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Magna Carta PlayStation 2

Published by 505 GameStreet
Developed by Softmax
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

Magna Carta, an introduction.

We commented in an earlier review that 2006 is definitely the year of the RPG. With games such as Atelier Iris and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, already with us and with Final Fantasy XII, Kingdom Hearts II and the latest Dragon Quest arriving in Europe very shortly, it's a genre that flush with potentially great games in 2006. In order to stand out then, an RPG has to be different and have a few new ingredients that stand out from the usual real-time and turn-based RPG formulas. Whatever Magna Carta is, it's certainly different, for a variety of reasons.

What's the game about?

In Magna Carta you'll play as Calintz who is part of the mercenary group called Tears of Blood. The game begins by explaining how, when Calintz was a child, his people were slaughtered by the Yason. The Humans and the Yason are at war and as Calintz has grown into a man the one thing on his mind has been revenge. The game begins with Calintz and The Tears of Blood assisting the Human forces in an attack on the Yason, an attack that it is hoped will end the conflict. Sadly it all goes wrong and after destroying a bridge to finish off a large monster called Steelheart that Calintz and his party had been fighting with, he awakens to find a young woman named Reith at his side. Unfortunately Reith has amnesia. The only clue to her identity is that she has tremendous healing power, which she uses on Calintz to help him recover from his fall. The fate of these two characters is closely interwoven however and their relationship is a central theme in the game's story.

What's good about the game?

Despite the familiar look of the game there are quite a few things that are very different in Magna Carta. The game continues the recent trend in RPG's of doing away with random encounters. Like in the Tales RPG games, you will see your enemies in the field and you can avoid them if you wish, although you're not going to level up your characters if this is what you choose to do, so it's always better to fight them and take the experience. When you're out in the field you can either choose to run around, which gives you a limited field of vision or you can walk around, which allows you to spot enemies at a greater distance and to launch a surprise attack on them. You can also rest to heal your characters.

When in the field you'll also come across chi lanterns. A chi lantern has a chi affinity (heaven, wind, ice, water, mountain, earth, fire and lightning). You can change the chi by using talismans but if you try to change a chi lantern to an affinity that's directly opposite to what it was the lantern will blow up. Thankfully the manual explains the relationships between the chi affinities. So why is chi important then? Well attacks are chi based and ideally you'll want the chi lanterns in any given area to favour the chi attacks of your party. Your enemies attacks are chi based too, so whilst you'll want to increase your own chances of success you'll also want to harm your enemy's chances.

Trust plays a large part in Magna Carta. At the games save points you can talk and give gifts to the characters in your party in order to build up trust. A close relationship between the characters makes maintaining your Leadership bar much easier. The Leadership bar is the gauge you'll see in a battle that must be filled to certain points in order for your units to attack. Your characters are free to move around in battle but the Leadership bar will only fill when they are standing still. When your Leadership bar is sufficiently filled you just move your chosen character so that their action radius touches the enemy in question. When you've done this a Trinity Circle will appear. With a standard attack you'll have to press three buttons in time with the trinity circle in order to perform an attack (the buttons used are the X and the circle buttons). Should you fail to time a button press correctly, no attack will be performed. As well as the standard attack there's the combo mode (where one Trinity Circle is immediately followed by another) and a counter mode (where the button icons are hidden) with the idea being that you already know the attack pattern of the enemy in question so you'll know what buttons to press to launch a powerful counter attack. If you time your button presses well you'll receive a 'Great' message.  This will increase your Trinity Drive gauge by 5%. When the gauge has reached 30% or more you can do a Trinity Drive attack, which is much more powerful than the usual attacks.

What's not so good about the game?

There's no getting away from the fact that the battle system in Magna Carta is going to be one you either like or strongly dislike. As you can see from our rather brief description of it in the previous paragraph it's not quite as straightforward as in most RPG games and to some this will prove irritating. Getting the timing of your button presses right is hugely important in Magna Carta and this will deter some gamers although it's not that difficulty once you get into the swing of things. That said, it's quite irritating (at least it is at first) that the three characters you take into battle all share the Leadership bar. It's also quite irritating that when trying to fill the Trinity Drive gauge any missed attacks will take the gauge back down to 0%. In short it's definitely not an RPG to play when you're half-asleep.

There have been a few RPG's where the male characters look rather effeminate but some of the male characters in Magna Carta really do look female in regards to the clothes, hairstyles and, in some cases, chest shape. The main character in the game, Calintz, really does look rather feminine and it's kind of off-putting to have this male character, who is out for revenge, looking like he's in drag. You half expect him to battle with a handbag.  Surely some attempt should have been made to make him look like a man. Sure his voice is masculine enough, but deaf gamers aren't going to be aware of that. Load times, which are long and far too frequent are also annoying and at times will test your patience.

How does it look?

Graphically Magna Carta is a bit on the plain side. The character models actually look quite good but it's the mediocre, plain environments that really drag the visual standard of the game down. You don't have any control over the camera in the game and this does mean that at times your character will be running toward you, which is kind of irritating. The camera angles in battles could have also been better. The various menus in the game are nicely presented and look as good as you could hope for with all the information being presented in a clear and orderly fashion. The chi icons (on the top left of the screen) could have been better though.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

There aren't any problems for deaf gamers with Magna Carta. The game is subtitled and you'll be able to follow the game's story. All the dialogue that occurs between the characters outside of the game's cutscenes is subtitled. When resting there is a chime to indicate that your characters' health is fully recharged and there is no visual notification of this but seeing as your characters' health bars (at least the health bars for the three characters you have currently selected to battle) are shown on the bottom left of the screen, and you can easily see when their health has been recovered, it's not much of a problem. The game manual explains the various game concepts fairly well, even though it only contains around 24 pages.

Final thoughts.

RPG's live and die on their story and battle system. The story in Magna Carta is actually quite good but it's the battle system that some will be upset with. Whilst I personally prefer turn-based combat systems I honestly don't mind real-time combat systems as long as they've been done well as in the Tales games and in the Star Ocean series. The combat system in Magna Carta just seems far removed from anything I've experienced before but is actually quite good once you appreciate how to use it properly. However, there are some frustrating aspects to it and it's those aspects that will turn some RPG fans away from the game. If you can persevere with the game and its battle system, you'll find a good RPG here but the problem is with titles such as Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King and Final Fantasy XII almost here, you might not want an RPG that's going to take a while to get to grips with. However, if you're looking for an RPG that's a little different you might appreciate what Magna Carta has to offer.

Overall Game Rating: 7.5/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

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Magna Carta is a good RPG but it's not going to please everyone. Those looking for something different in the RPG genre will certainly find it here and once you get to grips with the battle and chi system, you'll find a game that offers a solid storyline and some interesting characters.