Game Reviews

Phantom Rift

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| Phantom Rift
Phantom Rift
| Phantom Rift

Most modern RPG makers take their inspiration from a handful of games. Maybe it's the nostalgic retro joy of Dragon Warrior, the sprawling adventure of Skyrim, or the cyberpunk technobabble of Final Fantasy VII.

But few have a combat system inspired by the Mega Man Battle Network series on Game Boy Advance.

That's exactly what Foursaken did for Phantom Rift, though. It drops stat-swapping turn-based battles in favour of speedy tactical scraps on a tiny battlefield, and throws in a teaspoon of deck-building too.

Bro, do you even Rift?

When you start each battle you're offered five random spells from your pouch. You choose which ones you want (and can afford) and then bin the rest to get a small mana bonus.

You then judiciously use your selected hexes on your foes, all the while swiping the screen to avoid damage, pummelling baddies with your weak default attack, and waiting until you can pick your next batch of spells.

These fights are fast, frenetic, and full of strategy. You need to learn how each enemy works, decide which spells to use, double up abilities (maybe use a vacuum spell to bring an enemy forward, then unleash a close-quarters attack), and ration your small stock of mana carefully.

Spells are stored in a big collection, and you can choose a handful to make up your current deck. Having to pick the spells that suit your play style and the monsters you're currently facing adds an extra level of tactical depth.

Ghost bluster

Like any RPG, the battles can become repetitive and tedious, and getting sucked into a random fight when you're trying to make progress can be frustrating. But there are more annoyances than the typical role-playing gripes.

Like how some enemies can pass through obstacles but you and your projectiles cannot. Or like how you have to actively discard unused spells or you'll lose your mana bonus. Or how the spells aren't always explained clearly in the descriptions.

For the most part, Phantom Rift excels on the battlefield, and the think-on-your-feet fights are scrappy and fun. But there needs to be more to an RPG than just brawls. You've got to have something to keep you plodding through the random fights.

Maybe it's an interesting location. Well this game takes place in a floating void, where the blocky layout rises up as you approach. It's interesting, sure, but this weird world offers little more than a random hodge-podge mosaic of boring blocks.

Or perhaps it's the characters. But here the only other people you meet are dull floating spheres who give you side quests, sell you stuff, or drop hints. And don't even ask about the story. I couldn't tell you the plot if I tried.

Health in-spectre

The visuals too, often an important aspect of RPGs, are a mixed bag here. The lingering shadows and atmospheric lights look great, but the blobby and simplistic characters don't.

(It's also worth noting that on some devices, those fancy lightning effects can slow the game down to an excruciating crawl. Hopefully this bug will be fixed in a future update).

So Phantom Rift's elegant mix of twitchy fast-paced brawling and heady strategy makes for some smart tactical fights. And building up your hero, choosing spells, and finding hidden treasure can be engrossing. To a point.

But as the game offers little in the way of story, locations, or drive, it's tough to stomach the endless procession of stats, spells, shops, staffs, and skeletons for long.

Phantom Rift

Phantom Rift has a sharp, fast, and strategic battle system. But there's not much else to keep you entertained between brawls
Mark Brown
Mark Brown
Mark Brown spent several years slaving away at the Steel Media furnace, finally serving as editor at large of Pocket Gamer before moving on to doing some sort of youtube thing.