We all have our favorites when it comes to video games. Be it for the artwork, the soundtrack, the mechanics, plot, character development, or style–we have our reasons. To be sure, there is the occasional nerdgasm over a franchise as well. These are the games that stick with us, and usually with good reason. They have components that are done so well that it is something we then go looking for in other games.
When talking to my gamer friends, I am learning that quite a few of my favorites are lost gems; games that don’t have nearly the popularity or following, but are beautifully executed in their own rights.
Kartia: The World of Fate came out in 1998 for the PlayStation in North America, published by Atlas. It was originally released as “Rebus” in Japan. One could go so far as to consider it a “retro” game, by modern standards. Kartia is an isometric tactical roleplaying game, with a very high level of customization within battle. It is a beautiful game, with stunning character art by Yoshitaka Amano and haunting soundtrack by Kenichi Tsuchia and Masaki Kurokawa.
At the beginning of the game, you choose between the protagonists, which in turn gives you a point of view for the rest of the game.The game is separated into two “volumes” that revolve around the main characters: Lacryma, a Shrine Warrior; and Toxa, a Free Knight. Both of the volumes tell a story, though they both are anchored in the same overarching plot. Characters come and go, and playing through both storylines gives you a more global experience as to what is happening.
Kartia’s play mechanic is interesting, in that it is very much about customization. There is no direct currency in the game, everything is made by magic derived from characters combinations. These are written on Kartia, which are card-size writing materials that come in three types: Silk, Mithril, and World Tree. Naturally, the more rare the material, the more powerful the character–and subsequently, the magic. We are immersed through plot to believe that everything in this world is made from -size writing materials that come in three types: Silk, Mithril, and World Tree. Naturally, the more rare the material, the more powerful the character–and subsequently, the magic. We are immersed through plot to believe that everything in this world is made from Kartia combinations. This translates to the game in that you can make your equipment, spells, and phantoms (golem-like creatures of varying types and strengths that will fight for you) from the Kartia you have. As the game progresses, you acquire more texts and high-level materials. This allows for a high level of customization and differing play styles.
Kartia is viewed as existing for humankind. Whatever one wishes for can be created by Kartia, and has thus ended most need for fighting over raw materials. Whether it’s a cup of water or a sword, Kartia is used to create it. Kartia is responsible for the summoning of Phantoms as well. These creatures are viewed as heathen by the religious, and necessary by those who view themselves as practical. The religious characters in the game (such as Lacryma) are forbidden from creating Phantoms, as they go against the will of the church. Phantoms are replaceable and can die in battle. However, if a human character dies, it is game over, and you must restart from the last save.
As for the tactical components, this game makes use of two primary systems: an element system for spells, which allows you to search out weaknesses and exploit them; and a rock-paper-scissors schema. Both work in tandem for players who wish to achieve victory, and neither an be ignored. Magic is fairly self-explanatory, working with Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Medicine. Some of these are supplemental to other classes of magic, but all need to be discovered through combining Kartia and learning stronger spells to unleash on the enemy and heal your comrades. Phantoms and equipment both work within a rock-paper-scissors mechanic, with various types being superior based on what they are fighting, or the terrain the character is fighting on.
The plot within Kartia is very linear, progressing through the story with little that the player can do beyond the tactical scenarios. In that respect, it harkens to its more popular cousin, Final Fantasy Tactics. That said, the chase for answers is rewarding, even if the player may feel bit confined. The world of Kartia is twisted and full of intrigue, revolving around a government and religion and questioning how off-track they have become.
Kartia seems to be lost in the ever-increasing options for gaming. If you like tactical role-play games that offer you tons of options for combat, this is the game for you. If you relish in the idea of number-crunching and statting out a perfect win condition, it’s definitely worth checking out. Feel like playing a story-driven game of intrigue? Give it a whirl.