By: Ted Chow
Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord is a tactical, grid-based RPG that captures the nostalgia of long-past JRPGs of the genre. If you are unaccustomed to the series you can find plenty of previous games as well as an anime adaptation of the original Tears to Tiara if you’d like additional back-story. Taking many references from different real-world mythologies, Tears to Tiara II is heavily driven by its plot and the heroes that encompass the world. If I had to say one thing about this game, it is a true JRPG through and through, shortcomings and all.
The controls can be overly daunting at first with what seems like a full screen of things to navigate and take command. While there are tutorials for controlling your character and navigating the UI, you get the feeling that you should have already been accustomed to the layout. It does get easier over time and mostly become second nature. New functions do get introduced at different intervals within the game, however, and it is best to read the help text to fully understand the execution.
The initial impression of the game’s aesthetics can come off as if you’re playing an old PlayStation 2 port. The lack of detail in the textures and the way everything is structured and presented screams the first era of 3D games. Mix that in with chibi anime character models and you can wholeheartedly agree that this is a JRPG. While the 3D art feels dated, it wasn’t too bothersome for the majority of the play experience, and it was even rather nostalgic at times to remember how games once were.
The soundtrack is your typical J-Pop, but there were some tear-jerking scores mixed in for crucial story plots that complemented the overall tone well.
Tears of Tiara II is a game that relies on telling a compelling story with turn-based grid action comprising most of the key battles. Players should expect a lengthy campaign and even lengthier talking scenes where you take a back seat — a majority of the game will seem like your reading a visual novel with a hands off approach to exploration or decision making.
This can come off as a negative as there are prime spots where you would want to walk around with your main character, but the game’s linearity and progression will obstruct any means to do so. It can get progressively worst in certain areas of the game where the cut scene dialogues — while interesting — can drone on for an absurd amount of time and test a player’s patience. A more equal distribution in the game’s design would have made the game more palatable for those that want to get into the actual gameplay.
In Tears to Tiara II you play as Hamil Barca, who is the heir to the House of Barca, Hispania’s royal family. Misfortune has brought about the end of Hispania’s independence, however, and they’re absorbed into the Divine Empire as Hamil awaits the day he can claim his rightful throne and fight for his people’s freedom. As luck would have it, the goddess Tarte descends to bring about a newfound hope for Hamil and his people. Hamil will set out on a journey to gather friends and fight the fanatically religious and corrupt Divine Empire in the name of all humanity.
The story in Heir of the Overlord starts off rather slow with the player having to listen to almost two hours of an introduction. It was rather frustrating to hear some of the overly dramatic scripts the actors had to read in the beginning as you couldn’t help but feel pity and anger for Hamil to grow a spine.
If you can sit through the introduction and get further into the story, though, things find a nice balance for itself and are actual ripe with intrigue, humanity and character building. Playable characters are introduced at frequent intervals and provide some of the more interesting back stories and lore of the world as a whole. Even if in the end you feel the story didn’t bring anything refreshing in storytelling, the views on societal reforms and idealism of our heroes gives it a solid foundation.
Combat is turn based and structured so that the heroes you deploy are situated on a battleground comprised of grids. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses and plays off the standard roles of tank, mage and rogue. The RPG elements come extensively into play when you open up the party sheet and see a whole range of things to manage, such as items to equip, skills to acquire, leader abilities, crafting and many more.
An RPG junkie will truly love the party building aspect of this game as well as the tactical grid combat and turn rewind feature. Battles can last upwards of 20 minutes and end with a completion screen of items acquired and a chance to replay the battle again by selecting it through the world map.
With more than 30 hours of story and gameplay to go through, the game can be tiring if you plan to marathon the content. Luckily, you can save practically anytime — even during combat — and resume at a later time.
If you enjoy lengthy JRPG stories with solid turn-based gameplay, then Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord won’t disappoint in that regard. The game may turn off casual players who aren’t diehard fans of the series, and it does feel like the game is tailored towards a particular niche. However, that doesn’t mean the game isn’t solid in its execution or delivery.