tactical RPG, exploration open world
intentionally and successfully minimalistic
Horizon’s Gate is the third turn-based tactical RPG from the developer. Like the previous games it is intentionally minimalistic in many ways but also features noteworthy twists and additions.
In Horizon’s Gate’s case that includes an open “Age of Sail” world which you explore, trade, earn faction favour and fight in. In addition to party based combat you also manage, upgrade and fight ship and fleet battles in a similar RPG fashion.
Graphically it might look so simple as to be repulsive. I must admit that the series had a “yuck, RPG-maker stuff?!” reaction from me at first (It’s not actually RPGmaker though :P). That look not only is sufficient but actually serves the scope and intent of the game however. Horizon’s Gate’s very intentional minimalism covers all aspects starting with the RPG mechanics leading into the combat, the exploration, the story and many other things.
In almost all cases it to the benefit of the game. For instance, compared to it’s predecessor in the series the Final Fantasy Tactics inspired job system got notably reduced by almost half the number of skills. Which greatly improved the end result as now there are much fewer basically identical or outright useless skills. This gives the different jobs more distinct a personality and impact.
The combat features tile and shape based skills with lots of effects and interactions. The gear system is as successfully simple yet effective as much the rest of the game. Enemies are distinct both within player-available job system and with special monster classes/abilities.
The game features well done hand crafted locations. Ports have distinct flavour and the hand crafted story and optional dungeons have clear and purposeful design that makes them a joy to explore and complete. A number of randomly populated “points of interest” are belying their name and are much less interesting, basically only being a room with random enemies.
I personally really like the exploration part. You uncover the world map for minor financial gain. Some parts of the map are also pretty empty. But I still find it really satisfying and there are enough ports, hidden dungeons and random fights to keep it interesting with combat as well.
The developer is very actively patching the game, including noteworthy balance reworks, technical upgrades and mechanical additions.
For instance supply ports. Some of the less populated parts of the map still needed options for the player to resupply. Initially those were supply ports, just a building where you could buy basic supplies. In a patch this got upgraded and you can now settle those ports yourself, choosing to build the various functional buildings and decide on flavour like colours and music.
I tried to sell several people on my Steam friends list on this game, with extremely limited success. On the whole this is a well intentioned, well designed and well executed experience after you overcome the initial repulsion. I highly recommend it.