, or hit the rack early.

You’re given three dialogue options. Some conversations, like with Lunaria, seem pretty obvious if you’ve been paying attention to the story. Others, as with Saphira, are irritatingly inconsistent. Some conversations feel very directed, leading you to a specific choice. However, some of these directions will lead you to a “wrong” conversational response, and lower the trust between you and a character. (Hint: do not take a bath, whatever Jade tells you.) You may find objects throughout the game that you can give as gifts to these characters to improve your relationship with them, but these aren’t as common as other rewards, and they are repetitive. Honestly, how many luxury mud bath sets does one princess need?

The other thing I found wearing was the overtly sexual innuendo throughout the dialogue. Lunaria is a very naïve character. She often mistakes fiction from her books as facts of the world. The writers doubled-down on this by writing a script rife with sexual innuendo. For example, both Lunaria and Saphira can turn into slime forms. One way Lunaria uses this skill is to “taste” characters to see if they are trustworthy. Later she asks if she can “bite him gently” and says she is “addicted” to him. It wouldn’t be bothersome if the gag wasn’t repeated ad nauseum. It effectively overshadows key character development. This has a PEGI 7 rating. While your child would have to have a pretty sophisticated sense of the world to read between the lines, this will certainly provoke adolescents.

The characters also fixate quite heavily on a later character’s (Alma) gender ambiguity throughout the entirety of the game, even well after the party has known and worked with them. For a game focused on trust, it seemed like a very weird preoccupation that did not contribute to the plot at all. The result prompted me to tune out during cut scenes. This is a shame because scenes featuring the Eeth Tribe and the Maid Association provides some really compelling world-building. I would kill for DLC where you could delve into Jade’s espionage past or explore more MA-centric adventures.

Verdict

Overall, the game is a light, fun JRPG. It only took me roughly fifteen hours of gameplay to complete. Luckily you can continue through an alternate ending. While the mystery the plot sets up isn’t particularly difficult to solve (hint: just study the game’s title design closely) I’m enjoying cleaning up some of my remaining sub-quests and participating in the hidden arena. Antiquia Lost is a game I will return to willingly in my downtime.

 

ashleymowers
Ashley is currently an MLitt student with the Institute for Theology, Imagination, and the Arts at the University of St. Andrews in St. Andrews, Scotland. There she is researching the use of religious language and stage direction found in the plays of Samuel Beckett. When she is not studying, writing, or teaching, she co-hosts The Min/Max Podcast with her husband, Allen, and their friend Kyle, where they discuss all things nerd culture and theology.

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