Divided Reigns by Andrew Ryan Henke, Adam Dover
Divided Reigns is a classic role-playing adventure game engrained in the most tried and true traditions of the JRPG. From turn-based battles to random encounters and sprite-based graphics, this is a love letter to the greats of the ’90s, calling back to some of the most beloved games ever made.
Despite this focus on nostalgia, this isn’t merely a homage; several unique ideas have been implemented to ensure that Divided Reigns can confidently set itself apart from its forebears.
Full of Character
Divided Reigns is set in a war-torn world split across three nations. One of these powers has been waging a war of aggression for some time and has just succeeded in conquering one of their rivals. An officer from this highly militarized country, Captain Ailfred, serves as the protagonist through which we learn about this world.
I was impressed at how quickly the story managed to gain my interest, and Ailfred serves as a likable if somewhat idealistic hero. Disillusioned with his country’s aggressive actions, he decides he wants to bring peace to the world (as you do). He doesn’t have much chance to develop this ambition before events take a turn for the worse and he finds himself in a struggle to survive.
A cast of diverse and engaging characters join Ailfred on his quests. Two of the more interesting characters are a pair of “Abeyans” who join the party. The Abeyans are subject to extreme racism – to the point that many refuse to even acknowledge them as people – and this serves as a key plot point. I found this to be a powerful driver in the story, and the racist views of some characters make them instantly despicable. A somewhat uncomfortable addition is that some party members initially share these views, making them more than a little dislikable. Thankfully, they soon begin to adjust their perspectives as they learn more about the Abeyans.
Taking the Reigns
The action of Divided Reigns will be immediately familiar to fans of classic JRPGs, and indeed, the game takes a lot of inspiration from the early turn-based entries in the Final Fantasy series.
It is in the combat and weapon system that Divided Reigns begins to carve out its own niche. All weapons come with a list of attack types, including “high, side, ranged, reach, low, trip” and more. Lower damage weapons tend to be more flexible, being able to use a wider variety of attack types, whilst those with heavier damage, like axes, have a narrower range of options.
Enemies tend to have two resistances and two weaknesses, meaning that it is generally beneficial to have access to a broad range of attacks and to use the ones that are more effective against the current target. Magical attacks are divided into the classic “rock, paper, scissors” style of weaknesses and resistances.
I found the way Divided Reign’s combat rewards observation and attentiveness appealing. Utilizing the combat system effectively depends on knowing the weaknesses of the current foe, and each enemy sprite is designed to reveal possible vulnerabilities.
Early hints help to underscore what is largely an intuitive system; bipedal targets can be tripped, flying enemies are best attacked with reach or ranged weapons, armored targets should be flanked with side attacks. The system is effective and relatively easy to get to grips with, although arguments could be made that it is a little overcomplicated; newcomers may be daunted by the number of possibilities.
It’s a Wide World (and a Long Game)
Divided Reigns offers a vast world with dozens of locations to find and investigate. Each area is filled with interesting people, cultures and secrets to find, and, overall, the game boasts over 70 hours of RPG storytelling. The world is presented in charming pixel art style, and the innumerable enemies are a delight to see.
The music is varied and provides a characterful backdrop to the world even if it can’t live up to the often so memorable soundtracks of the classic RPG greats.
Divided Reigns is a superb, modern-day example of a JRPG with a few tricks of its own up its sleeve. An appeal to nostalgia is clearly a key goal here, but beyond that, this is a solid and well-designed adventure with an engaging array of characters to explore. Divided Reigns is easy to recommend for fans of JRPGs and anyone looking for a deep and absorbing adventure.
Divided Reigns is available via Steam.
Watch the trailer for Divided Reigns below: