The Sword of Etheria PS2 Review

Publisher: Konami  Developer: Konami  Genre: Action Adventure, Hack & Slash  

Players: 1  Age Rating: 12+  Other console/handheld formats: N/A

Until the Postman popped this through this reviewer’s door, I had never heard of The Sword of Etheria prior to plucking it from the envelope it arrived in. It’s one of those games that has seemingly appeared out of the blue and with little publicity to its name. With all the latter said I was surprised to find a good game that even boasts some clever and satisfying ideas.

For those who give Etheria a chance, there’s an engaging battle system to be found here that rewards skillful play. Two AI comrades accompany you; fighting independently if left to their own resources, but when an enemy is sent in their direction they know it’s an invitation to begin chaining attacks, and it’s this that makes the combat such a rare treat. Juggling enemies between your team-mates is encouraged – not only does it look stylish, but the game also pays you back for your troubles by rewarding you with extra energy and etheria, which can be used to purchase helpful items and character upgrades between stages.

Etheria is certainly no brainless hack and slash game, and attempting to tackle it this way isn’t a recommendation. To play it properly is to play it skilfully and this is achieved by chaining as many attacks together as possible. Knock an enemy towards a comrade and a vocal cue is followed by an attack, and whenever you hear a prompt from a team-mate a simple well timed slash of your sword will add life to the combo. It’s quite a delight to keep throwing enemies into the combo and witnessing the chain number rise as a result.

An onscreen meter gauges your success with chains, rising with continued chains and falling when combos are ended. This tension meter allows you to use more powerful fighting techniques known here as deadly attacks, and the higher the meter the more powerful attacks available. Level 1 attacks only have Fiel (the main character) involved, but persistence in keeping a combo alive allows for more devastating team attacks upon reaching a higher tension level.

The bosses definitely deserve a mention, as these encounters are interesting and inventive, regularly requiring you and your supporting AI to fully cooperate as a team, resulting in sizeable chunks out of its energy meter.

Another good idea is that the depletion of your energy bar doesn’t necessarily mean you will come face-to-face with the game over screen – the dreaded and tragic end doesn’t actually come until your entire team are down on the deck. When you do take too many hits Fiel drops into a crouch, which unsurprisingly makes movement slower, requiring you to tap the X button as fast as possible to regain your composure and get back to your feet before your AI mates are defeated.

It’s rife with good ideas, it’s just a shame that the game has to falter in a few other areas. For instance the graphics are unattractive at best, whilst the level design is uninteresting and lazy in layout, although the combat is such a major strength that it manages to mostly compensate for these ugly environments. Finally I feel there’s a missed opportunity in the lack of multiplayer options, and including some would have surely done the game some favours.

If it wasn’t for its unique combo system then The Sword of Etheria would be a run-of-the-mill action game. Without this focus on team chemistry it certainly wouldn’t have turned out as interesting as the end product. In spite of its shortcomings and for seemingly magically appearing out of thin air, Etheria remains an engaging game that offers enough depth to please any hardcore gamer. Its lack of publicity is certainly undeserved.