The game tells the story of a brother and sister (whose names I cannot remember despite spending dozens of hours playing this thing because they are that uninteresting) who live in a world that is under attack by some alien species from space. That alien species has decided to unleash a horrible plague, called the “corruption,” and this has resulted in the church becoming overwhelmingly powerful (for reasons that aren’t really explained, but the flight to religion in the face of this existential threat does make sense in this context). Bro – a deserter from the conscripted army and therefore a dude with a price on his head, and sis – a priestess from with the religion, but a good soul that rejects the arrogant and hypocritical side of it – team up to try and find a cure for this corruption, because their mother comes down with it. Along the way they also do all the usual heroic things like helping out the downtrodden and dealing with mysteries and plots… and because this is a “traditional” JRPG, the developers also have decided to give than a whole bunch of fetch quests and monster-grinding tasks to do, too.There are things that could have made an intersting narrative here. In fact, in more than a few ways the set-up is similar to what we saw with last year’s Tales of Arise, and that weaved a truly excellent narrative. The problem is that with Edge of Eternity it’s all a contrivance. The aliens show up to do bad stuff at arbitrary points through the plot, but outside of that, for such an overwhelmingly powerful force, they’re weirdly content with leaving villages and cities alone. Entire landscapes are left blissfully untouched by the ravages of war. Perhaps the aliens were using that disease thingy to attack these human populations instead? Well, yes, perhaps, but that disease thingy also only shows up when it’s convenient to. It’s supposedly highly contageous and yet cities are filled with people milling about. Those cities are supposedly quarantined, but a single line of dialogue has the gates open to you, and as someone who hasn’t been able to get out of Australia for 750 days or thereabouts (and counting) to see my family in Japan, humans are just not that relaxed about quarantine when the gates go up.
I was also deeply unsure about just how quick acting this corruption really is. It apparently takes so long to claim its victims that a brother and sister can embark on their own War and Peace-scale epic adventure, with absolutely not urgency in doing so (since they stop to take on lengthy side quests all the time), but when it’s convenient to the narrative the onset of the disease is also incredibly quick. I understand that the developers were trying to give us a classic JRPG narrative, with all the tropes that come with that, but when you actually play those older Final Fantasy games you realise that they’re actually quite cohesive and internally consistent. This game seems to be making up the rules as it goes, and forgetting its own rules along the way. Almost like people sat down to write it in one long go and then forgot to read over their work to make sure that it still makes sense at the end.
Beyond the issues with the narrative’s logic, Edge of Eternity doesn’t really say anything meaningful, and that’s what separates it, for the worse, from the better examples of the genre. Tales of Arise turned the “aliens invading earth” plot into this beautifully nuanced deconstruction of revolution and the dynamics before, during and after revolutionary events. The “corruption of the church” theme was handled far and with greater nuance in Final Fantasy X. Edge of Eternity is little more than a trail of breadcrumbs, where you follow one empty plot point to the next in what amounts to a pastiche of storytelling.
The world, meanwhile, looks vivid and stunning with one exotic location after another, but as beautiful as it is, it’s a hollow shell of a space to explore. Chests are strewn around the place, but that all-but demands you spend your time running around the edges of the (mostly) open spaces as (most) of the chests are “hidden” there, and that, in turn, means you spend most of the game looking at an arbitrary wall (often though not always an impassable mountain side) rather than the lush vegetation around you. There’s also so little to do in these spaces. Side quests are almost universally “get X items, kill Y enemies,” and the stories written around them are not interesting in the slightest. It ends up feeling like a very undercooked MMO from a very long time ago, and because the transitions between environments are so jarring (walk around a big rock and the lush green field instantly turns into a weird, alien mushroom forest), Edge of Eternity feels like a sequence of levels rather than an organic and authentic fantasy world that you want to know more about.
The combat system is, at least, entertianing. It’s turn-based (using a similar ATB gauge as early-era Final Fantasy titles), but rather than characters being static and squaring off against other static enemies, the battle area is split up into hexagons, and on your character’s turn, rather than attacking they can instead move into an adjacent hexagon. You can use this strategically to protect vulnerable characters, set up flanking opportunities, or get out of the way of a big enemy attack. Unfortunately, this combat system is also undermined by the way equipment and special abilities work. Special attacks are linked to gems that you equip to your character’s weapons. Unfortunately, your character can only take a tiny few abilities into combat, so this means you end up using the same attacks over and over again. Aside from doing more damage and being able to take more punishment, bosses are rarely interesting affairs, either, so while the combat system is the highlight and best-produced part of the game, it still starts to become rote far too early on.