Man, calling your game an RPG used to mean something. Androgynous party members, high-fashion battle-attire, 80-hour hairstyles… er, main quests, and mostly melodramatic storylines that nevertheless gave you a reason to Fira and Dia your way through literally thousands of fights.
Not recently. With the exception of Penny Arcade 3, every other XBLIG RPG covered here (which, yes, now comprises a grand total of 3) has suffered the same non-story fate. Battlepaths (80 MSP) lumps itself together with that crowd, though with the distinction of being mechanically-sound and far more customizable than most.
Your name changes depending on your starting stat preference, but the hero always looks like a step above Neanderthal. Villages are under constant threat from Orcs, Skeletons, and your typical RPG villains. The world is large (three huge areas, accessed once a certain quest is completed) and vibrant, but not very emotive. Don’t expect long chats.
Fighting is turn-based, fast, and seamless. You look like you’re bumper car-ing into foes (BRPG). And that combat is more or less a miniature war of attrition multiplied several times over; just thumbstick-mash in the direction of your target. Don’t fight outside your weight class, don’t get surrounded or suckered by ranged attacks, carry potions or a regenerative spell, and you’ll generally be okay (penalties for death aren’t severe). Though with that ease, comes repetition.
What nixes that tedium and makes for a more interesting formula is the idea of acquiring loot, then better loot, then epic loot. Combat and dungeon crawling are redeemed entirely with the chance to find top-notch stuff, and Battlepaths gets that part right. Every treasure chest and enemy drop is a chance to raise your standing in the world. A higher-rated armor piece or weapon isn’t necessarily the obvious choice either; like Torchlight, it’s all about stat-boosts and modifiers. Leveling up is equally inclusive. You are as lethal or as guarded as you want to play.
There is some backtracking if you’re not careful. Without a map, you can get lost, though the game does a serviceable job of pointing you in the right direction. Which is part of the problem. Complete a quest, pick up another quest, bumper car through it, loot some, and repeat. The overarching storyline is there isn’t really one. Which is a shame. Beneath the gorgeous art and well-done RPG aspects is a shallow series of missions that never escalate the conflict (whatever it is) into anything resembling a must-play.
Desert… Pyramid… Ah, I see what you did there.
And that’s okay. To be clear, Battlepaths is far from a bad game. I’m fine with it. I liked it. It takes some time to get going, and the story never does, but if you love your loot and level grinding (Me! and… Me!), you can stamp that ticket here. At 80 MSP, you get a respectable RPG-like to sink an estimated 20+ hours (whoa, and with additional challenge rooms, whoa…) into. How many of those 20 hours are memorable, though, will fluctuate from player to player.