STAFF REVIEW of Bonds of the Skies (Xbox One)

Sunday, April 14, 2019.
by Adam Dileva

Bonds of the Skies Box art If there’s one company that has no shortage of JRPG’s, it’s KEMCO. They’ve been putting out quite a few lately on Xbox One, seemingly every month, and this month’s release is Bonds of the Skies, developed by Hit-Point. While their back catalogue may have already released long ago on PC or Mobile, they’ve made some changes for the console releases for obvious reasons. While many are your typical JRPG’s affair with predictable storylines and traditional gameplay, there’s always room for titles like that in my gaming queue, as I love the genre, even if they aren’t all hits.

Eil is a young boy, coming of age, about to take part in his town’s ceremony. Of course, this is precisely when the town is attacked by the God of fire, Rednaught, and also when he happens to stumble upon the air God, Nogard. Gods have become less relevant in the world, as people have stopped praying and believing in their existence for the most part, which means no one can see them any longer.

Eil though can see Nogard, and forms a pact with him to seek the world for the other Grimoas (Gods) in an effort to stop Rednaught’s path of destruction. Nogard is an adorable being and knows the whereabouts of his fellow Grimoas, so they set off on their journey. Along the way they will meet other companions and band together to stop Rednaught. There’s a little more depth to it as you progress, which I enjoyed, but that’s the main narrative and reasoning for your journey.

If you’ve managed to play many KEMCO titles previously, you’ll know exactly what to expect for the most part, given that they are very traditional JRPG’s mechanically. Just like many before it, you’ll be wandering from town to town, figuring out who needs help with what, exploring dungeons and beating bosses before moving onto the next town to repeat the steps once again as you get closer and closer to its conclusion.

As you travel from town to town and dungeon to dungeon, you’ll fight hundreds, if not thousands, of enemies along the way. This is due to the incredibly high random encounters with enemies that happens every few steps. So as you’re traversing a new dungeon and lost along the way, prepare to fight many battles. The plus side to this is that leveling is generally easy and you won’t really need to grind much until the very end where the difficulty spikes.

Instead of the traditional view of seeing your party on the side of the screen versus your enemies, you instead fight turn based in a first person view, so you’re unable to see your party. What makes combat unique in Bonds of the Skies is that there’s a position system in place that determines how well you can hit an enemy or not. For example, If Eil is located in the middle position of your party and the enemy is in front of you, you’ll do the most damage to them. If the party member on the left is attacking an enemy on the far right, they will do less, so you need to factor in some strategy when determining who is attacking and when. There are abilities that can be utilized to prevent enemies from moving, or forcing them to move and such, but I never needed to rely on that since I was generally always overleveled due to the overly frequent battles.

Dungeons were laid out very well and had a decent length to them. Every so often, and just before boss fights, you’ll come across a green crystal that will freely replenish your HP and SP (mana), which makes for great grinding spots if you want to earn some more XP for your team. These dungeons usually have a decent amount of diverging paths, and if you ever get stuck or need to escape and want to start over, you’re always able to freely leave the area you’re in and be placed at the beginning once again, something I used often, as I hate backtracking. My only real complaint is that it was quite difficult to see the proper path sometimes, as it was a small opening or blended into the other background tiles.

Once you get a few hours in you’ll also start to face nasty enemies that don’t necessarily hurt you much, but will place debuffs on you that make you essentially worthless. The worst offender for this is any enemy that casts Pancho upon you, turning you into this little cute creature that has no offense or defense for the most part, forcing you to cure it every single time. This is done with items and not hard to do, but becomes quite an annoyance when you have to use multiples after every single battle.

Combat aside from that above is your typical turn based affair, though you have a meter that fills in combat, allowing you and your Grimoa to unleash a sync attack and utilize incredibly powerful skills. Speaking of skills, you’re able to customize your party with whatever skill and perks you wish as they become unlocked. You’ll eventually unlock a massive amount of skills, each tied to your character and Grimoas by the time you’re max level. Some will slot in abilities whereas I found I liked perks like more HP or damage. You can only slot in a set amount of skills and power base, so you’ll need to choose wisely.

As a JRPG, Bonds of the Skies is perfectly serviceable, but really doesn’t do anything new or exciting for the most part, not that that’s a bad thing, but it won’t leave a lasting impression like some of the greats. Staying to the tried-and-true JRPG format works here but it also feels like dozens of other classic JRPG’s you’ve played numerous times before. It won’t wow you by any means, but it’s completely serviceable and a decent distraction for a handful of hours if you’re craving a new classic JRPG to explore.

Overall: 6.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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