So this is a bit of a special one for me. My favorite Final Fantasy has always been Final Fantasy V because of its job system which offers you so many ways to build your party, using a combination of abilities from different jobs to customize each character’s playstyle. Since you can freely change jobs at any time, it means you can always experiment and try something new.
And now someone’s making a game based on that concept. Heck yes I want it. And the demo just solidified that want. More after the jump.
Genre: Super open ended JRPG
GET IT HERE: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1637730/Crystal_Project/ (Launches March 31st. Demo available and progress carries over to full game)
Oh my goodness, this game scratches that “Job System” itch I mentioned in my review of Nobody Saves the World, and it scratches that itch so good. Crystal Project is basically a JRPG that does everything I could ask of it, and even though I haven’t finished the demo yet (It’s a meaty demo) I already know this is going to be a day 1 purchase.
But that’s getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk about what Crystal Project is, and why I want it so much, shall we?
First off, as I said, this is a JRPG. That means combat is a big focus, with a relatively simple turn based system being used for said combat. The twist is that while it’s a JRPG, offers you a *LOT* of information that is normally kept under the hood during combat. You can see hit chances, how much damage you’ll do, your chance to crit, what attacks your enemies are going to do and when. In Crystal Project, you are given what might almost seem like an overwhelming amount of info in combat, though honestly I welcome this, as it’s up to you if you want to use it or not. But for someone who wants to know how the numbers work, or wants to know what’s coming next turn, this is an absolutely wonderful system that makes combat more about planning and tactics, and less about reacting because you don’t know what’s coming next. But we’ll get into that more later.
The world of Crystal Project is an odd one: It’s a world that seems to operate on MMORPG logic, though it’s not necessarily a traditional MMO and gives more of an isekai vibe. You play as four random adventurers who have come to this world, seeking-What else-Adventure! You’re told that your objective is to seek out Crystals, and that probably is a good idea, since Crystals unlock new Jobs which give you new ways to play.
The game begins proper in a zone called Spawning Meadows, which acts as a sort of tutorial zone to let you learn the basics of the game. Along with combat, there’s also a fair bit of platforming as you can freely jump and move around anywhere that isn’t physically blocked by a wall, as there’s no invisible walls in this game. The tutorial zone can also potentially teach you about how important secret hunting is, as there’s a ton of hidden loot that can give you quite the head start if you bother searching for all of it.
From there, the path of progression branches out significantly, as you need to enter a dungeon to progress to the game’s main hub, but you aren’t allowed to enter that dungeon until you locate three Crystals (And thus three new jobs). This is when you’ll discover the “tutorial area” is freaking huge, with several different zones making up this first act of crystal hunting. And it’s up to you what order you grab the crystals in, so it’s very, VERY open ended. In a welcome change from regular JRPGs, encounters in this aren’t random, but instead occur when you come into contact with flames that represent enemies in the world. If you can learn to avoid the flames, you can avoid unwanted fights entirely.
As you explore and unlock new jobs in this opening act, you’ll likely start to come up with ideas on how to build your party, as you can freely change jobs at any save point, and also set a sub job whose abilities you can use. On top of all this, you can also assign passives to further augment and define these builds. For example, why just have a tank that can draw aggro for your party when you can have a tank that draws aggro and also counters any physical attack with an attack right back?
And building your party is vital, because this game expects you to learn its systems and learn what makes a good build in order to overcome the battles ahead. Exploiting weaknesses of your enemies and being able to mitigate the damage they send your way is key to surviving in this game, especially as you’ll come across normal encounters that can easily wipe your party if you aren’t prepared.
And you have plenty of jobs to experiment with from the getgo, which is a big help. You’ve got a tanky fighter, a healing cleric, a magic slinging mage, a multi-magic using Warlock, just to name a few. Threat management is also a major aspect of combat, as you can control where single target attacks get aimed, and some skills have their damage modified by being the top threat or lowest threat on an enemy’s threat list (which you can freely view at any time in combat). This means combat is about more than just elemental rock paper scissors: managing who is where on a threat list is equally important, not unlike an MMO.
Consumables are bit of an odd point, in that they can’t be used in combat, and are meant to be used as a means to recover your HP and MP outside of combat (though supposedly a job that can use them will be a thing in the full release). What’s interesting about this though and what kind of gives it an almost Metroidvania feel is that you have limits to how many of each consumable type you can carry, but you can find pouches to expand those limits throughout your adventure. Yet another reason to explore and secret hunt everywhere you can!
The job system is a huge draw in games like this for me because new possibilities always present themselves. With each Crystal you find, a new job and thus tons of new possible builds become available, and with plenty of Crystals to hunt for, there’s countless possibilities throughout the game as you progress. The first three jobs you get definitely open up new possibilities as you get a debuff focused caster, a “Blue Mage” that copies enemy spells, and agile blade wielding fencer as your first three new jobs in the starting areas. Once you have those, it’s onto the game’s first big dungeon, with the main hub city of the game lying beyond. You get another Crystal immediately upon entering that dungeon too, giving you the new Aegis tank class. The dungeon ends up being quite a trek, though many of its difficult encounters can actually be avoided if you’re skillful.
Past that dungeon, you’ll finally reach the hub from which a lot of your adventures are set out upon. You’ll find that more progression is gated behind finding Crystals, but there are ways to bypass some of that gating if you’re clever and explore…Which is another thing I love about this game. There’s so many paths that aren’t immediately apparent, but can be found if you’re willing to look around and try jumping all over the place.
So that’s more or less the starting hours of the game, and there’s still more in the demo before it ends. Now I think would be a good time to talk about some of the other things this game does that makes it such a treat. For one, NO MISSABLES. There is nothing in the game that can be permanently missed. Did you kill a boss with a unique item to steal? It’ll wind up in the hub city’s lost and found to buy. There’s always somewhere to learn a Monster spell for the Scholar (AKA Blue Mage) with none being boss exclusive, so you can’t miss out on those either.
You can also choose to respec your characters if you don’t like how their stat growth went, opting to either pay to re-allocate your points, or just level down at no cost and then level up on the job you want stat bonuses from. Though there’s no cost to re-allocate level ups to a job you already levelled up in the past, up to the highest level that job reached. That means if you’ve tried a build and decided it didn’t work out, you could remove the levels you didn’t like, and get back the ones you did like at no cost.
You’ll notice I haven’t said much on story. There is a story, but you’ll need to explore and find it, as opposed to just having it all told to you via cutscenes and exposition. It’s not quite on a Dark Souls level of ‘Reading all the lore of every item’ but you won’t have the plot spoon fed to you either. I’m okay with this though, as it means you don’t necessarily have to focus on the plot unless you decide you want to, and can instead just focus on adventuring, finding your next Crystal, and making awesome new builds.T
Frankly, with all of these features and QOL focus, plus the fun exploration and rewarding combat? Crystal Project could easily end up being the next big RPG I sink way too many hours into, and frankly I’m more than okay with that.