Resonance of Fate

Hex appeal.

Blending genres seems like the very best kind of unpredictable fun - and the developer in charge is often the magic ingredient. Take RPGs and gunplay: in the hands of a seasoned Western FPS team like Gearbox, you end up with the twitchy, procedurally-generated madness of Borderlands - a bubbling stew of headshots, loot drops and perks. With tri-Ace in the kitchen, however, you get Resonance of Fate: a JRPG with random battles and bizarrely satisfying turn-based shootouts.

Let's get the story out of the way quickly. Resonance of Fate takes place in a polluted future Earth in which the citizens live in towers clinging to a huge air purifier called Basel. It's a teetering world of social inequality, apparently, and things start to get really shooty when - oops - Basel starts to malfunction. That's enough of that for the time being.

It's fairly standard stuff by the sounds of it, and at first glance the game itself seems entirely traditional. A recent chance to screw around with preview code kicked us off in a town filled with various merchants and wandering NPCs, which gave way to an overworld beyond that where missions are undertaken, trails are blazed, monsters are fought, and - eventually - a dungeon is explored and a boss defeated.

A closer look, however, reveals a game that revels in unexpected design choices and clever detailing. Take the overworld itself. Resonance of Fate unfolds on a series of stacked maps clinging to that central tower, each new level of the game taking you further up into the sky. The maps themselves are built of clusters of gleaming hexes, giving the world a kind of honeycomb tactical RPG look - yet the most tactical element of the overworld appears to centre around how you progress through it.

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Gun customisation is surprisingly deep: collecting various components allows you to clip together a bizarre range of weaponry.

At first, almost all of the hexes will be locked, and the only way to unlock new areas is by undertaking various missions. These, along with the game's regular random battles, reward you with differing arrangements of four-hex pieces, a little bit like tetrominoes. You can cash these in by placing them on the map, four hexes at a time, to open up the territory ahead, and the process quickly becomes fairly addictive.

The hex system means that exploration in Resonance of Fate has a pleasant puzzling component. Progress can be quite tricky at times, too, as you'll need to match your hex pieces to the overworld perfectly - with no overhanging or doubling-up.

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The NPCs revealed so far often take the form of comical slobs, decked out in T-shirts that struggle to contain huge bellies.

It's with the battle system, however, that Resonance of Fate really makes its mark. Held in a familiar range of instanced mini-arenas, each random encounter pits your team of three gunfighters against a group of bizarre enemies - clown heads on springs and wobbling dartboards pad out an early tutorial section, while later on we're given a bunch of lanky golems and weird pig-headed elves to chew through.

While there are cover and movement options, don't expect a traditional third-person shooter system. Instead each team member has a number of action points, which they can use to move around, select a target and then charge and unleash a series of shots.

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