Review: Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines (PSV)

oreshika-tainted-bloodlines-review-banner

Title: Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines
Format: PlayStation Network Download (2.8 GB)
Release Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Japan Studio / Alfa System
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: RP
Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines is exclusive to PlayStation Vita.
The PlayStation Network download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

When the five godly Instruments are stolen from the realm of the humans, demons are able to come to the world and wreak havoc. To atone for the loss of the Instruments, the clan that had been responsible for guarding them is put to death. However, the gods have other plans for the clan. Using the power of Nueko, the player’s clan is brought back to life but with a curse. The curse makes it so that members of the clan pass away in less than two years time. The clan members also cannot reproduce normally. In order to break the curse and allow the clan to live normally, they must investigate and recover the instruments throughout multiple generations while ensuring that their clan does not die out.

From a main story standpoint Oreshika is a little weak. Although the story seems to be about the player’s clan it ends up focusing a lot more on Nueko and the person who stole the Instruments. However, Oreshika has many layers in many areas and story is one of them. The main story is supplemented by a lot of more interesting world building and side stories which are told through the areas traveled and by the gods met. Thanks to the huge amount of customization there’s also a lot of cool “story moments” created by the player’s clan and their members.

Oreshika_20150225_210904Oreshika_20150225_210430

Gameplay:
Upon starting the game, the player will create their clan and customize things like their clan’s name and colors. From there, they must make the first three clan members. There are a decent amount of options for this and the game has the ability to use the Vita’s camera to try to make a character that looks like the player. It worked surprisingly well for me although the low light in my room at the time made the hair come out a bit dark. Then some more customization to pick a trade, or class, for each of those characters. And in the end none of it matters because those characters will die in eighteen to twenty-two months.

Okay, it does matter. One of the major mechanics of Oreshika is the ability to mate your clan members with the gods (or other player’s clan members, but more on that later) and much like with real genetics, the kids will take on aspects of their parents. This can be rather amusing given that a lot of the gods have animal features like cat ears or hawk wings. Physical looks aren’t all that’s passed on though as each character’s affinities for stat gains are determined by genes as well.

Oreshika_20150226_071623Arrival of Child (5)

Because each character is born at level one and the higher level characters are dying off, one might assume that Oreshika doesn’t have the kind of progression that a normal RPG would. That’s not entirely true though. Oreshika has a sense of progression, it is just atypical. Because the clan is mating with the gods, who generally have good genes, the offspring slowly begin to take on more and more of those higher affinities meaning that they gain stats at a much quicker rate than their human parent leading to an overall stronger member as they level up.

Even with the slight randomness of genetics this actually allows for a lot of customization within the clan. Want someone who can do a ton of fire damage? Have one family line continually make kids with gods that have a high affinity for fire damage. Genes aren’t the only generational aspect though. If a kid has the same trade as their parent they’re able to learn Secret Arts by training with the parent. They can also inherit special heirloom weapons from their parents after the parent passes away.

The clan system is one of the most unique and interesting aspects of Oreshika. I found it really cool to watch how my clan grew and evolved throughout the generations. Although it can be disappointing to have a favorite clan member pass away, the constant cycling through of new members just means that eventually there will be a new favorite. Pro tip: Give your starting character a gender-neutral name. Their name gets passed along to the new head of the family each time the current head dies.

Last Words (4)Oreshika_20150226_213515

Of course the clan can’t just mate with the top gods for any old reason. Having kids requires a currency called devotion which is gained through the other main system in the game: combat. Oreshika’s combat is pretty typical as far as turn based RPGs are concerned. There’s some less typical stuff in that there is a front row/back row mechanic for both allies and enemies and some of the classes in the game are capable of hitting different enemies such as being able to attack the back row enemies or being able to hit all enemies in a row. There is also a pretty cool mechanic where characters can team up for special attacks to get a damage bonus.

There are three slightly atypical aspects to the combat though. One is the counsel. Other than the lead character all allies will offer counsel on their turn suggesting three possible actions. Although the player can cancel out of that to get the full array of options, if they ignore the counsel too much that character’s loyalty will drop and they could eventually leave the clan. Another strange thing is the way enemies have a captain. Defeating the captain wins the combat leading to a push and pull between trying to defeat all enemies to get more experience and devotion or killing the captain quickly for an easier battle and a guarantee at the money/item spoils and the captain takes them away if it runs from the battle.

… Oreshika draws heavily from traditional Japanese art styles …
The last odd aspect is the thing that ties together the combat and the time management aspects of the game: vigor. Each character has it as a stat. At one hundred vigor the character has full stats. However, as vigor drops, all of that character’s stats begin to scale down. Vigor drops in many ways: if the character’s health drops too low, if they stay in a dungeon for multiple months, if they get too old, and even certain powerful attacks cost a little bit of vigor. Younger characters restore a huge amount of vigor whenever they return home but older characters have a harder time recovering it. Once they’re old enough, characters start to drain vigor even when not actively fighting anything until they die.

Oreshika_20150225_211808Oreshika_20150226_211954

Is I alluded to above, there’s a time management aspect to Oreshika which continues as the player performs actions. The game runs on a month-to-month time schedule and most actions take up a month. The nice thing is that the time management isn’t nearly as strict as, for example, the Atelier series. Most things tend to occur once a year, every year, bosses especially. Miss something and it’s just a matter of waiting a year for the event to happen again.

