In the world of Ivalice, the New Valendian Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy divided by a recent civil war and rivalries between Parliament and the priesthood of St. Iocus. The central character is a member of the Riskbreakers; as a servant of Parliament, Ashley Riot is set in natural competition with the priesthood, who have also sent their agents to capture or destroy the rebel Mullenkamp faction. When they flee to the ruined city of Leá Monde, Ashley must combat the Crimson Blade knights on the streets of the city, and spirits of its long-dead citizens transformed into foul creatures in passages below.
The cutscenes of Vagrant Story are presented in a fusion of anime and manga unique(confirm, please) to the game; the same rendering as in normal gameplay is used as the characters move about, as in an anime, and music and sound effects accompany the scenes, but their dialogue is shown onscreen in word balloons, as in a manga.
Vagrant Story is unique as a console action/adventure role-playing game because it features no shops and no player interaction with other characters; instead, the game focuses on weapon creation and modification, as well as elements of puzzle-solving and strategy.
| • Puzzles • Loot • Combat • Risk • Hit location • |
• Magic • Setup • Combine • Navigation and display •
- See Puzzles
Ashley can interact with puzzle cubes to gain access to new areas, and secret areas with better loot. Each type of puzzle cube has different properties:
- Wooden boxes can be destroyed, lifted, carried and/or placed one cube higher than Ashley's feet rest
- Light grey stone blocks can be rolled off of other cubes, but cannot slide or be carried
- Counter blocks have a set number of moves, as long as there is one move left they can be rolled, and if the counter goes to zero, they disappear
- Blue blocks with green glowing bases are frictionless; they can slide in any direction until they hit a wall or another cube
- Red and blue magnetic cubes can be picked up and either fuse to another magnetic cube or repel each other, floating one cube's height above the repelled cube.
Ashley can run, jump, and push crates and cubes to navigate over obstacles and across gaps, adding both computer puzzle game and platform game elements to gameplay. During the game, the player must sometimes solve block puzzles to advance the story. When the player returns to a completed block puzzle room, a time-attack mode called "Evolve, or Die!!" begins. When players reach the end of the room, the game compares the time they took to reach their goal with target times and with their previous times to give a score and ranking. This stage is optional and can be turned off from the menu.
Most RPGs use the unrealistic game mechanic of somewhat arbitrary loot tables, causing players to wonder, "how does a foot-long dragonfly carry gold, or a 70 pound breastplate to drop as loot?". Others such as Fallout gift the player with whatever the enemy was carrying, leading to mountains of loot and the player thinking "we'd be rich if we could carry all this". Vagrant Story strikes a balance between the two; if the non-boss opponent is carrying it (so, no armor or weapon loot at all from Slimes or Phantoms), it will eventually drop, but not always, and rarely at more than a one in four chance, and more often at a one in sixteen chance or lower, especially for the really good stuff.
Treasure boxes are almost always located in side rooms, and sometimes only accessible after solving puzzles. Some are locked away behind doors that require keys or Sigils that are not available for hours of gameplay, and some are not even accessible until the second playthrough. On the plus side, some of them contain items that are powerful for the stage when the player can first access them, and even some DAMASCUS items that would be very hard indeed to replicate with crafting.
Treasure boxes are sometimes locked with spells; the Grimoire Clef's Unlock spell, obtained after defeating Father Duane will negate that obstacle. Traps often surround treasure; Clearance or Eureka spells or an Eye of Argon will deal with them.
The battle system balances the power to chain together attacks known as Chain Abilities to achieve large combos and deal damage to the enemy, with a system called RISK that decreases Ashley's defense faster, the more attacks are performed at one time. The experience system is replaced, with weapons and armor instead gaining effectiveness against particular enemies, and Ashley's power is added to directly by raw stat additions after boss battles.
In the field map, players may engage the enemy as soon as they enter Battle Mode. In Battle Mode, when the player taps the attack button, game time is paused, and a wire frame sphere appears around Ashley. Individual body parts within this sphere can be targeted. Once a target has been set, game time resumes, and the player must respond to in-game cues by pressing buttons corresponding to different attacks in timely succession. This is a similar game mechanic to rhythm games, except that the choice of the next button (other than it being a different button) is tactical rather than mandatory. If Ashley for example attacks a Crimson Blade soldier, an exclamation mark is displayed over the Crimson Blade's head, indicating the moment where the player can chain a new attack together with a previous one; reflexes must be keen to inflict higher damage to the enemy. In the case of a Crimson Blade which has negligible Magic Points and does not attack with spells, for example, the player would benefit from eschewing the use of the Dulling Impact chain ability, which prevents the target from using spells, or the Mind Ache or Mind Assault chain abilities, which attack the target's Magic Points.
In addition to Chain Abilities, Defensive Abilities are used outside of Battle Mode in response to enemy attacks. They allow Ashley to reduce or reflect damage, avoid status ailments, damage the opponents' Magic Points, etc. Ashley also gains Break Arts, which cost Hit Points (HP) but can do more damage than regular attacks and do not add to Risk.
The player can target different areas of the body, and damage is done according to the part of body attacked and the affinity of the weapon used by Ashley. The longer Ashley fights, the more his Risk rises, lowering accuracy and increasing damage and critical hits to and by him. Defense Abilities allow Ashley to reduce or reflect damage, or avoid status ailments. A variety of spells can be used to attack, heal, buff, and debuff. Lastly there are the Break Arts, powerful attacks that drain Ashley's hit points.
