Wild Arms 3 Review

Wild Arms 3 is a traditional Japanese-style RPG set on a world known as Filgaia that bears a striking resemblance to the Old West.  Filgaia is a barren world that was nearly destroyed by an invading demon in its distant past.  Now people stick to isolated cities and villages separated by vast seas of desert and sand.  Some intrepid adventurers known as Drifters brave the wasteland and the dangers found there, and the game's story focuses on four of these Drifters.

The game opens when Virginia, Gallows, Jet, and Clive all meet on a train as they simultaneously bust into a train car carrying a powerful artifact.  You then take control of each character one by one as you play through four separate prequels.  These serve to provide you with the background story for each character, and so that you can learn about the events which led to their meeting on the train.  From there you lead the four as a party on their adventures across Filgaia.

There are three main aspects to the game, the world map, towns/dungeons, and the battle screen.  When on the world map, you travel across Figaia looking for towns and dungeons.  Most of the dungeons are hidden, and you must use the game's search feature to find them.  This feature is actually one of the game's most annoying points, as the world of Filgaia is large and you are only given the vaguest of indications as to where hidden locations can be found.  Confounding this problem is the fact that like a lot of Japanese RPGs there is a tremendous amount of combat in the game.  It can be frustrating to try and locate a dungeon somewhere in a relatively large area when you are being attacked every ten seconds or so.  Granted the game does provide a mechanism for avoiding combat, but you only can use it a limited number of times.  After that, you must fight more battles to earn the ability to avoid them again.

ScreenshotsOnce an encounter occurs and you move to battle, you are taken to the 3D battle screen.  Combat in Wild Arms 3 is strictly turn-based, with each combatant acting in turn each round in an order based on initiative.  Your characters each have their own weapon, a gun known as an ARM.  Virginia fires a relatively weak pistol, but makes up for it by firing two at once.  Gallows is armed with a shotgun, Jet with a submachine gun, and Clive with a sniper rifle.  The weapons have limited magazines, but spending a round defending will allow you to reload your weapon from an infinite ammo supply.  In addition to the firearms, characters can draw upon special skills and spells that are paid for by spending Force Points.  Force Points are generated by taking and dealing damage, and by consuming special items, so you'll need to mix your attacks in the longer battles. 

The battles themselves take place in 3D, with a camera that pans, zooms, and rotates with the action.  Between rounds, your characters and the enemies move around and jockey for position.  All this movement does not really have an effect on combat, but does serve to make things a bit more exciting.   The animations look very good, with each monster and character having their own distinctive moves that reflect their personality.  The environment in which the encounter takes place has an effect on the look of the battle screen, be it desert plains, stone dungeon, or an encounter on horseback.  The latter is certainly fun to look at, but when you get down to it, it is essentially the same as combat on foot.

There are a wide variety of enemies in the game, and it can be challenging determining their weaknesses and how to approach battles with each type of enemy.  However, since there are so many battles to fight, you'll find yourself facing some of the same opponents over and over again when exploring the same area.  Since each battle can take a little time to complete, this only serves to create a feeling of tedium at times.  If only the monsters could leave you alone for five minutes so that you can do a little looking around...