A Tarot-fic time.
Excuse the pun. Normally, I shudder when considering ever beginning a review with a pun – especially one was paltry as this. But I want it to be known that Leap of Fate instilled in me a type of excited hope that I haven’t felt about smaller, indie games in quite some time. Sure, I love the strategy of The Banner Saga or the neat space cowboy combat of Rebel Galaxy. Neither of these titles have filled me with intrigue quite like Leap of Fate, however. In a generation where indie games have almost become mainstream, offering a unique title is paramount to success.
I won’t pretend to say that Leap of Fate does not have its own set of issues. Since I enjoy this game so much, I might as well begin with the negatives. Voice acting in Leap of Fate is pretty tragic. It’s almost passable, and not nearly as bad as the infamous Arc Rise Fantasia. But it is clear that the small group at Clever Plays was more focused on crafting intense and enjoyable gameplay rather than seeking out top notch – or even respectable – talent. The other downside of Leap of Fate is that it is rather unforgiving to all who jump straight in. I’m pretty sure I didn’t clear the first set of tarot cards before dying.
But this is where the negatives of Leap of Fate really end. From my time with the game, I have found the $15.99 title offers hours of randomized gameplay that has yet to grow old. So what is Leap of Fate? Imagine a game in the style of The Binding of Isaac, where you control a character and shoot your way through a bullet hell-esque scenario with your left and right mouse buttons and your spacebar. Four characters are playable – each with a pretty unique set of attacks (and assuming there isn’t a hidden character among them) – and unlockable once you complete a set of five missions per character.
Standard gameplay actually varies a bit depending on your character. Of Aeon, Mo, and Mukai, gameplay is very similar. Aeon is a magic-flinging mage whose main attack is casting a ball of magic at enemies. Mo is a mostly cybernetic humanoid who wields an arm mounted gun; his attack consists of a laser stream that powers up and overheats. Mukai is an allegedly insane girl who attacks from the confines of a straightjacket with a melee attack (her attack can swing through objects to make up for its lack of range). In order to progress the game, you must venture through a stack of tarot cards per stage that almost take the shape of a pyramid. Each tarot card has a different image on it, and as you battle or discover your way through each card, any descending card adjacent to the cleared one flips, and you can access it. The cards range from combat cards (where the number of skulls shows how many waves of enemies you must defeat, and the size of the treasure chest dictates the difficulty), gift cards (where you are given free health, mana – in game currency -, keys, and blue lightning – which allows you to cast your special abilities after you’ve used up its allotted amount), mystery cards (unlocked with a key but gives you a nice chest to open), a shop, an ability upgrade card, and the guardian card (the boss card, and the only card you actually need to clear in order to advance to the next stage). At the end of each stage, you also are given a trio of abilities to choose to upgrade.
Leap of Fate offers both temporary and permanent skill upgrades. The upgrade cards and post-stage upgrades are temporary and only stay with your character per each life (though if you gain enough of the special currency, you can revive yourself once per game). Upgrades for the first three characters, as well as any purchases from the store, are bought with mana, the currency dropped from special ability kills and treasure chests. As you complete unique missions that the game randomizes for you, you can unlock permanent upgrades to your characters along with the aforementioned character unlocks.
Now, I’ve split the characters up because the final character, Rasimov, plays very differently from the first three. Rasimov appears to be an immortal and/or time traveler (depending on his ‘past’ story or what you glean from the all-knowing eye-man). His basic attack is a large, red magic blast that deals an exorbitant amount of damage to regular enemies. Once used, he can continue to spray a magical red mist (like a flamethrower) that consistently damages foes. Dispatching regular prey and bosses alike feels like a breeze with Rasimov. Where the original three characters purchase upgrades and items with mana, Rasimov sacrifices his health instead. At first, I was aghast at the thought of spending my precious health on upgrades and items (especially when I remembered how hard I got spanked with the first three characters). Yet as I took risks with purchases, it became clear that Rasimov found health drops at a quicker rate, and the upgrades were easily worth every health sacrificed.
I haven’t mentioned the plot of Leap of Fate yet because its exposition is sparse and requires the player to complete certain tasks to unravel. Since I have yet to complete all of the tasks and find all of the alternate storylines, the most I can say about Leap of Fate’s narrative is: each character must battle his/her way through the Crucible of Fate (the trials you must overcome) to win incredible power and discover his/her ‘true’ fate.
But let me tell you, even though I died a multitude of times, I couldn’t stop playing Leap of Fate. Minutes turned into hours as I continued to say, “Just one more game.” While I wasn’t particularly concerned with the exposition (though completing each stage brought a very interesting line of narrative), the gameplay had me hooked. The completely randomized levels and strategizing the selection of randomized upgrades melds perfectly together to create an incredibly fun concoction of intense and furiously quick gameplay that leaves you satisfied. I will be playing this game for quite a while to come.