- See Main Article: Risk in Vagrant Story
Risk is an essential element in the battle system. A Risk bar is placed below the HP and MP bar, representing the Risk Points the player has accumulated. Risk Points affect Ashley's concentration adversely and his power beneficially. The longer Ashley attacks a target, the more his Risk Point accumulates — lowering his accuracy and defenses and raising his damage and chance of doing increased damage. Chain and Defensive Abilities increase Risk faster than regular attacks, while Break Arts do not increase Risk at all. Enemy attacks and spells deal more damage on Ashley, the more Risk he has; as do Ashley's, on enemies, and his healing spells increase in efficiency. A further advantage is the higher chances for the player to score critical hits.
Hit location Edit
Every attackable entity in Vagrant Story, including Ashley, has either multiple attackable body parts, or in rare exceptions, only a Body. The ability to attack these is based solely on the range of the attack, whether with weapons, spells or abilities like Break Arts.
At the bottom left of the screen is the color-coded Limb Gauge, which shows the condition of Ashley's hit locations. The condition of body parts is related to Ashley's hit points, but not directly related, so he can be at perfect health and still have a damaged body part. Cyan/Turquoise represents perfect condition, a little damage is signified by Green, more by Yellow, heavy damage by Orange, and dying by Red. Dead or dying body parts accrue penalties: Normal, chained and Break Art attacks do half damage with a crippled right arm. The chance to block/parry is halved with a crippled left arm. Magic attacks cannot be used at all when the Head is crippled. RISK accrues twice as fast, and increases gradually in Battle Mode (when the game is usually paused), if the Body is crippled. Crippled legs halve Ashley's movement speed. Heal spells apply healing equally to all body parts, so it may take a few heals to return a single body part that is badly damaged to perfect condition, even if Ashley's HP is full.
These effects of crippled legs, head, and arms apply to enemies also. This is particularly noticeable with spellcasting enemies, who often have no physical attacks. Unlike enemies who normally use physical attacks, some spellcasters' attack sequence, for example Dark Phantoms, does not include fleeing, and they will simply stand around if their head becomes critically damaged.
See Main Article: Magic in Vagrant Story
Magic in Vagrant Story utilizes the same wireframe targetting system. Magic is learned later in the game using Grimoires, items dropped by enemies. Once a Grimoire is used, the magic spell associated with the Grimoire will remain in the menu, and players only need to spend Magic Points (MP) to cast a learned spell. Magic spells can be used to attack, heal, create Status Effects, and manipulate Ashley's elemental and enemy affinities. Certain magic spells allow the player to affect multiple targets by using a small sphere positioned within the Battle Mode wire frame. Unlike physical attacks however, magic attacks cannot be chained.
Magical attacks do not benefit from Class bonuses of weapons as physical attacks do, nor are Class bonuses accrued to weapons from magical attacks. On the other hand, Magic is the only regular type of attack that can target multiple hit locations at once. And, at the risk of making virtue of necessity: So long as the magic is strong enough, probably aided by a Staff weapon that adds an Intelligence bonus, then no Class bonuses are needed, and Risk is much less, as there is no chaining.
Vagrant Story's crafting system allows the player to create and customize weapons and armor in designated "workshop" areas. The simplest of customization can be done in any place at any time, even during battle: Gems can be added or switched out of weapons and shields, and weapons can be disassembled.
See Main Article: Combine in Vagrant Story
Vagrant Story has an in depth weapons and armor customization system. Equipment is influenced by its Class; when creatures of the Dark hurl their attacks against armor, or are cut by a blade, they impart a strength to that equipment against that enemy type, or class. This is the primary statistic of weapons and armor; it is the easiest to gain, and is the most powerful. Secondarily, equipment is affected by its elemental Affinities. All weapons fall into one of three main damage types: the familiar RPG classes of blunt, piercing, and edged.
Most weapons have a hilt, blade component, and a slot for gems. In "Workshop" areas, players can assemble weapons, and combine pairs of blades and pairs of armor pieces. When weapons and armor are combined, their affinities are merged, and sometimes a new type of blade or armor is created in the process.
Affinities influence the effectiveness of weapons and armor; however, equipment might lose one form of affinity when it gains another. Material type has only a tertiary effect, only seen in Defense Strength or Attack Strength and the starting Affinity statistics of weapons and armor, and the defense Type values of armor, against Blunt Piercing and Edged.
Vagrant Story, like many games, combines a solo dungeon crawl with above-ground maps. The player controls Ashley Riot from a third-person perspective (isometric projection) while exploring the crumbling surface of the city of Leá Monde and the catacombs beneath. The player may also switch into first-person perspective to allow for a 360° view using the L1 and R1 buttons on the Dual Analog game controller. Characters and sprites are proportionate with each other, and the player navigates Ashley on a Cartesian coordinate system / Three-dimensional coordinate system / three-dimensional field map. Navigation is with real-time computing (real-time).
Areas accessed by the player are stored as three dimensional wireframe models with a single color texture applied to floors, accessible through the Map menu. The map identifies passages to other map areas. It identifies doors as Locked or Unlockable or One-way, and which Sigil or Key can currently be used or is yet to be obtained to unlock them. Each and every map area is given a redolent and evocative name.
The 'camera' viewpoint relative to a selected room in the model can move around it in two ways which complement each other: to all points on a plane perpendicular to a line to the selected room with the left controller stick, and all points on a sphere around the room selected.
The developers struck a benevolent compromise between instant death for falling, and no penalty at all. Should Ashley fail a jump, he plunges into the inky blackness below, takes a small amount of damage, and instantly returns to the last place he entered the room. All puzzles reset, as if he had left and reentered the room.