As a lifelong fan of turn-based RPGs, I’ve been eating well recently. We’ve entered a golden age of RPGs, no matter what style of the genre you’re into. Those who had a childhood at the PC playing cRPGs have Baldur’s Gate 3, tactics fans have Fire Emblem Engage, and fans of those old school console RPGs have just been blessed with Sea of Stars. With so many quality games to choose from (and all of them sporting a ridiculous runtime) it seems like a tough time to break out in this stacked line-up, but Monochrome Mobius: Rights and Wrongs Forgotten isn’t going to let that stop it.
Now I know the title of this game is a bit of a mouthful, but you’ll also be delighted to hear that it’s part of the equally difficult to remember Utawarerumono franchise. This franchise has spawned a whole lot of anime and some visual novel/tactics games that are rather popular, but as an outsider it might seem a little intimidating to jump in. Well as one of these outsiders, I can confirm that Monochrome Mobius isn’t a bad place to get started.
The star of the show in Monochrome Mobius is Oshtor, a fairly typical RPG protagonist with a big ole sword who comes from a quaint little village. Oshtor is well liked in the village, happy to help out those in need and fight any monsters that could threaten his friends and family. Well that sleepy village life doesn’t last too long, as a mysterious girl called Shunya comes barging into our heroes’ life and says she’s his sister. Because his father died long ago Oshtor doesn’t initially believe his new sibling, but after a bit of badgering he agrees to head on an adventure with her to find out the truth.
Whereas other Utawarerumono games were visual novels, Monochrome Mobius is a much more traditional Japanese style RPG. It doesn’t take long for a few walking vegetables to show up and give Oshtor an excuse to whip his sword out, and you’ll get to jump into the combat. It’s a fairly standard turn-based affair, featuring a bunch of characters with the ability to attack, defend or use one of a bunch of special moves. What makes Monochrome Mobius stand out from the pack though is the Action Ring.
This collection of circles in the top left corner lets you know who is going to attack next, with the smaller circles in the middle moving considerably faster than the larger ones they inhabit. I must admit that initially I just found it to be a slightly harder to read turn order like one you’d see in plenty of other RPGs, but Monochrome Mobius has a few other tricks up its sleeve.
For example there are gems that are scattered about the Action Ring, which impart handy buffs onto the party. Making sure you grab these is a great way to get the upper hand, although you might have to shove a few less impressive enemies around to get to them first.
Even more worthwhile than grabbing gems though is manipulating the Action Ring so you can get ahead of the enemy. Usually this involves filling up your Zeal Gauge by attacking enemies and taking a few punches yourself, but you can also break enemies’ guard and collapse them to dominate the rings too. It’s a cool mechanic, but ultimately the difficulty of the game (or lack thereof) means that you rarely need to stress too much about the intricacies of the ring.
Outside of battle Monochrome Mobius is a little bit less inspired. Exploring the large areas you’re dropped into is fun enough, but the fairly bland visuals make it hard to get too excited about looking in every nook and cranny. There are plenty of side quests to keep you busy too, but again these end up making the game easier and the combat rather monotonous.
When the combat started to lose my attention, it was hard for anything else to pick up the slack. The pacing of the game isn’t always particularly rapid, and although the story is interesting on the whole as an outsider to the franchise I felt like I needed to pay extra close attention. If you’re really into Utawarerumono then your experience may differ though.
Monochrome Mobius: Rights and Wrongs Forgotten isn’t a bad game by any means, but it’s hard to recommend in the ocean of outstanding RPGs right now. Fans of the franchise will probably have already bought this game, but for the rest of us those 40+ hours will probably be better spent elsewhere.
The Action Ring makes combat interesting
A decent entry point into Utawarerumono
Plenty of side quests
Combat is far too easy
The story is a little lacklustre for outsiders