Do you like story-driven games? Have you played 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim yet?
If you haven’t, you’re missing out on one of the best story-driven games that came out last year.
A lot of people had been anticipating 13 Sentinels for years, but I wasn’t actually one of them. It’s the latest title from Vanillaware, and when I looked it up because of the hype, I saw its combat was described as real-time strategy and crossed it off my list.
Then it came out, and the high praise for its story together with assurances that calling it real-time strategy is pretty misleading convinced me to try it.
I’m so glad that I did.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim followed thirteen high school students who are caught up in a struggle to protect Japan from kaiju trying to destroy it across various time periods. Its genre is a little tricky to pin down; it’s so story-focused that some people consider it to be a visual novel, but that’s caused no end of controversy. The narrative sections could be seen as an adventure game, yet they are almost entirely focused on dialogue with only light gameplay.
Meanwhile, the combat is a comparatively minor part of the overall game and features a sort of real-time system, but one that pauses for you to select your character’s actions.
But whatever genre it falls into, it’s fantastic. The story is told through a non-linear presentation with a fair amount of freedom as to how you proceed. Stick with one character’s story until you hit a lock that requires you to do something else first? Alternate between between characters? Focus on story over combat? Focus on combat over story? Do a little story and then a little combat? All of these are valid approaches to playing 13 Sentinels, and the narrative is constructed in such a way that they all work.
You will start out feeling confused by the story. After a little while, you’ll start to understand what’s going on. Then you’ll play another section of the story and get hit by a plot twist that makes you realize your “understanding” was actually wrong.
There are so many plot twists, and the non-linear approach to the story (along with certain story segments being gated by others so you don’t have complete freedom) lets it tease information in such a way as to nudge you in the wrong direction until you finally learn the truth.
(In some ways it reminded me of the fragment system in Zero Time Dilemma, except handled in a much better way.)
With so many plot twists and convoluted aspects to the story, there were times when I worried it wouldn’t ever feel cohesive. But that’s not true. Through surprise after surprise and even plot twists late in the game, the pieces of the story all come together in a way that makes sense. At the end, you finally do understand the story and see how all those confusing little parts actually fit into it.
The characters are great, the story is intense and filled with twists, and it’s just so brilliant the way everything fits together.
I can’t praise 13 Sentinels enough. It is an incredible game, and it would have made my top 5 list easily if I’d finished it last year instead of this year. As it is, it got 2021’s gaming off to a great start.
So if you love story-driven games, you need to play 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. And if you’ve already played 13 Sentinels, share your own thoughts on it in the comments below!---
If you want posts like this delivered straight to your inbox, enter your email in the box below to subscribe!