Developer: Frima Studio
Publisher: Kalypso Media
Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Serise X PC
Reviewed On: PS4 Pro
Release Date: 21/10/2021
Reviewed By: Keith Lavelle
Review Rush was kindly supplied with a review code.
Here we have Disciples: Liberation from the guys over at Kalypso, that despite one or two issues takes morality and makes it in to an art form. It makes the Witcher 3’s systems look underwhelming, and its moral choices are some of the best in gaming.
You play as Avyanna, a sword for hire going from job-to-job. Living her best life with her best friend, Orion. They set off on their latest job, the duo quickly realise they really should have charged more for. And they a thrust into another dimension and have to launch a rebellion to free the world. As you build up your army to fight with you, each choice, Avyanna, makes will shape the type of ruler she will become. The story is the usual fantasy story line with fate and saving the world. However, Disciples: Liberation really makes the choices you make change how the adventure will go.
Stright Forward Stratagy?
If you have played a strategy RPG before, you will have a good grasp of what to expect. You utilise different units with varying abilities and have the hero characters that are well all tanks. With battles taking place on a hexagonal grid, and each unit acts one at a time depending on initiative. Each turn you can move and/or attack, cast spells, buff and debuff as long as you can.
Disciples: Liberation has one or two tricks up its sleeves to keep combat more interesting than your standard Strategy RPG. Whereas most games of this type have AP to allow actions Disciples: Liberation has crystals that do sort of the same thing.
The Crystals have one major difference: they come in different colours, allowing for different actions to be taken. Blue for movement, red for attack and yellow for all rounder (used for both). This will allow for some interesting ways to use characters.
For instance, Orion is one of the best characters. He has two yellow crystals allowing him to move and attack, attack and move, move twice or attack twice. This makes him a good utility character. Unless you use his sneak ability, where for five turns will be invisible, if you attack while in sneak you do a ton of damage and cause poison on the unit.
Your team has a front line and a back line. The front line are the ones in the battle, whereas the back line is on a raised platform behind your forces. The back line has many benefits. They do not count as a combatant, so are free to use. While not on the frontline, if you lose a battle, they are not taken out. The biggest asset is that they can buff your party and debuff enemies throughout the battle. Making them invaluable party member.
The last slight difference is more a quality of life must for games like this that need you to grind. As battles are not a walk in the park, even when you can recruit new units. However, when you have to grind out levels, if your party is rated higher than the enemy, there is an option to use conquest. This will give you the EXP and money without doing the fight, and it saves a lot of time.
As we have teleported you to this new dimension, it comes with a nice wee castle and land to build on. And it is all yours. The castle is the hub from where you will build new training buildings and blacksmiths and so on. It allows new units to be trained and equipment to be improved. This becomes rather important in the earlier part of the game.
We resources gather by finding them randomly in the world, or by taking over (usually by winning a fight) industrial buildings that give a steady stream of materials. These materials are then used to build new buildings, upgrading buildings and inventory, and training new units.
Getting to the castle is just a simple button push, allowing for quick asses to the castle and its functions while in the over world. In a dungeon, you will need to exit it first.
Have You Any Morals?
The moral system is a weird beast. You need to manage your own morality without using a conventional moral system. On top of party morals, there are numerous factions that you will need to juggle in order to get new units for your party and rebellion. The faction are, The Empire, and their religious zealots, Elfs that kill anyone who wanders too close, zombies and Demons. At first glance, these factions all seem damn right evil, but they are also not totally evil. You will need to make some tough choices about who you are going to side with and what that means for the world.
Morality is a bit of a head f%&k. The whole game is morally ambiguous with choices that seem right are far from right. While choices that seem wrong will workout not being as bad as I first thought. The choices give really made me stop, sit back and think and really play the odds. I just ended up going with my gut and hoping for the best. The worst part of the choices has to be when one of your companions reacts. They feel like daggers to the heart.
Making me care about the choices I have to make without the usual in your face moral system is one hell of a feat. Attaching feelings to characters and making choices almost impossible to make just highlights the extent the devs have gone to implement this mechanic.
AI is Meh!
There are two stand out flaws I need to talk about. First, the difficulty spikes are, well, everywhere. One fight you could breeze through, next one you get your ass handed to you. It is more a frustrating problem, but I took me by surprise in more fights than I would have expected. The other one is the AI is predictable, with some units prioritising some of their actions more that others.
Overall, Disciples: Liberation is a good game, with plenty to do and a good choose your own story. With the best moral system I have seen in games. It just falls down with the AI in battle, as it is the vast majority of the game. It is not something you can overlook.
If you can overlook the AI, then Disciples: Liberation is a worthwhile investment for strategy RPG fans.