Strategy Role Playing Games (or SRPG for short) have always been mainstays in my genre of video games, but the ones that stay memorable as well as enjoyable are far and few in between. Unlike established names like Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Disgaea amongst other choices, new blood that does crop up tend to be uninspired facsimiles that don’t offer much compared to their brethren – story or gameplay orientated. Clearly, Rime Berta is one of those titles modeled after the old “classics” and wears those influences on its sleeve with pride as mixes a lot of cherished ideas together. Sadly, while the ideas are good, they aren’t exactly implemented to the best of their abilities or even taken as its own. Alone that won’t be enough to call it terrible, but after fumbling through humdrum battles, learn it yourself mechanics, and uneven difficulty just to continue, it is adequate to name Rime Berta dull. Instead of imbuing feelings of joy that most games in the genre have brought me, this is the complete opposite and feels like a very passé one for all the wrong reasons.
The gist of the story follows the journey of Livia, a young girl whose village has been stricken with a mysterious disease that has no cure. Hearing rumors that a tower near the outskirts of town might hold a solution at its zenith, Livia follows through on the information. However, she soon finds out that the tower has dangerous creatures called “puppets” lurking around, but finds the power to command her own thanks to her new-found friend and puppet, Affi. While a majority of the story is told through short vignettes built-in at certain junctures, it is a very sparse narrative that drops a ton of conversation in one area, before getting to the lengthy preamble a few maps later. Pacing and consistency are shared symptoms – the writing either being too relaxed with what it is trying to communicate or not communicating enough. Of course, looking at aesthetics choices such as the paper mache artwork in the cutscenes, Rime Berta appears to just as budgeted as it wants to be expedient. Regardless, you will probably be expecting more out the gameplay than the mediocre narrative.
Like most turned-based SRPG’s such as Final Fantasy Tactics (FFT), Rime Berta operates on a similar design of individually controlling your army of motley puppets to wipe out all opposition that dare stand before you. And much like those SRPG’s, your army does contain different unit types: Swordsmen, Archers, Mages, Healers, etc – that cover different avenues of combat and pay a hand in successful battles. The only slight (and I mean slight) key difference between Rime Berta and its forebears is the inclusion of abilities called “Reaction” skills that are highly reminiscent of FFT’s ability system. When you level up or have units fight in combat, they might be able to learn class specific skills that provides them extra functionality or change how you use them. For example: Archers learn an ability called “Covering Fire”, that when an ally attacks an enemy unit, the Archer might use a follow-up attack aiding in whittling down the foes HP. The reaction skills are supremely useful if activated under the right conditions, but since the flavor text and even meager instruction guide doesn’t preface how use these skills particularly well, battles take on a learn-as-you-go process. That type of play might appeal and sound attractive to more ardent followers of games, but reveals itself to a nightmare in the later goings were you need every single tactical advantage you can get against some absurd situations. Be prepared to grind.
Since battles in Rime Berta are hard from the get-go (like being pigeonholed in some bad starting positions), it is imperative that you can “Class Change” units immediately – a system that involves upgrading units and making them more effective in battle. There are many branching paths some units can take in their development, but they have to level up certain skills in combat in order to reach them. This usually leads to much of the aforementioned grinding that not only takes a longtime to reap any reward from, but adds to story progression frustrating as you will usually encounter stronger enemy units than you have the means to deal with. Unless you get exceedingly lucky (and will need to be), you will find yourself retreating and repeating major battles early in the game or at least replaying previous maps to get stronger. Thankfully, even if you do run from a losing battle you are still able to learn skills and gain experience. Considering that the game isn’t particular long, the trial and error style battles are only a means to pad out the length. If you do come out the victor in battle, you be a given evaluation, earn new skills for the units participating in combat, and even have the chance to recruit a random unit into your team – the only means of getting new characters. Some are exceptional and some not so much, but if you don’t feel like training up the lesser inclined you can use them in a fusion – a system allowing the player to combine units together to improve their status. It isn’t a workaround to the Class Change option, but it does slightly improve your odds in otherwise arduous battles.
To conclude, Rime Berta isn’t exactly a horrible game, but does qualify as an ill-conceived one – squandering many opportunities and ideas in lieu of following behind its successful counterparts. Even though it has some nice concepts presented in the gameplay, they are easily stricken down by incomprehensible design choices and lack of care putting it all together. With no enjoyment to be had in fighting what seemed like the same battle 10 times over and only a faint glimmer of hope that it would improve, I’m at least fortunate Rime Berta only took a few hours to complete. Time I was fully willing to give up. Unfortunately, with so little time felt like it was spent enduring pain rather pleasure, I was at least hopeful I would be able to get something in return.
Pros: Adjustable camera, Reaction commands very useful, plenty of skills give unit types a lot of tactical utility, cute sprites, soundtrack.
Cons: Incompetent A.I, game explains very little, significant difficulty spikes, poorly designed stages, some battles take longer than intended, a lot of grinding required, bland writing.