Stella Deus: The Gate of Eternity Review

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Graphics: 7.0
Sound : 7.5
Gameplay : 8.5
Multiplayer : N/A
Overall : 7.6
Review by Andy Levine
Stella Deus: The Gate of Eternity tells the story of an apprentice named Spero who must save his homeland of Solum from a deadly mist known only as Miasma. At the same time, he must overthrow an oppressive ruler known as Dignus is order to restore peace to the land. In this strategy game released by Atlus, you will build up a party full of deadly warriors and destroy your enemies through your deceitfulness and superior battle tactics. While the audio and visual presentation in this game is lacking, the game itself is filled with difficult scenarios that will challenge your mind in every way possible.

Stella Deus: The Gate of Eternity blends the strategy and RPG genres to create a very involved experience. You start off with several weak characters in your party that are only able to perform basic melee attacks and maybe a few long range skills. After several battles and hundreds of enemies slain, they will begin to level up and learn new abilities. Similar to the style of a Final Fantasy game, you can choose who you want to use and a battle and what type of person they are going to be. You could train your characters to be warriors who use their brute force to overcome their foes, or you could take the more strategic route and teach your party magic skills. Each path has its own advantage; for instance, if you teach your character only melee attacks you will also have to build up their AP (Attack Power) points so that they can perform several attacks at once. Likewise, a magical character will need both AP to be able to move about the battlefield, and MP to perform their skills. As your campaign continues, the only way to succeed will be by building up a diversified army that will be able to take out the enemy in any situation.

The actual battle system of the game is not too commonly seen, which makes this a good title to check out. The most recent successful game like this would have to be Final Fantasy Tactics, which was released for the original Playstation several years ago. Stella Deus is much like Final Fantasy Tactics because of the battlefield. The battlefield is made up of different squares, and the squares maintain their own characteristics and elevation. If you’re attacking from above someone you can expect to do more damage, and on the other hand if you are in a swamp area you won’t even be able to attack. By taking note of your surroundings and coming up with a plan to outwit your foes, you will find that leveling up your characters is only half of the struggle. Even if your army is much stronger, you could still be easily destroyed if you foolishly rush in behind enemy lines. It is much wiser to slowly lure your opponents in one by one and slowly but surely destroy the enemy. Objects, such as buildings, walls, and other obstructions, can also be used to your advantage. Sometimes, hiding behind a structure will allow you build up an army and quickly take down several foes in one turn. While most games today reward the players who spend the most time playing, Stella Deus rewards those who overlook and think about the situation instead of acting hastily.

The attacking phase of the game runs very smoothly, and will only take a matter of minutes to get the hang of things. Essentially, the most basic attack is a melee attack, which involves striking the enemy with a sword, staff, or shooting a bow at them. Additionally, if two people are close enough to an enemy, they can perform a team attack, in which both members annihilate the enemy, bringing him very close if not all the way to his death. Items can also be used to give health back, magic power back, and cure your squad from various sicknesses and diseases from battles. Skills are very hard to come across, but if someone in your party learns one you will find that member to be very effective in battle. Skills, such as the Charge Bolt, can be used from long range and are can do a lot more damage than the basic melee attacks. Unfortunately, it takes a while to charge up enough power to use them. Preparing for your attacks is a new feature added to this type of turn-based strategy game. Instead of the typical “I hit you now you can hit me” style of gameplay, the next turn is determined by the player with the most AP. You can store up AP by moving less and by not attacking on your previous turns. If enough AP is saved up, you will be able to strike your opponent more than once in one turn. Likewise, saving up MP will allow you to use several magic attacks in one turn. All of the battles are strung together through a very basic map. The crosshair is a little tricky to control, and getting lost is very possible at times, but it doesn’t pose as too much of a problem. In battle, some of the camera angles can become almost impossible to use; hitting the up arrow will move the cursor down, which doesn’t make any sense at all. Using the analog stick allows you to correct this problem, but get used to having to shift the cameras around a lot. Other than this, Stella Dues is filled with hours of brain teasing puzzles and seemingly impossible situations, which makes for a great strategy game.

While the game itself is fun to play, the graphics could use a lot more work. The cinematic scenes are rendered differently then most games, having a cell shaded anime type look to them, which isn’t necessarily bad. However, the animations are very rigid and can be quite painful to watch. The cut scenes in-between battles are more like slideshows; portraits of characters will appear and you can hear the dialogue, but no actual movement takes place. On the battlefield, the game looks very outdated in terms of the characters and their animations. The models are very basic, and aside from an outfit or a haircut, everyone looks the same. No matter what the situation is, the warriors will also be walking in place, which is very unrealistic if you are standing face to face with a bitter rival. Lastly, the special effects involved with attacks are very lame. If someone is hit with a weapon, a nova blast will be emitted from the contact point, and when they die their corpse will diminish in a supernova. The first few times you see a blue plasma ball fly from a foe it will look interesting, but after you start to notice how simple the effect is. On the contrary, the environments are detailed quite nicely, and you can even see movement such as running rivers or smoke piling out a chimney. Stella Deus still remains the same great game at heart, but the graphics are very poor and really take away from the game.

In addition, the sound effects used are also very unprofessional and could use a lot more work. The voice acting is extremely exaggerated, and while the characters do manage to get their emotions across, you can easily tell the actors were simply reading off a script. Sounds from melee attacks, such as swords, could be better if they sounded crisper and not so muffled, but you can clearly tell the difference between a sword and a staff. Having plasma balls other magical spells allowed the developers to be more creative when developing the sounds, but most of these effects sound very much alike to one another. The background music fits the mood of the game by creating a soft aroma that is almost soothing. The music is quiet though, and even though you may not be able to pick up on every note, you can still appreciate how it adds to the mood of a man on his courageous journey.

In conclusion, Stella Deus: The Gate of Eternity comes across as one of the most involved strategy games for the Playstation 2. Unfortunately, the audio and visual performance delivered was done poorly, so this game will not appear to be as great as it really is from the start. If you are a gamer who can focus more on how the game feels, instead of only caring about “eye candy” and “superior sound quality”, then this is the right game for you. Any fan of the strategy genre will easily be able to squeeze countless hours of brain busting fun from Stella Deus: The Gate of Eternity.