Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gabriel Jones 10.06.2017

Review for Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! on PlayStation 4

Spanning more than a century, the Sengoku period was a time of constant war. In the pursuit of a unified Japan, many lost their lives. It's believed that after death, the soul will eventually be reincarnated, and another life will begin. Until that time comes, they get to enjoy a vacation in Arcanus Cella. Unfortunately for some souls, the homely village has become limbo to them. When prophecies, destinies, or even desires are left unfulfilled, then they become burdens. These lost souls, chained to their old lives, are unable to find solace. One person, unknown in life and forgotten by history, has taken the role of saviour.

Much like the Disgaea series, Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! revolves around the simple pleasures. To put it another way, this is a title for anyone who appreciates "the grind". Over the years, grinding has been the subject of much debate. What started as a simple method for dealing with difficult bosses has become almost a genre unto itself. Nowadays, there isn't a shortage of games designed specifically to occupy the player's time, but not their attention. While watching Netflix, reading, or doing practically any other activity, anyone with a free hand can click their way to level 99999. Although Disgaea makes a valiant attempt at engaging the player through its whimsical characters and absurd special attacks, eventually all that matters is finding the most efficient path to maximum stats.

How does this game set itself apart from Nippon Ichi's most popular franchise? Well, aside from being an action RPG instead of a strategy RPG, not much. Although there is a storyline to follow, the player is liable to be more occupied with the grind. There are 100+ stages, many of them taking around a minute to complete. However, that won't dissuade players from investing dozens of hours, into a practically infinite number of playable heroes. They're going to be focused on both the moment to moment process, which consists of stabbing monsters, and the broader, more persistent aspects, such as the Magic Circle.

Screenshot for Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! on PlayStation 4

The Magic Circle is essentially a formation that consists of a lord and his/her vassals. Basically the lord functions as the player-character. They perform all of the necessary actions for completing a stage. In other words, they're doing the running, jumping, and attacking. The vassals serve more of a utility role. Most of the time, they're the shield that protects the Lord, though they sometimes have other functions. Depending on the character's level and class, more Magic Circles are unlocked. Also, lords and vassals aren't set in stone. It's very important to frequently swap their roles around. Typically, whenever a lord earns a level-up, their HP and mana increase, while vassals are more likely to see other gains such as ATK and DEF.

Over time, deciding on the right Magic Circle becomes an increasingly complex process. Some of them revolve around very specific aspects, or have major strengths that are balanced out by severe weaknesses. It's entirely possible to build "glass cannons" that shatter at the slightest touch. Furthermore, a plethora of mana-costing artefacts can be equipped to bolster stats or abilities. A few Magic Circles are also designed entirely around growth items. These valuable scrolls will add bonus points to a vassal's stats upon level-up. Needless to say, most players are going to get a lot of use out of these formations.

Screenshot for Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! on PlayStation 4

Although it's a lot to absorb, the game does a fine job of explaining how everything works. Tutorials are frequent but never cumbersome, and information is plainly laid out for easy consumption. For the most part, the many stages are well-designed, offering a myriad of demons and traps to deal with. Aside from switch flipping and teleporter shenanigans, there aren't any puzzles, which keeps the pacing very brisk. It's also worth taking the time to complete quests. Most of them consist of simple tasks such as destroying certain monsters, or completing specific stages, in a short amount of time. Fame earned from quests can be used to unlock new features and other goodies.

A staggering number of problems can be solved by repeatedly whacking them with a sword. Some monsters are immune to purely physical attacks, so it helps to know a spell like "fire weapon" to deal with them. Although there are a large number of weapon-specific skills, most of the time it's more efficient to just mash the attack button continuously. There are eight types of weapons, but the majority of them are slow or underpowered. I usually stick with daggers, polearms, or shuriken. Whatever the preference, weapons and armour can be enhanced through the acquisition of titles.

Screenshot for Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! on PlayStation 4

Outside of the main game and the more difficult "EX" stages is the Neo-geon. For gamers looking to maximise their numbers, this is the place to be. The gist of the Neo-geon is that it consists of 99 floors, most of them random in design. In order to move up to the next floor, the lord must find the gate. There are many types. Some will raise the enemy's level by a varying amount; others increase the lord's chances of finding nice loot. Some detours are best left to the exceptionally courageous (or foolhardy). One gate, which resembles a giant mouth, sends lords to Hell. There is a ton of loot, but the monsters are exceedingly high level, and traps will chew through vassals like thin mints.

If that isn't enough, there's always the Tri-geon. It consists of the three realms: Normal, Heaven, and Chaos. The player is still presented with 99 floors to complete, but their progress is further harried, by frequent trips between heavenly paradises and hellish dens. The best equipment with the most elusive titles lies in these fringe worlds. Also, monster levels have a nasty habit of spiralling out of control. After a while, it's better to just run past all of the demons, grab treasure, and pray for an exit door.

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Like any other well-constructed hamster wheel, both the Neo-geon and Tri-geon are designed to keep players running in circles for as long as possible. The loot that lies within is exceptionally powerful, but even the most skilled will eventually succumb to the dreaded RNG. In the end, it all comes down to raw numbers. With high enough stats, someone can make several mistakes and barely receive a scratch. Conversely, when the numbers aren't swinging in their favour, a single misstep is fatal. This tricky balance becomes more volatile as the grind progresses. On the bright side, it's only as involved as the player wants it to be. Seeing the entire storyline and dabbling with the side content shouldn't take more than twenty hours, and it certainly won't require huge investments of time and in-game currency, to build a juggernaut of a hero.

Still, keep in mind that all of these activities and more are available. The base game is fundamentally solid and designed around immediate enjoyment. It's easy to get caught in its clutches and lose many nights of precious sleep, all in the pursuit of phat loot and higher numbers. There's also a fair amount of customisation. Players can design their own heroes, draw up some weapons, and even compose a few tunes. They're neat to play around with, but require quite a bit of time to craft anything notable.

Screenshot for Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

For anyone with a surplus of free time, Cladun Returns: This is Sengoku! is a fine way to exhaust it. The process of collecting gear and levelling up is familiar to action RPG fans, but this game introduces a number of ideas to keep things fresh. The Magic Circle system is very slick in how it offers a multitude of build varieties. New additions, like the option to take on quests, make exploration a little more rewarding. However, spending most of the adventure jogging through randomised dungeons does wear thin. This title's long-term value depends on how much its players enjoy the grind.

Developer

Nippon Ichi

Publisher

NIS America

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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