’13 Sentinels’ a magnificent flawed network of conspiracies

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At first glance, “13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim” looks like a conventional mecha anime turned video game. It features high school students piloting giant robots and battling kaiju called Deimos.

The plot seems simple: selected children must protect the world from monsters bent on destroying it. The campaign seems understandable, but then it turns left to something weird, and throughout its 30+ hour campaign, developer Vanillaware weaves together time travel, androids, insane conspiracies and aliens in a narrative that is an enigma wrapped in mystery within. a riddle.

“13 Sentinels” quickly becomes a convoluted mess, but despite the Byzantine plot, the developer somehow makes it work. It draws players in as they venture through its three main phases – Memory, Analysis, and Destruction – and attempt to unravel its mysteries.

Players choose one of 13 protagonists who each have intertwined stories in “13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim”. (Atlus)

CHOOSE AN ADVENTURE
Memory is where the bulk of “13 Sentinels” takes place as players control 13 characters and explore their intertwined stories. This part of the campaign is more of a visual novel than a game, as players work their way through the plot. They choose options from Thought Clouds that elicit new responses and move the narrative forward until it hits a cliffhanger.

Vanillaware delivers the story episodically, and after each section players receive Meta-Chips, which are used to upgrade the giant robots called Sentinels, and they unlock Mystery Files, which summarize some aspect of the story or offer insight players may have missed. . It’s in the Analysis part and it’s essential because “13 Sentinels” is covered in secrets, red herrings and false directions. It’s often difficult to spot the truth, so it’s important to study the details to follow the twisting plot.

The Destruction phase of “13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim” has simplistic graphics that hurt it at the end. (Atlus)

THE GAMEY PART OF ’13 SENTINELS’
Players are generally free to explore the 13 Threads of Remembrance, but they will eventually encounter obstacles. To unlock the rest of the story, they will need to enter the Destruction stage, which is a rudimentary turn-based strategy game. Players choose six sentinels from a total of 13. Each falls under four categories and has a basic role.

First generation mechs specialize in melee attacks. Second-generation bots are generalists with support capabilities. Third Generation Sentinels attack from afar and destroy air units. Generation IV units can fly and have the greatest mobility, but generally don’t have the best health or armor.

Players must choose the best mechs for the 32 battles they face. Some maps will have waves of ground forces that first generation Sentinels defeat quite easily while others feature airborne opponents that ground based units cannot attack. This is where the third and fourth generation units excel.

Composing the right crew is all the more difficult as the pilots ultimately need a rest after each incursion. Players cannot use their favorite character throughout the campaign unless they want to lose bonus points by letting the whole team rest.

Other smaller decisions come into play, such as how players upgrade each sentinel. It’s best to figure out what role they’ll play in the battle and channel the limited Meta-Chips to bolster their specialty. This is because the difficulty of “13 Sentinels” escalates quickly, especially in the 3rd zone and beyond when facing waves of relentless Deimos.

13 Cloud Thought Sentinels
Exploring and choosing the right action in the Though Cloud is how players advance the plot in “13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim.” (Atlus)

BIG DEFECTS
What makes matters worse is that the Destruction phase has a simplistic and often difficult to read user interface. It’s sometimes too basic because sentries and enemies are represented by simple shapes and it’s difficult to target the right enemy or face your robot for a crucial attack from behind.

The goal of each mission is to survive the wave or eliminate a certain enemy. Vanillaware doesn’t get too creative in this part of the campaign.

Most of the power of “13 Sentinels” comes from the stunning visuals that look hand-drawn and the backgrounds that look painted in rich hues of red and gold or blue and green. It’s a studio style, and that’s part of the reason I was drawn to the project. Being a fan of “Odin Sphere” and “Dragon’s Crown”, I enjoyed exploring the different versions of Japan through the eras of the 1940s, 1980s, 2020s, 2060s, 2100s, as the characters seemingly jumped between different eras or saw flashbacks to their past.

The art made the journey through the intricate plot more palatable although it was sometimes too complex for its own good. It’s just a shame that the same effort couldn’t be extended to other parts of “13 Sentinels” to make the experience more cohesive and complete.


’13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim’

2½ out of 4 stars
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
Evaluation: teen

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