Gungnir is the latest released title within the Dept. Heaven series by Sting Entertainment, and is a downloadable title for the PSP in the North America region. The game was released on June 12, 2012, and is the 9th episode in the Dept. Heaven series. Keep in mind, Gungnir is completely different from its predecessors when it comes to its gameplay and storytelling, but it is guaranteed to embody the same RPG features that were available in Final Fantasy Tactics, and Tactics Ogre: The Knights of Lodis. Also keep in mind that, unlike those two games, this game is ridiculously tough.
Gungnir begins in 983 and takes place in the empire of Gargandia. The country is ruled by two types of classes; the upper class known as Daltans, and the lower class known as the Leonicans. The Daltans despise the Leonicans and believe that they are superior to them. Due to this, the Daltans form a plan in order to massacre all of the Leonicans, later named the Espada Massacre. A few years later, an army is assimilated by the remaining Leonican and Daltans forces in order to create Esperanza. You then follow Giulio, an Esperanza soldier who is in the middle of stealing food from merchants, and things take a turn for the worse. Instead of having supplies, the merchants have a kidnapped Daltania girl called Alissa. Shortly after, a battle occurs where the Esperanza forces are near the brink of existence, when a powerful demonic weapon called Gungnir appears for Giulio out of nowhere. Giulio shortly after wins the battle using Gungnir, but in order to win the war, he will need to use it more.
The story itself takes the Norse mythology and integrates it into the game itself just like its predecessors. The thing to understand is that Gungnir is very much different from the other three games, but still has a story with twist and turns, and should be praised for its brilliant character development. In terms of gameplay, the game is no different than what you would see in Final Fantasy Tactics, or Tactics Ogre in terms of control scheme. Except, this game is brutal. In Final Fantasy, the player has control of 8 or more characters depending on the map, or the amount of enemies on the map. However, Gungnir only lets you utilize a total of 5 or 6 characters, against 12-20 enemies per map. Some maps even have enemies that aren’t beatable.
Considering that I was playing in advanced mode straight off the bat, the game was very difficult for me, and sometimes I suspected that the AI was trying to cheat against me. For anyone who has played any strategy RPGs, you should be somewhat comfortable with the difficulty of the game. Gungnir has a ton to offer in the gameplay section. You get accessibility to over 10 classes with pre-assigned characters, and each character is able to use over 3 weapons per class. Also keep in mind that there are over 100 weapons in the first 10 hours of the game. To add to that, there is alchemy involved with this game as well, which lets players upgrade each and every weapon possible. Each map will also allow the player to collect gems, or treasure chest depending on how fast they beat the previous point.
Another factor that plays into Gungnir’s amazing gameplay is its use of tactics points. The player must capture base flags that are left in the battlefield which in turn increases your maximum tactics points by two. Using these tactics points, the player is able to execute countless combos with his character in order to literally beat the enemy to death. Furthermore, the tactics points also come in handy when trying to use summons in order to kill your foes, which is detailed as the story progresses. On a less praiseworthy note, there is so much to do in so little time. Every map has a time limit, and will make you think on your feet. The enemies outnumber the player, appear to be overleveled, and have an AI that goes for the loot to piss you off, and then kills you to anger you more.
Presentation couldn’t have been better. The art design is quite ravishing, and very artsy. There are a ton of different classes; each have their own sprites, along with pictures of how they look. Even the main characters match their sprites and seem to be very detailed. Also, the animations were an added bonus for the game, because different weapon utilization added more animations. For example, if a character used a bow originally, but changed to javelin during battle, the animation would look significantly different. One thing that did seem off to me is that some sprites didn’t seem to match their portrait. Paulo would be a prime example. He has maroon colored hair in sprite form, but in his portrait he has white hair.
Last but not least is the sound quality. The soundtrack is where this game truly lacks content. There seems to be a small amount of tracks that are played throughout the course of the game, and they do not compensate for the lack of voice acting.
Final Verdict: Overall, all I can say is that Gungnir is a superb title that any RPG fans should play. Keep in mind that many people who have reviewed this game gave this game a bad review due to its difficulty, but while difficulty does matter, there are much harder games out there, like Demon Souls. Gungnir could have been a lot better if they integrated a better battle system, and made the battles simpler. However, I do recommend personally as an RPG fan, that this game is worth buying as a retail copy.
This review is based on a review copy of the PSP version of Gungnir by Sting Entertainment distributed by Atlus