Review – 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim

Anime Pacific Rim, but Better

Overview

Developer Vanillaware
Publisher Square Enix
Genre RPG
Platforms PS4
Release Date September 22, 2020

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, developed by Vanillaware, is a story-driven RPG with real-time combat. Players follow the story of thirteen individuals closely connected in a grand—and I mean a grand—tale with sci-fi’s heartiest complex themes. Cloning, time travel, nanomachines, and mind-controlled mech suits are just a few things you’ll encounter in this game where the story is told out of sequence. 

Content Guide

Sexual Content: A girl begins to change out of her gym clothes before she’s interrupted. A sequence involves two characters fully nude, one covering her chest with her arms. The stills of each character in their mech show them “connected” to the machine, and they aren’t wearing anything, but their extremities do not show. It’s very reminiscent of the fusion evolving in the Digimon series.

Violence: The plot involves the main characters receiving nanomachine implants via a gunshot. Guns are the main weapon in the story, some attacking robots, others gunning down people. But they’re more akin to the phasers from Star Trek. There’s no blood or gore.

Language: There are instances of a**, d***, b******, b****, and s***.

ET phone home!

Review

As mentioned, the plot for 13 Sentinels is told in a non-linear format, split between thirteen characters whose subplots contain multiple end branches. If that sounds like a 100+ hour game to you, do not fret. This may be the most convenient and time-respecting RPG I’ve ever played.

Here’s what I mean.

Each character starts with a prologue, and then has episodes scattered throughout the overarching narrative. These episodes last for ten to fifteen minutes each. The dialogue is broken up into even shorter segments, so there are moments in-between to continue the conversation, walk around, dwell in your thoughts, or just save and come back.

Most of the episodes have multiple ways of ending, with some requiring a necessary word or action from one ending to get the other ending for the next day. The order, or freedom to choose how this happens, is based largely on the character.

What the player can do is quite unique. At the menu the game is broken up into three sections: Story, Battle, and Archive. Archive is a place for housing all of the moments in the story in chronological order. Additionally, a breakdown for characters, items, key plot points can also be found here to give some additional insight. Story and Battle are what they look like, separated from each other. Players have the option of playing through the story, or playing through rounds of battling the enemy Daimos at will. The Battle has three levels, excluding the prologue. This is where players use their mechs, the Sentinels, to take on the vicious Kaiju. Within the levels are waves, and each one is fought individually with its own set goal and requirements for victory. The more waves you take on back-to-back, the more meta chips and mystery points you earn. The chips are used for upgrading the Sentinels you use in combat, and the meta system to use more abilities and raise attack and defense. The mystery points allow more archive entries to be unlocked upon your choice.

Battles in 13 Sentinels are straight forward, with all the components appearing as simple blocks on a high-tech map of the city. You have a tall blue glowing tower called an Aegis defended by seven sentinel mechs. The enemy will spawn randomly, and it’s up to the other six sentinels to destroy them before they reach the Aegis. Enemies range from all types of units, including aerial units, fortresses, boring machines, and missile-launching towers. Visually they’re a bunch of blocks, just like your sentinels, but a short image and description of their stats will appear once you place your cursor over it.

The sentinels you choose can be suited to take advantage of the type of Daimos that appears. Players will get an idea of what is coming in the battle during prep. Some mechs are geared for close ground combat, and others are useful for aerial enemies. Picking the right sentinel is necessary, but the Aegis also has some attacks that can aid during the battle. If the meta gauge is filled, players can use any attack they’ve unlocked with their meta chips.

Power Rangers!?

Going through wave after wave of battles is taxing on the pilots’ brains. They have a small yellow bar over their plate on the prep menu to show how close they are to mental exhaustion, and when it fills up they need to sit out one battle to rest. Keeping one eye out on the city damage percentage is also necessary to gain victory.

Gameplay in the story mode involves walking through side-scrolling environments and interacting with items and other characters. Knowing where to go is as easy as paying attention to dialogue, or walking around and finding objects to interact with. 

The art and music behind the game is gorgeous. Everything has a unique style to it that isn’t completely comparable to other games. The characters are expressive, even though they only have a few sprite actions (folding arms, bending down, thinking pose, etc.). The voice acting is talentful and intentional. Even the one deadpan character I hated listening to ultimately had a compelling story-related explanation for his delivery, rendering his speech tolerable. 

And the story definitely keeps you on your feet. Every episode adds another layer to the complexity, and just when you think things are making some sense, your current character is locked until you finish other certain criteria. And obviously, since this game is all about the story, I really can’t say anything else.

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a great JRPG. The battles are quick, and the story segments avoid the pitfall of feeling like a long cutscene. The archive sets everything in order so you can keep up if you’re getting lost, as well as keep character bios for everyone in the game. I do wish that the characters were drawn on screen rather than portrayed as blocks, if only to see the cool sentinel and kaiju models, but that’s nitpicking. Square Enix is showing they have a desire to keep changing the JRPG formula to make it more modern and fresh, so story fans and hardcore fighting fans alike are equally entertained. I would definitely like to see more of this develop further.

 

The Bottom Line

 

This RPG values your time, does complicated sci-fi storytelling right, and just may usher in a new style of how RPG's play.

 

9

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Johnathan Floyd

Writer, Editor, President, and overall complete goofball.

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