Developer: Midgar Studio
Publishers: Dear Villagers, Plug In Digital Ltd.
Genre: JRPG, Strategy
Reviewed On: PlayStation 5
Also Available For: PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox
The Basics: Edge of Eternity is a strategic JRPG about two siblings trying to find a cure for the deadly alien biological warfare disease ravaging their planet before it claims the life of their mother. Rather than a more traditional turn-based JRPG combat system, Edge of Eternity’s battles take place on a hex grid which requires positioning and distance to be taken into consideration when engaging enemies. Though many abilities the characters have access to, at least early on, are single target, spells and skills targeting greater areas become more common the further in you get, as do abilities capable of forcibly moving foes. Controlling the battlefield and learning how to make the most of each turn becomes increasingly important as the game progresses (even if the game can at times be almost laughably easy even on “Nightmare” difficulty), and experimenting with various skill loadouts and strategies is a lot of fun.
Speaking of which, the actual system by which characters acquire skills is itself quite interesting and unique. Rather than learning spells by level up or having a more “traditional” skill tree, the weapons characters equip can level up alongside the characters themselves and unlock slots for crystals. By equipping crystals to the weapons, party members not only gain access to skills but stat boosts as well, giving players a decent degree of control over whether their party members are speedy glass cannons, slow tanks, or anywhere in between. Additionally, each weapon has multiple “paths” for these customizations, varying not only in terms of what color slots are available but in what more passive boosts are applied – each slot gives a percentage increase to a stat once activated. All this to say that the skill and stat system of Edge of Eternity is delightfully complex and easy to get lost in while trying to find the perfect builds, with a very satisfying “number go up” factor.
In addition to enemy encounters, there is also the occasional “puzzle battle” requiring the player to move their characters across the hex grid in a specific way that allows them to open and bypass doors. It’s hard to describe despite being fairly intuitive in practice, but I do want to make it clear that they are generally pretty cool. Random encounters also have optional battle objectives that reward materials and items for meeting them, which keeps carving through generic mobs from becoming too rote and repetitive, and encourages a bit more thinking even against weaker mobs.
Of course, no JRPG ever makes succeeds by the strength of its combat alone, so it’s necessary to talk about the writing and characters as well. Cutscenes often reminded me of early seasons of Rooster Teeth’s RWBY; less because of the actual style in which they are done than due to their general quality and feel. The animations frequently come across as janky and awkward, yet funnily enough this adds to their charm more often than not. It certainly helps that the characters and dialogue are themselves full of charm, with many moments of banter where I couldn’t keep a smile off my face. This is not to say that Edge of Eternity doesn’t have its share of more serious moments, but the game does an excellent job of balancing the two moods. The overarching plot does have a tendency for the melodramatic, but any JRPG fan will be well used to such things and it’s not exactly a complaint at any rate.
That said, there are a few complaints I would like to make. Firstly, the game gets off to a very slow start: I didn’t meet the third permanent party member until about 30 hours in, and though I wasn’t exactly zooming through I wasn’t exploring every nook and cranny either. All other issues I have are matters of polish. I frequently would encounter an audio glitch during fights where the sounds of hoofbeats would play on loop, which was especially confusing and annoying in fights against enemies with no hooves but was still grating against actual ungulates as well. On more than one occasion – including once during a lengthy boss fight – I had to reload because a combatant had gotten stuck on world geometry while trying to move, keeping their turn from resolving and therefore freezing the fight entirely. The most annoying thing, however, was when I would randomly be unable to make my characters move at all during fights, which would also force me to restart. Initially I only ever noticed this occurring during the puzzles, possibly because many basic encounters can be completed without having to move party members from their initial positions, but it at least felt like it became more frequent the more I played.
These issues do not keep Edge of Eternity from being an enjoyable and worthwhile game, I just feel obligated to let any potential players know that it doesn’t have the highest production values in the world. Despite that, both its score and the beauty of its world (defining characters of many a JRPG!) are outstanding. The score in particular, co-composed by Yasunori Mitsuda of Chrono Trigger and Xenoblade fame, captured my attention literally as soon as I booted the game up for the first time – I legitimately spent a few minutes on the main menu just vibing to the theme. On the whole, Edge of Eternity is a charming labor of love that both dedicated and casual JRPG fans should be able to enjoy for the entirety of its significant runtime.
Edge of Eternity has all the markings of a great JRPG, even if it is a bit rough around the edges.