Though the months only tick over after a specific action time spent in dungeons is real-time limiting how long they can be in the dungeon until the month is up. This leads to another push and pull system where the player must decide between staying in a dungeon multiple months (at the potential cost of vigor) or returning home once the time is up and needing to restart the dungeon. It’s also a bit of a complaint I had with the game as the player starts in the same place of the dungeon each time. This means there’s a lot of running through the same labyrinth-like areas repeatedly. Fortunately, most dungeons have shortcuts that can be opened and the online features for the game add to the variety.

Oreshika has a lot of mechanics and I’ve really only scratched the surface of them so far in the review. I haven’t touched on anything like how player characters can become gods, participating in festivals, finding wandering spirits, or a ton of other things. It’s odd really because the base gameplay generally just repeats over and over again, going into the same dungeon over and over again to explore, repeatedly raising characters from level one etc., yet at the same time I’m thirty hours into the game and there are still new things happening all the time. Like yesterday when one of my characters got a helping hand in battle from his dead ancestor. That was pretty cool.

Oreshika_20150226_072218Oreshika_20150228_100027

If the ton of mechanics ever seems overwhelming there is a character who helps the player. Kōchin is a weasel-girl tasked with helping the cursed clan and much like how characters offer counsel during battle Kōchin gives suggestions on where to go and what to do from month to month. It can feel a little handhold-y and she seems to ignore some of the more interesting aspects of the game, plus she really likes to try to spend your money on consumables. Fortunately following her advice is only an option and the player can easily just ignore it and do everything on their own.

There is one major complaint I have but it involves a very minor spoiler so don't click this if you're spoiler adverse. It's not a huge one though.

Defeat of Onigami (9)Oreshika_20150305_072857

Visuals:
This game has a beautiful art style that looks even better in motion. Much like Okami, Oreshika draws heavily from traditional Japanese art styles. Everything is made to look like a painting – from the heavily stylized enemy oni designs to the intricate special attack animations. The game gushes with that Japanese style even down to the designs of the gods who all are inspired by the culture, such as one based on a Maneki Neko, the good luck cat.

The second coolest aspect of the graphics is how physical traits pass down between generations. The mixing of clan members and gods (or other player’s clan members) was one of my favorite things to watch happen. There were some odd recessive gene moments where some trait suddenly popped out of nowhere that made it more fun to explore. The game’s offspring generation is awesome enough that it even has a special mode where the player can fool around with the camera and/or photos to see the “offspring” of two people.

Release of Trapped God (2)Secret Art Discovery (1)

Audio:
Much like with the visuals, Oreshika draws its music heavily from traditional Japanese culture. It’s a fitting music style for the game and it definitely adds to the atmosphere in a good way. Since it is being budget released by Sony they didn’t dub any of the dialogue in the game so everything is in Japanese. Not that it’s a huge deal. Clan members rarely say much so most of the spoken dialogue comes from Kōchin, Nueko, or the few other major plot characters.

Online/Multiplayer:
Oreshika offers a very unique and interesting online component to the game which was not only cool in its own right, it also mitigated one of my early complaints with the game. When I first started I only had a few dungeons to explore. Even after getting the ship there weren’t many places to go and I was getting a little burned out on exploring the same dungeons over and over. However, once the game was properly released and the online servers were active, there were suddenly a lot more places to travel because the game lets the player visit other clans and explore that clan’s dungeons. There are only a few AI clans in the game but it will also fill up a list of about five more semi-random clans from online players. Players can also visit the clans of their PSN friends or enter in PSN IDs.

… it’s an engaging and interesting game …
However, exploring that clan’s dungeons isn’t the only online aspect. While visiting the clan, the player can see the other player’s current clan members (as of their last online sync) and can adopt their members (it doesn’t actually remove them from the original player) or betroth the other player’s members to make kids. Visiting the clan also shows their town’s progress and gives access to their shops as well as lets the visiting player fight the clan in an AI controlled battle for a small fee (which is given to that player the next time they sync up).

On top of visiting clans players can also share their clan members for betrothal or adoption by generating QR codes of the character’s data. Even the unique weapons players make can be shared via QR codes. While the base game is interesting on its own I would highly recommend trying to get the game online for access to a few more dungeons to explore and clans to meet. There are still only a limited number of actual dungeons (about eight or so, each with a few variations in layout) but playing online gives access to a lot more of those dungeons/variations compared to offline play.

Oreshika_20150306_220412Oreshika_20150305_231710

Conclusion:
Oreshika is a rollercoaster experience. At first blush I was enthralled by the style and generational mechanics in the game. However, as I continued to play the tedium of exploring the first few areas of the first few dungeons over and over again began to wear me down on the game. Once the online servers were activated there were suddenly more places to explore and clans to interact with. As I get further and further into the game I keep finding this to be true. For every time I find myself coming down on the game it threw some strange new thing at me to get me interested again.

Overall though it’s an engaging and interesting game that I’d easily recommend to RPG fans, especially those who would expect to enjoy the online/sharing aspects of the game. Oreshika is also more fun with a group of friends willing to share QR codes or travel to each other’s land. The new PS Nation forums seem like a great place to post some QR codes, wink wink nudge nudge. 🙂 (Editor’s Note: You mean something like this Andy?)

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.

Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook