While Sekai Project has made a real name for itself in localizing visual novels,Machina of the Planet Tree: Planet Ruler marks the first time the publisher has made a stab at the traditional RPG space.
Developed by Japanese indie studio Denneko Yuuki and built on the RPG Maker engine, Planet Ruler attempts to stand high above its peers, but only manages to fall flat on its face in the process.
Cram Lanvelouche is an S-class field researcher working for the Halbern Machinery Academy. He is tasked with investigating ruins in order to discover “Attributes” that are seen as sources of power.
These relics are borne from an ancient civilization known as the Old World who worshipped the Planet Tree as a source of overwhelming natural energy for the land. One day, the people of the Old World mysteriously vanished, leaving only these Attributes behind.
Joining Cram in his journey is Cronos, an autonomous AI acting as a guide. Cram soon meets Retla Stoltein, a tomboy mercenary with a mysterious background, and “Esty” Esthanathelle, a Priestess who has a striking case of amnesia.
Together they discover a legendary artifact known as the “Machina” and soon find the hidden truth about its existence.
The battle system in Planet Ruler takes the turn-based formula and injects some unique modifiers. Each action has a certain cost associated with it that draws from a pool of points. This means that a party member can keep taking turns as long as they have enough points available.
The main focus of combat is its combo meter. By stringing attacks together, players are able to dish out higher amounts of damage to an enemy. All the while, a bonus multiplier timer ticks down in real-time and is meant for players to stack moves as quickly as possible.
The problem is, the clunky menu system does an amazing job in getting in the way, making sure that I missed the timing consistently. Things are made worse when the game punishes players for using the same attack twice in a row, creating a repetition penalty that reduces the amount of damage inflicted.
As a result, it makes exploiting an enemy’s weakness all the more difficult and at times frustrating, especially during boss battles.
Speaking of which, Planet Ruler loves its boss fights, sometimes dishing out one after another from one screen to the next. All of the boss characters have these status effects that cause paralysis, sleep, or any other debilitating attack.
These fights become a battle of attrition as each boss can heal themselves in large amounts on every turn. I grew increasingly annoyed at how much the game relied on this cheap tactic. My anger started to reach a boiling point during some of the later battles.
Another aspect of combat is the Over-Tension and Over-Arts systems. Over-Arts are special abilities that expend a certain amount of TP the character holds. Over-Tension unleashes a very powerful combo that uses up an entire TP gauge and can help turn the tide of battle.
If the TP gauge drops below 10%, a character enters a state of Irritation. This is a crippling status ailment that halves TP regeneration, reduces the damage dealt, and increases the amount of damage taken.
To be fair, a lot of battles can be completed without ever having to worry about this scenario, but I found myself getting dangerously close in every boss fight I experienced.
While the gameplay was entertaining early on, I quickly became bored of how incredibly monotonous Planet Ruler had become. Since most of the game is spent inside of battle, my patience was being tested at every turn, and I soon dreaded my time with it.
While the expressive characters are exceptional in their design (the portraits are fantastic) and the interaction between them can be enjoyable, the plot itself is ultimately forgettable. Seriously, I have already nearly forgot what the plot was about. Give Planet Ruler a pass unless your curiosity has piqued.