2 Apr 2019

Review: Epic Battle Fantasy 5 (RPG)

It’s hard to review this game, for me personally, because I’ve been playing the series for so long; this a game steeped in nostalgia, with a history spanning a decade and two spin-offs. This is Matt’s magnum opus—I don’t think he will ever make a game that’s bigger than this one.

Before I carry on, if you’re considering buying this game: do it. The executive summary is that Epic Battle Fantasy 5 is a great RPG—one of the best, even. And I’ve played a lot of RPGs, let me tell you.

The remainder of what I’m going to write is intended for other players and Matt himself; it’s my experience playing this game after having played EBF3 and EBF4. I’m not a hardcore gamer in the sense that real hardcore players would consider, but with 72 achievements under my belt (and a similar number for EBF4) I’m definitely not your average casual.

Let me begin by saying that this game is huge. It’s even bigger than EBF3 and 4, which were pretty big games in their own right. I’ve spent 100 hours on this game, and—unlike other games where a player can tally 100 hours or more—EBF5 is not repetitive. Pretty much every hour you spend on this game is fighting new enemies, discovering new areas and treasure. In fact, I’m going to say that EBF5 is too big: Matt has bitten off more than he can chew, and it shows.

I don’t like the new cool-down system. While it’s appropriate for some skills that would otherwise be abused, overall it functions less effectively than the mana points system. All of the players except Lance can spam the same skills over and over, without having to worry about running out of MP. Lance, on the other hand, is crippled by the fact that most of his skills—especially his best skills—have long cool-downs. I would have preferred keeping the mana system and having shorter cool-downs on some of Lance’s skills: zero cool-downs for bullet hell/antimatter/plasma, as well as machine guns + airstrike. MOAB and Unload should have cool downs of 3 and 2 turns respectively.

The summon system, which initially didn’t exist until EBF4, has gotten better, but is still a little broken. I love the mechanism of catching foes and summoning them in later battles. However, most summons cost too many summon-points, which makes them rather ineffective in battle. It’s no fun having bosses and Cosmic Monoliths in your summon pool if you only use them once in a blue moon. To fix this, I would have the party receive summon points every turn based on their level, in addition to SP from foes. I would also make the summon pool larger, or else lower the summon cost of the stronger summons.

I do love having NoLegs as a playable character. Firstly, he’s super cute. Secondly, he’s an effective fighter; I would say the most effective after Matt. His evade often saves him from attacks that kill Natalie, Anna or Lance; he has good support skills; and good offensive skills.

Finally, let’s talk story. What I loved about EBF3 and 4 was the storyline: it was so wonderful to see the heroes join forces to take on dangerous bosses and save the world. I loved the wit, the banter, and the meta humour. EBF5 has many of the same elements, but the story is not as good as it could be. Partly, it’s because the characters don’t know each other in this game, which is just a big setback for character development. The ending fixes this to some degree, but... I would have liked it if the characters got flashbacks or hints from their past.

It’s also a setback for the worldbuilding, especially since the new character—NoLegs—doesn’t have a story of his own. Who is NoLegs? Does he have feline family? Why does he fight other cats? What made him choose Matt and his friends instead of Godcat?

Then there’s another problem: EBF5 has certain problematic themes that don’t really belong in an RPG. It’s one thing to portray Lance as an anti-hero who wants to take over the world; it’s another to depict him with Nazi paraphernalia. The previous games used the iron cross, which is definitely not the same thing as the swastika-like symbol in EBF5. He’s still lecherous towards women, but lacks the humorous, endearing qualities he possessed in EBF3.

The music, by the way, is awesome. Phyrrna has outdone herself yet again.

In conclusion, despite all the negative feedback, I still loved playing Epic Battle Fantasy 5. This is still an awesome game. There’s a gravestone, actually, near the masoleum, which says: “Here lies Epic Battle Fantasy 6, along with all those who ask about it.” But I think Matt is wrong. We do need EBF6. It certainly shouldn’t be as long as this game, but I think the series deserves one more shot. At the very least, I would like to see some of the game mechanics be fixed.