Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
I love the SRPG genre, so by default Empire of Angels IV was likely to hit something of a sweet spot with me. I enjoy tactics games with RPG progression elements, and if you throw in a fantasy setting and some appealing visual aesthetics, it’s not hard to convince me to give it a go. Empire of Angels IV provides all of those things, which is enough for me to enjoy it by and large, even if it doesn’t really do anything all that great to separate it from the rest of the genre.
The story is pretty typical fantasy fare, with warring factions, spreading darkness and characters wielding medieval weapons as they progress through the narrative. The localization is a bit rough in places, with peculiar word choices or stilted sentence structure that provide the gist of the plot, even if it can be a little awkward at times. Probably the most unique aspect of this setting is that all of the characters appear to be female. Certainly all of your characters in the party are.
As for the characters themselves, they tend to be pretty thinly crafted with more attention given to their job class than their actual characteristics. You see the usual mix of types – swordswoman with paladin-like healing, a polearm-wielding attacker who can strike two squares in front of her, an archer who can shoot at enemies from range but struggles in melee and so on. Characters gain experience and level up, and have the option of changing classes or upgrading to a higher tier class with better stats and abilities. Again, nothing revolutionary, but some of my favorite progression tactics to keep me playing like a carrot dangling from a stick.
The character art is generally quite good, with detailed portraits with good use of color. The characters look more vibrant than their actual personalities most of the time, though there are some cute if tropey moments that had me chuckling along the way. The majority of your time will be spent in combat, and this takes place in a traditional downward-ish view with a grid map. Characters become chunky chibi characters as they move around the maps and attack one another. Here the visuals are less impressive, but they get the job done. This was a game released on mobile, and it is anything but a technical powerhouse. There’s a very Akiba’s Beat / Trip -like gimmick at play where defeated characters (who again, are all women) wind up getting their clothes knocked off, putting them out there for the world to see in their chibi underwear. It’s a little odd, though I did laugh the first time due to the sheer absurdity of it all, since I don’t think there’s any real reason in the narrative for this to occur. I suspect it’s just mostly done for laughs.
Unfortunately other RPG elements are rather light. There’s no branching story, no weapons or armor to be acquired. The strength of the characters comes down to level, class and how you use them. It is not a bad premise in and of itself, but it doesn’t provide tons of depth either. It’s all executed well, with options to defend, attack and break out a variety of special moves. Similar to older SRPG games such as Shining Force, area attacks rule supreme. Clusters of enemies are begging to get hit with a multi-square arrow attack. Plan accordingly though, because they can do the same right back to you. Not that Empire of Angels IV is really a difficult game. Maps come with enemies and objectives that give you ample experience, allowing you to level up your characters, but not many of the scenarios really made me think too hard along the way. Generally as long as I didn’t cluster my units too close together, put ranged users in unnecessary harm’s way or under-level my characters by shooting through stages not milking the potential experience points, it was pretty smooth sailing.
Despite having started life as a mobile game, the controls are pretty solid. Bouncing around menus, moving about the stages and advancing dialog boxes all works well. You will be doing a good deal of reading since there are no English voice options. The music gets the job done, and like the sound effects fits with the overall fantasy tone of the game. I would say if you try to make a beeline through Empire of Angels IV to wrap it up as quickly as possible, you’d probably spend about two dozen hours on it. Taking a bit of extra time to grind out experience points to earn all of the achievements (about half of those are tied to reaching the top-tier job class with each character) probably doubles that.
Empire of Angels IV is a nice enough strategy game that does just enough for me to enjoy it, even if I did find myself sometimes wishing for a bit more meat on the bones. A cleaner translation, items / equipment, and a more interesting combination of characters and narrative would have helped elevate the entire package. What we still have is a fundamentally sound, relatively easy SRPG that can be enjoyed over a couple of dozen hours or so.Score: 6 / 10