Developer Neverland’s swan song has just enough of the right ingredients to close the final chapter of their RPG legacy.
Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven is a turn-based strategy game starring Luchs, the owner of an inn that sees next to no clientele yet refuses to close it after a promise to his late father to protect the inn and treat visitors like his family. He spends his time exploring caves for crystals (the world’s currency) to get by, and on one such day he meets a maiden encased in ice…
Lord of Magna‘s turn-based combat is reminiscent of Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits, where each character has their own movement and attack ranges. Players and enemies take turns trading attacks on the map, and the battle (usually) ends once you decimate the enemies. Characters gain experience upon slaying an enemy commander and levels at 100 experience intervals, with the added touch of being that all characters in the active party gain the experience instead of just the character dealing the killing blow, reducing much of the grind.
The new feature added is the ability to string combos together based on the number of enemies killed in a single attack, with a 10-hit or greater granting the character an additional turn. This quite easily achieved thanks to the design of every commander having numerous (extremely low health) subordinates that can be one-offed with any attack, and there’s something very satisfying about seeing them get thrown about, flung against each other and exploding thereafter.
The crafting system featured here is quite compact, with the option to combine pairs of items to create new skills and abilities. A welcome feature is being able to see all outcomes of crafting for the first item placed, as well as the 2nd item required, regardless of whether you own the 2nd material.
Every character has a set of unique skills which you are able to purchase from the shop, as well as an elemental affinity. This can be changed around in the customization menu, giving characters skills and abilities created from crafting, and possibly even changing their default affinity if enough of one element type skill is equipped. Skills have an associated memory cost, with the stronger ones costing more, so there’s some strategy involved to give your team a varied set of abilities to counter different enemy types.
Like most other games of its ilk, the story is told via static character portraits and dialog boxes. Similar to games like the Disgaea series, the story is told in chapters, and each character has 3 ‘heart events’ that further their side stories (as well as unlock tension abilities for that character and Luchs). The available endings also changes in accordance with the character(s) you have seen the most number of heart events per playthrough. You are only limited to 6 events before the final branch though, so the rest will have to be obtained in subsequent runs.
The characters are largely one-dimensional stereotypes that you might have seen in many other productions. You have the bubbly Charlotte, the quiet Beatrix, the mecha-nut Elfriede, the loli Gabriele, the airhead Diana, the muscle-brained Francesca and the big sister Adelheid. It is a given then that your supporting cast will be the childhood friend Amelia and the goofball Bart. All of whom would fit nicely in any visual novel with a harem male lead (Luchs). The story follows a largely predictable path, with our hero meeting more girls as the chapters progress, until they ultimately assemble to face off with the game’s antagonist. While not a grand adventure, those familiar with the developer’s Rune Factory series of games would probably feel at home with the setting.
If you decide to do a marathon of the game, it’s quite easy to complete it within a day or two, given that the maps are relatively small. There are also no towns or external areas to freely move around in, as the inn is pretty much your base of operations from beginning to end (even the shop and crafting area are found within it), so the only value comes from the multiple character endings. No doubt this was affected by the studio closing midway into the game’s production then partially resurrected by publisher Marvelous, but I feel the story could have been better given a few more chapters.
Lack of a Tutorial Lookup
You would think that by now it should be a given to allow you to reference some of the information shown during those one-time tutorial lessons any time during the course of play, but oddly enough such an option is unavailable (despite having a journal and all).
Unrewarding New Game Plus
While having the option to carry over your progress to a new game is neat, limiting you to choosing only 2 characters (to retain their levels and equipped skills/abilities) after the first playthrough is not. You are also only allowed 5 unique items from your inventory (their quantity does not matter). While you can bring an additional character after each subsequent playthrough, with no additional content to look forward to, I’m hard-pressed to find a reason to replay it beyond what it takes to see all character events.
Occasional Freezes and Slowdown
There’s a noticeable drop in frame rate when you have many enemies on screen and are trying to perform an action (movement/skills), though nothing really game-breaking. What is more of concern is the game does freeze at seemingly random points (in my case it’s upon activation of a skill, and upon moving to a free battle), so frequent saving is advised.
Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven is a short and minimalist take on the genre, with a slightly different battle system. Multiple endings, crafting and skill customization keeps things from getting stale, even though the story is nothing to write home about. Despite the few flaws present I can still recommend this to fans of anime or strategy RPGs, as there’s enough going for it that you’d find at least one aspect to like.