Cubed3 Nintendo gaming, Wii and DS

Baroque (Wii) Review

Baroque is a roguelike dungeon-crawling RPG from Japanese developer Sting Entertainment. Initially released in the late nineties, the first version of the game was only available in Japan for the Sega Saturn, and later the Playstation. Now, more than ten years later, Sting and Rising Star Games are bringing a remake of the game for the Playstation 2 and Wii to Europe. Was it worth the wait? Or is Baroque a game that would have been better left in obscurity?

Baroque takes place in the year 2032 following a "gigantic disaster known as the Blaze." This catastrophic event has distorted reality and turned the world into a wasteland inhabited by a mere handful of people who are forced to cling to their personal Baroques ('distorted fantasy') in order to survive. Players take on the role of The Protagonist, a young man who has lost his memory, but bares unimaginable feelings of guilt for forgotten actions. As the only person capable of purifying meta-beings (creatures consumed by their Baroques), The Protagonist is instructed by the Archangel (leader of the order of false angels known as the Malkuth Order) to delve into the Neuro Tower in order to be forgiven for his prior sins, and 'heal the world' in the process.

While this information is freely available in the game's manual, it won't all be immediately revealed in game. In fact, the first few hours of gameplay are likely to leave players in something of a dazed stupor. Upon starting the game, players are thrown straight into a desolate city inhabited by a handful of extremely bizarre characters, each of whom offers vague titbits of information as the game progresses. Upon meeting the Archangel for the first time, players are given some semblance of purpose before being thrust into the Neuro Tower (the game's main dungeon), but it becomes immediately clear that Baroque isn't a game that's going to hold any hands; players will have to discover almost everything for themselves, and that includes plot details.

Screenshot for Baroque on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

As a result of this initial confusion, which will surely put a lot of players off the game entirely, the best way to play Baroque is to simply dive in and see what happens. The game itself can be played from either a third- or first-person perspective. Unlike most other roguelikes, movement takes place in a fully-3D world in real-time, although it is hindered by a rather shoddy camera that can be fiddly to control in a pinch. Combat is a simple button mashing affair, with no combos or defensive manoeuvres to speak of. That might sound like a recipe for repetitive grinding, but it can actually be rather satisfying. The key is to make good use of the game world (traps also damage enemies, for example), learning when enemies attack and how to avoid being hit, and, of course, using the game's numerous items to gain the upper-hand.

Screenshot for Baroque on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Players can amass a selection of swords (for improved attacks), coats (for improved defence) and a wide variety of other items, including parasites which can be fused with certain items or, indeed, The Protagonist himself in order to boost stats. This is a roguelike, though, so it's generally not a good idea to get too attached to any particular items. In stark contrast to conventional role-playing games, Baroque actually rewards death with story progression and a progressively deeper dungeon to explore. But there's a catch; players lose all their items and are forced to start from scratch, at level 1, upon death. It's possible to save a few items for future playthroughs by throwing them into Orbs scattered throughout the Neuro Tower, and by using occasional items to the same effect, but the majority of items will be lost.

While this is one of the genre's trademark love-or-hate features that can be summarised by a simple "if you like roguelikes, you'll like this!" cop-out, Baroque as a whole cannot be defined so easily. We've already mentioned the lacklustre camera, but there are other technical shortcomings that everyone should be aware of. Namely, poor visuals. Dreary greys and browns are to be expected when playing any post-apocalyptic title, but Baroque's randomly-generated dungeons feature such a limited tile-set that it can be hard to tell one room apart from another. Equally uninspiring is the fog which clouds even the smallest of areas. While the various character models are well-designed, they hardly appear to be pushing to the Wii to its limit, so why the fog? A remnant of the Saturn original, perhaps.

Screenshot for Baroque on Wii - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Baroque's story is also hit and miss, depending on your tastes. On the whole, we love Sting's innovative approach to storytelling. A hint here, a snippet there, and a host of fascinating characters supported by excellent voice acting and and great script make uncovering the secrets of the game a pleasure. However, the lack of straight-forward story telling can lead to periods of confusion and repetition. The plot is complicated enough - albeit fascinating with its religious motifs and symbolism, tales of redemption, and so on - that the gradual release of details can make it seem overly convoluted, rather than intriguing. There are times when there doesn't seem to be any obvious way to progress other than to battle through the Neuro Tower over and over again, a task that can become tedious if new floors aren't being unlocked in the process.

Screenshot for Baroque on Wii- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

As with any roguelike, the basics are merely functional: you move, you attack, you use items. The beauty of the game is using these basic tools to overcome increasingly deadly obstacles. The camera is a bit pants, though.

Graphics

Environments are mostly dull, full of grey, and, while helpful in creating an appropriate atmosphere, ultimately uninspiring. Character models are great, even if there isn't a whole lot of animation to speak of.

Sound

The gritty rock soundtrack isn't anything to write home about for the most part, but the voice acting is fantastic.

Value

With little-to-no linear progression, Baroque's length will really depend on how long you want it to last. If and when you get around to completing the main story, there are some bonus dungeons to explore, too.

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Average

About this score

Baroque is an odd one, even by roguelike standards. It has all the elements of the genre that will put off 'regular' players - random dungeons, deadly difficulty spikes, loss of items and experience on death - but it also suffers from technical shortcomings that even rogue-like fans won't enjoy. And yet, despite all that, its unique method of storytelling, great characters, and simple-but-addictive gameplay allow it to offer a truly absorbing experience for the select few gamers that can look past its flaws and enjoy its quirks.

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25.08.2008

5

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Developer

Sting

Publisher

Atlus

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (2 Votes)

European release date TBA   North America release date Feb 2008   Japan release date 2008   Australian release date TBA   

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Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

It's a shame I had a lot of hope for this, I wanted a Gothic RPG on Wii. When I first saw screens it looked like a cheap PS2 game, but I was willing to look past that if it played well.

( Edited 18.01.2013 14:48 by Guest )

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

People that have played the original PSone and Saturn versions of this seemed to have lots of fun with this, so I reckon the Wii version surely has to be better than that. Might be one for people to give a rent before making the final decision...

( Edited 18.01.2013 14:48 by Guest )

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Defo looks like its worth a rent, shame about its numerous drawbacks though! Looked good when they announced it!

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

Shame on the faults!
I found the game for a few bucks, am looking forward to playing it.

( Edited 18.01.2013 14:48 by Guest )

I find your lack of faith disturbing!

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