Review – The Caligula Effect: Overdose
The Caligula Effect: Overdose has the most engaging RPG combat system that I’ve ever played.
I lead with that because it’s really the only reason I would strongly recommend playing this game, which features a decent plot that’s failed by story pacing and weak dialog. Players take on the role of a group of students in a VR world called Mobius (which uses a simulation of high school life to shield them from the real world) who have discovered the lie they’re living and form the ‘Go-Home Club’ to work towards that end.
A social linking system allows the player to form friendships with other students – hundreds of other students. This seems fascinating initially but falls apart over time as there are very few interesting characters to interact with and they quickly start to share the reason they’re in Mobius. I’d much rather have had a meaningful emotional tie to a handful of characters than a tenuous one to over 500.
Though it’s been rebuilt since starting life as a PS Vita title, the game isn’t a graphical showpiece and feels dated at best. Textures are a bit on the low-res side, and animations are stilted and stiff. It’s functional, but not something that’s going to wow you.
What will wow you is the soundtrack, which features a few standout tracks and incorporates the audio into the storyline in a unique way. It can get a bit repetitive if you’re wandering the ‘overworld’ for a while, but I didn’t find it detracted from the game.
And then there’s the combat system…
Each member of your party has their own unique abilities, which typical of any RPG, but how you use them offers incredible depth to the game’s more important fights. In combat each player has three actions they can queue up, whether that’s attacking, using an ability to buff themselves or teammates, moving around the battlefield, healing, etc…
Seems simple enough, but each action doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Let’s say you choose three actions for Character A: launcher move to put the enemy in the air, an aerial attack, and a ground attack to finish it off. Character B doesn’t need to use a launcher now, as they can delay the timing of their first attack to use an aerial move – and there’s a real-time preview of how your actions will unfold on the battlefield to help see how these interactions work out.
Now throw in multiple characters in the party and multiple enemies on the field of battle and you can see how strategy ramps up quickly. In major battles it’s as important to make sure you’re using movement and set up skills as it is to use attacks. Without teamwork and tactics, you’re not going to do well at all. Going through a combat without ever being touched by the opponents thanks to perfectly timed counters and movement feels very rewarding, but it’s harder and harder to do as you move through the game.