Preview: Stella Deus: The Gate Of Eternity (PS2) Hands-On

Publisher: Atlus / Developer: Atlus / Genre: Strategy-RPG / Release: 05-03-05

Stella Dues is the newest Strategy RPG from Atlus, in their long running vein of games like Hoshigami, Ogre Tactics, and more. If you’ve ever played a SRPG, then you will have no problems adjusting to the control scheme or gameplay of Stella Dues, as it holds tight to every long-running convention the genre as had since its inception.

The story revolves around a mystic fog of doom called the Miasma. The Miasma fog kills all it comes in contact with and appears to be engulfing the entire planet. At first humanity freaked out and degenerated into total chaos. Then a strange new religion came about, telling people to be at peace with the end of the world and that this was merely part of God’s will. The people went from panic-stricken nutjobs, to apathetic automatons, caring little about life or death. This train of thought and level of peace through apathy went on for some years, until Lord Dingus appeared with a massive army, conquering the remaining humans and their lands.

Yes. His name is Lord Dingus. I laughed for a few minutes when I saw that too. Dingus. Heh. It’s still funny. But just because his name inspires chortles to us, does not mean it did to the people who he massacred and conquered. And at the same time, Lord Dingus appears to be a Vlad the Impaler sort of leader, for he is killing and conquering to try and return emotion and passion to humanity, believing that the Miasma can be stopped and the world can be saved, if only Humanity would bother giving a rat’s ass about something again.

And those are your two sides. One a Suicidal Cult of “Who Cares” and the other who thinks he can save the world by butchering people into action. There is no Black and White in Stella Dues as both sides have some aspects of good, and some evil as well.

And that’s where the third faction comes in. YOUR Faction. You play as the young knight Spero, who has his best friend and a great alchemist named Viser kidnapped from him by the leaders of Lord Dingus’ army. Lord Dingus wants Vizer to help him find a way to save the world. Vizer agrees, but also doesn’t fully trust Dingus. He tells Spero not to risk his life trying to save him, but to instead grow stronger and become a great warrior in mind and in body so that the world may be saved by him.

Two years pass and we find Spero is working for Dingus! Or rather he is working for Viser killing spirit creatures which power Viser’s alchemy. But Spero feels this is wrong for some reason, and also crosses a lunatic general who work for Vizer who goes around butchering people not to instill passion in the survivors, but simply because he likes killing things dead.
From there Spero encounters a shaman named Linea who tells him of the Fabled Gate of Eternity, which just may have the answer to stopping the ever growing Miasma.

And that right there is the plot of the first few hours of Stella Dues. It’s quite an original plot and interesting to watch unfold. If you’re looking for a new RPG with a plot that isn’t the same old crap with new characters and names attached to the tale, Stella Dues might just be the game for you.

As I said before, gameplay-wise, Stella Dues is like most Strategy RPG’s out there. There is no set “One side goes first, then the other and repeat” like in turn based RPG’s. Character act in order of agility. At least at first. This is where Stella Dues turns the usual; SRPG on its head (and also the only place). Each character has a certain amount of action points that can be consumed through moving, attacking, healing, casting a spell, whatever. You may keep acting in a myriad of ways until your points run out. If you’re right next to an enemy you can attack 2-3 times in a turn! This adds a bit of depth to the game play. As well, after each character’s first turn, their next turn is based on a combination of agility and leftover movement points. So if you don’t act or just move or just attack once and then stop, that characters turn will come up faster than usual. This again adds another facet of strategy to the game, especially with clerics. You will find this way of calculating turns really makes your healers even more important and powerful, ESPECIALLY in boss fights.

Other than that, it’s your usual conventions. You’ve got link attacks, guys with spears have a longer reach. Attack from the side or behind does more damage, you can eventually change classes for more powers and abilities, that sort of stuff. It’s your standard generic SRPG fare, and really the plot is the big thing for Stella Dues.

Experience is a bit different too. Not only to you earn Experience points (Every 100 gives you a new level), but you also learn Skill Experience. Lunar: Eternal Blue fans for the Sega CD should understand what I’m about to describe, as these Skills experience points can be used to give your character brand new skills like a combo attack or a defense power against poison or fear. It’s a nice level of customization.

There’s a lot of voice acting in Stella Dues, as every major character has a voice actor. As always, some are good, some are bad.

In all, from a few hours with Stella Dues, it is looking like a decent RPG that can fill a hole in your collection if you’re a SRPG junkie, or just looking for a good straight up RPG to play for a week or two. Atlus’ latest word is that the game comes out May 3rd, and I’ll be reviewing the game in detail at that time.