Illusion of Gaia is a combat-focused action RPG that doesn’t get bogged down in mechanics and secrets. The gameplay is fun and breezy, though the story is not.
An “RPG” only in the loosest sense, Illusion of Gaia relies largely on its top-down combat and exploration to drive gameplay. Killing creatures is a major focus, to the point where the primary method of increasing your stats is to kill every enemy in an area. The game provides a nice readout of the remaining enemy’s numbers and locations, as well as how many chests you are missing. That said, defeating the boss of a given area will net you the same bonuses whether you’ve killed all the enemies or not.
For most of the game, you have access to two different forms for your hero. In his base form, he has a number of special moves that you’ll have to make the most of to survive against the tougher monsters. Your primary alternate form is more combat-focused, though you will sometimes need to switch back to solve puzzles. Both forms have several special moves that are unlocked as the game progresses.
Illusion of Gaia is also heavy on story, with long sequences of exploration and talking to townspeople outside of combat. You will explore a number of ancient ruins from Earth’s history, all while trying to discover what dark force is descending upon the planet. The story pulls no punches, getting quite dark in a number of places despite starring mostly children. The story feels quite a bit different from the easily accessible gameplay.
This is not a game that’s trying to be more than it appears on the surface. There are 50 red jewels to collect in the game, and doing so will net you various powerups and a brief bonus dungeon, but other than that, it’s a very linear game without much to miss. You just need to make it through the adventure in one piece. That gets harder as the game progresses and throws nastier enemies at you while cutting back on the frequency of save points, but it never gets unfair.
If you’re looking for a fun time and an interesting but dark story, Illusion of Gaia is a good choice. Its bright, colorful sprites make it easy on the eyes, and it’s well-balanced and just tends to be a lot of fun. It doesn’t have the depth to be considered a classic, but it’s a good game to pick up.