Growlanser: Heritage of War
PlayStation 2
Reviewed: 01/28/2007

Growlanser: Heritage of War is the fifth title in the series, but only the third to cross the Pacific Ocean. The only experience most North American gamers have had with Growlanser came as a one-two punch with Growlanser II and III, released stateside by Working Designs as Growlanser Generations in 2004. In addition to a psuedo-3D graphical overhaul, Heritage of War changes up a many of the game mechanics that were in the previous games.

The story in Heritage of War certainly strives to be epic, and in some ways it succeeds. There are three human kingdoms that are at war with each other, destroying each others’ armies, all while a threat in the form of the monstrous Screapers looms from the sea. Players start of as Selduous, a young man who is trying to discover a way to end war. Fortunately, he manages to find an uber-weapon that can obliterate entire armies. Thus is formed the Peace Maitenance Brigade (PMB) which sets up the “main” plot. Players then control Haschen, another young man who gets injured when his village is attacked by Screapers. From there the story picks up as Haschen takes over. Honestly, the plot feels as though the designers decided to take every idea they came up with and throw them all together in one game. It’s rather disjointed, the dialogue is weak, and the shifting perspectives is jarring.

Screen Shot
Johnny is so angry.

One final complaint with the story is the utter lack of the game world, and people therein, feeling believable in any way. There is a barrier around the island that no one seems worried about in any way. At the beginning of the game, no one seems to really concerned with the fact that the humans are destroying each other whilst monsters are helping to spur their extinction, and the list just goes on. For a game world to feel genuine in any way, the people inhabiting the world must have realistic feelings and fears. None of that is present here.

Growlanser: Heritage of War makes significant changes to the battle system that players of Generations are used to. While the previous entries’ battle system was real time, with pauses throughout for players to issue orders to their characters, this battle system is more real time, and only allows direct control over the main character. The mechanics of the battle system are fairly straightforward. Players close in on enemies and use various means–physical attack or otherwise–to destroy them. Pathfinding is a major issue, as some characters get stuck and the player has to directly guide them around trees or other characters. Keeping track of the action is also nearly impossible through most of the game. Not only that, but the battle system really is ridiculously simple. The best strategy most often seems to be to rush forward and attack with all one’s might. It is in the victory conditions that the battle system gains some major points for holding interest. There are numerous victory conditions throughout the game, and almost every single one pertains directly to what is happening in the story at the moment. These victory conditions are the saving grace of a battle system that would have otherwise been a major step down from the previous games in the series. This is not to say the battle system’s woes are forgiven, the pain is just eased through some interesting challenges.

There is an element of customization in Heritage of War. Weapons and armor come equipped with abilities on “Plates” that can be placed by players onto their characters’ ability trees. Placement of these plates is key, because there is something called a “flow” thrown in with the ability tree. Basically, players have to align the arrows pointing from plates in their ability tree so that they can be assure of learning the skills they want to know. The system feels incredibly clunky at first, but as the game progresses and the player learns how to better utilize the system, they will most likely find it is an intuitive and fun system.

Screen Shot
Buildings are often in the way.

Heritage of War is not a good looking game. Do not be deceived by the “jump to 3D” it has made. The previous games in the series, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, looked far, far better. The game earns a few points for style, but for the most part, it appears more visually akin to of an original PlayStation game than not a late-generation PlayStation 2 game.

Aurally, players will not be impressed. There are very few standout tracks in the soundtrack for the game, and the voice acting is average at best.

Overall, Growlanser: Heritage of War is a decided step back for the series. While the fun victory conditions and skill system are certainly high points of the game, there is something to be said when the best parts of the game are not the main parts. The story is forgettable and the battle system is merely workable. Fans of the previous games may enjoy it, but will likely be disappointed by the direction the series has taken. Newcomers could enjoy some things about Heritage of War, but with so many quality PlayStation 2 role-playing games out there, it would be hard to recommend that their money could be better spent elsewhere.

-Joseph Wartick

Score Breakdown
Below Average
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Average
Story Bad
Graphics Horrible
Sound/Music Average
Replay Value Bad
The Verdict: 4