First-person dungeon crawlers are some of the most underrated RPGs and the Vita's library is full of them. However, is Operation Babel a worthy addition to this genre that old-school gaming fans just can't get enough of?
Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy is a follow-up to Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy which released a couple years back. For the unfamiliar, it's a story-heavy traditional dungeon crawling RPG with paranormal elements. Thankfully, Operation Babel maintains the classic core gameplay that should be familiar to anyone who has played games such as Wizardry, Demon Gaze, and Might and Magic. Uncovering maps while avoiding traps and navigating through tricky terrain is a satisfying feat indeed.
Not only does Operation Babel feature classic dungeon RPG gameplay, it also has a rather rewarding character customization aspect. As with most games in the genre, you can create your own characters from scratch. Each character can have two spirit-like entities equipped known as Bloods which behave as jobs would in other JRPGs. Upon gaining enough experience points, you can rest at the medical lab in order to level up each one of these Bloods which in turn grants characters improved base stats and new abilities. On top of this, you can appraise, craft, and enhance equipment as well as exchange currency for experience points. This all comes together to form an in-depth yet intuitive party customization system that makes overcoming tough situations very satisfying.
Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy's visuals consist of clean-looking environments and beautiful character illustrations. Whereas some similar games have uninspired art, the characters and enemies here come alive with detailed portraits that pop off the screen. It's great-looking stuff. Unfortunately, the characters themselves aren't very memorable as many of them have stereotypical personalities and none stand out as truly unique. The same could be said about the soundtrack which is decent but you won't find yourself humming any tunes after putting it down. If you played Demon Gaze, these aspects here will come across as especially disappointing.
As you explore dungeons and take on enemy hordes, a meter in the top-left (the Encounter Gauge) will increase. The higher it is, the stronger enemies will become. Also, keeping it high is the only way to encounter certain boss-like enemies and complete their related quests in the process. This "Rise & Drop" system adds an impressive amount of excitement to exploration. If it ever gets too much, actions such as running away from foes will decrease the meter. Anyway, another fantastic implementation is how quickly you can play. The two main contributors to this are being able to select points on the map to automatically move to and repeat previous actions in battle which can make combat last seconds. When you consider the plenty of complexities such as trapped item drops, puzzles that test how quickly you can move from point A to point B, and hidden doors; you're looking at one interesting dungeon crawler.
After playing the phenomenal Stranger of Sword City, the dungeons in Operation Babel definitely leave a lot to be desired. Sure, the gameplay mechanics are solid and varied but the dungeons themselves are mostly too linear or tedious. You'll find yourself traversing similar-looking hallways over and over again which gets boring fast. One dungeon had the exact same room layout four times in a row. Now that's monotonous. As a huge fan of the genre, it's clear that dungeons are best when they're open-ended enough to encourage exploration. Here, you'll find that it verges on being a hallway simulator which is quite unfortunate.
Another issue is the fact that Operation Babel is far too easy. You'll find that putting little effort into party management will result in constant victories. However, you'll then reach a boss that's way too challenging. Even after adequately preparing yourself and levelling up for hours, you'll still have difficulty taking it down. It's surprising because the level of challenge gives you a sense that the journey will be simple to master yet the odd boss is merely too overpowered to be enjoyable. It's the definition of erratic difficulty.
Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy features fantastic classic dungeon RPG gameplay with many unique and satisfying mechanics. It may not be the most memorable game in the genre but it's one that genre fans shouldn't pass up.
- + Awesome dungeon gameplay with satisfying character customization and growth
- + Great character and enemy art
- + Encounter Gauge adds a fun dynamic
- - The cast of characters and music are mostly unmemorable
- - Dungeon layouts can be rather tedious
- - Crazy difficulty spikes are annoying