Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgment

February 7, 2010

The Vandal Hearts remake is a long time coming. The last game in the series was a PSX title, and even this revival has been in the works for years. It’s unfortunate that it has such anticipation, because it’s a $15 download title and it feels like it. 

Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgment takes the formula from the PlayStation original and…well, does nothing to it. As with any tactical title, you take a ragtag group of youngsters, train ’em up with weapons and magic, and take on numerous hordes of mostly-unnamed baddies. You have your weak back-line spellcasters to protect and your front-line tank characters to keep healed and blocking pathways.

This, of course, leads to the main problem with this release: there have been many improvements to the formula over the last decade, and this didn’t get any of them.  Characters are generic fighters; they have strengths, to be sure, but for the most part anyone can do any task if you want them to. This would make for an interesting dynamic if you could shape characters’ stats and make them useful at different things, but the stats are on rails for the most part. The menus aren’t streamlined, making it take a few more button presses to do anything. (If you don’t think this is a big deal, try dealing with it for hours on end and get back to me.)  

Here’s the thing, though: Vandal Hearts isn’t that bad.  These things make for a tedious experience, but those of you that are fans of the series will be glad to have it back, and those with more patience can enjoy the combat just fine.

As with any download title, the sound is repetitive and a bit grating, but at this point, you should have a go-to alternative playlist.  This stuff is expected.  Developer Hijinx Studios did splurge for voice acting, though, and it’s actually not that bad.  As for the visuals, VH went with an Avatar-inspired CG look to keep file sizes small.  It might be a bit awkward for some, but it’s an easy thing to get past, and it’s certainly distinctive in the genre.

Those of us that are fans of the tactical RPG genre are used to having to overlook flaws to get to good core gameplay.  This is another one of those, but…hey, it’s another one!  Did I mention we like games?  You might want to hold off for a sale or something, but it deserves a spot somewhere near the bottom of your watchlist.

Score: 3/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.