I love RPGs, but I also don’t have Infinity Free Time anymore. So when I saw Mist released an RPG that takes, like, 2 hours to finish I was sold. And got out of it way more than I was expecting.
A wife of one of the three protagonists is kidnapped and the trio has a mysterious curse put on them. Despite appearances, it is not your typical kidnapping trope, though. There’s confusion, intrigue, genuine friendship and ultimately, understanding.
As you play, the game alternates between combat and dialogue scenes. In combat, each protagonist chooses from three unique actions they could take — one belonging to each of Attack/Defense/Magic. Every turn, every character has to choose one and they all need to pick a different kind. So you can’t e.g. have two attacks and one defense (and zero magic).
It’s a really simple system to understand that provides a lot of intriguing tactical options without being overwhelming at the same time. You’ve seen me harp on pretty much all combat in all games on this blog. Well, I like this one!
Not sure it would sustain a 40 hour marathon, but for a 2-hour sprint it worked great!
Between the combat encounters, Robin, Fionn and Dylan talk to one another. You learn about their relationships, Marcie the antagonist, Dylan’s wife Lottie as well as what’s actually going on. And they feel like real friends chatting. There’s ribbing and exasperation, but also concern and support.
And the ending. Oh my goodness, the ending. The final showdown is absolutely not what I would have expected but also something that makes so much more sense. And the aftermath is just wholesome, hopeful and genuinely lovely.
I tend to complain about the engdame sections and endings quite often too and this one just… took me by surprise and filled with joy.
Despite being an RPG, the story and progression is completely linear here. You’ve only got one place to go to at any time. You don’t choose the what your characters say. The only thing you’ve got any control over is the combat.
This has been a huge weakness in Final Fantasy VII Remake, but Arity handles it great. You know where you’re going, how far along you are and what to expect. You’re not suddenly derailed for narrative reasons a metre before your goal. The questions are answered at a steady pace. And you’re also not strung along for fourty fucking hours. If you’re fine with the core gameplay, Arity doesn’t give you time to grow bored.
The game also give you an option to increase each character’s health by 5 points and even to never lose a game. Having seen first and second hand how seemingly innocuous design decisions can form (needless) impenetrable blocks, I applaud this effort! I didn’t need to use them, but I was glad to know they existed.
There’s a huge untapped potential for RPGs in the "under twenty hours" range and Arity is a great example of what the shorter end of the spectrum might look like.