Name: Eternal Poison
Genre: Strategy RPG
Platform: PlayStation 2
With 2008 being a year populated to a great degree by some stellar RPGs, it can become difficult to decide which ones are truly worth putting time into. Atlus had a particularly busy year, releasing titles like Zoids Assault and Operation Darkness for the 360, Baroque for the Wii, as well as a new Luminous Arc for the DS. They even managed to sneak in two PlayStation 2 titles at the end of the year in Persona 4, and the aptly named Eternal Poison. Even though their recent attempts in the strategy RPG genre had been less than memorable, I was willing to give Eternal Poison a chance. It’s too bad the game fought me every step of the way.
Immediately upon starting up the game, you’re treated to production values that rival some of the best PlayStation One games to ever hit stores. The rendered movies in Eternal Poison all lack the polish one would expect from a PS2 game. But the less than impressive graphic stylings don’t end there. From looking at the box, it would appear that this game has an interesting artistic design. Technically, you’d be correct. All the 2-D artwork is very good, and the art direction had potential to be pretty nice. The problem comes from the poor execution when translating the intricate linework into 3-D. Character models are muddy looking, and textures throughout the game remind me of a used painter’s palette. Enemies don’t fare much better, especially when you consider how repetitive the creatures are. I honestly could have forgiven the graphics had there been a single redeeming quality about the gameplay.
A pleasing user interface is crucial to the success of any RPG. Terrible menu design, poor statistical layout, and difficult to access inventory can cripple the playability of any game, but add those factors into a game that’s already lacking in positives, and it’s a recipe for disaster. Or as I like to call it, Eternal Poison. When you can’t see the HP of the members in your party without going into the pause menu during battle, you should be thinking about a redesign. When party members who lose all HP cannot be revived during a battle (you won’t actually lose them since the story hinges on the particular members of your group), it might be time to question the mechanics. Sure, there are some interesting aspects in there as well. Blatantly ripping off the Shin Megami Tensei series, enemies can be captured if you do enough damage to them beyond their normal hit points. They can then be sacrificed for new spells, or points to use for upgrades later. Eternal Poison also takes a note from Odin Sphere, presenting gamers with the choice of three different parties to complete the “Hell just opened up on Earth, and we’ve got to close it” story. Too bad the characters and writing are so bad you actually end up loathing many of the people you’re supposed to be playing as. If you can’t enjoy the characters, what exactly is the motivation supposed to be for completing their mission?
The rest of the Eternal Poison package isn’t all that bad, but there’s not a whole lot to speak highly of either. Additional characters you have the opportunity to add to your party either come poorly equipped, or so far behind level wise they don’t even make sense to use in a fight. The score isn’t remarkable, but it has moments where you almost get sucked in, then you remember what game you’re playing. The game is pretty simple to learn, but like so many other strategy RPGs, the learning curve during later encounters can become frustrating, and not just to newcomers. This has more to do with the losses you’ll take on during a fight. Even though the game does give players the ability to save mid-fight, many times you’ll just want to restart the fight with a different strategy anyhow.
Saying Eternal Poison is a bland, terribly designed RPG is about as nice a thing I can say about this game. In a year filled with extremely well thought out and put together role-playing games, I can see no reason whatsoever to recommend this title. Though, if you have trouble sleeping, playing this game for any amount of time will certainly alleviate you of that burden.