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Visions of Mana Opinions

Opinions 28 March 2024, 06:00

PAX East 2024 Visions of Mana Hands-On Impressions

During PAX East 2024, Square Enix invited a few of us to take part in gameplay for their upcoming Visions of Mana, the first main-entry Mana game in over 15 years. The demo showed us game’s impressive semi-open world as well as lots of battles.

Semi-Open World Exploration

Fans of the classic JRPG are in for a treat as soon as they start their adventures as Visions of Mana looks beautiful and comes complete with cel-shaded visuals that pop on the screen and retain their classic series look. The first section of the demo took me to Fallow Steppe, an open field where I could explore and engage in some easy battles without getting too far ahead of its boundaries. The purpose of this area was to showcase the game’s ease of exploration and to get used to the game’s battle system and controls. While the menu and fast-traveling was not available, there were plenty of fast-travel locations throughout the map to save you some time traveling between areas. There were also roads that led to other parts of the map I couldn’t explore so there could be many more large areas like this in the game.

One of the things I liked was that exploration encourages the use of Elemental Vessels. In the demo only the wind elemental was available, and there was a section of the map that had a high cliff with a treasure chest on top. Luckily, there was a spot where I could use this vessel and call upon a Sylphid Boomerang which launched me up into the air letting me reach this chest. There were some ruins on a nearby lake that also had a fire elemental icon on it but I couldn’t activate it because I didn’t have this vessel yet. This system hopes to encourage players from returning to areas they’ve previously been to and fully discover all their secrets akin to a Metroidvania game. Not to mention, it’s exciting to discover what abilities you gain as you discover even more of them.

Fallow Steppe was quite large and I couldn’t fast travel, but I was able to summon these large canine-like companions called Pikuls that made getting around so much easier. When you run into enemies aboard one of them, you can simply knock them back and keep on riding without needing to engage in battle if you don’t want to. While I’m not sure if this will apply to all enemies, the lower level ones in the demo were literal pushovers.

The game follows Val and his friends as they accompany the Alm of Fire on her pilgrimage to the Tree of Mana. Its story is sure to go in depth about their backgrounds, intentions, and even relationships within the story. While the actual plot wasn’t discussed, I was able to play as all three characters as the game’s exploration and battle system lets you swap to whichever one you want on the fly. Hinna, the Alm of Fire, wasn’t playable but she did provide healing support in the background.

Classic JRPG Gameplay

Battles are in real time so you need to select your attacks while moving around the field dodging enemy fire and area-damaging attacks. Some of the moves my characters could pull off such as elemental spells also required a few seconds to cast so if an enemy hits you during this sequence, you’ll have to start over meaning you need to be smart in your character placement at all times. Items from your inventory can also be mapped to a ring menu you can pull up during combat or when exploring so you can quickly recover HP or MP if you have the right items selected. You can’t arrange your items mid-battle, however, so you also need to prepare for battle accordingly.

The second part of the demo took me to Mt. Gala, a snowy mountain that involved me calling on the power of Sylphid Boomerangs to cross a giant gorge. The battles here were a bit more difficult, but provided a great playground to test out the party’s different attacks and abilities. Val is your default swordsman, Careena uses a mix of fans and magic spells, while Morley had more rogue-like attacks and moves that made him the fastest in the party.

While the demo featured the standard class for these characters, this second part of the demo also let me use Elemental Vessels to change their classes via the game’s menu. Using the vessel of the moon, I turned Val into more of a tank Aegis class which then gave me the option to deploy spells that raised the party’s resistances and attacks. It seems like you’ll be able to select classes that appeal to your combat style perhaps as you discover more vessels along your journey.

The final boss at the end was another test of everything I had learned up to that point as well as knowing how to position yourself to avoid area-based attacks. Your party also has a shared meter that fills up as you battle allowing you to do a devastating attack once it’s full so deciding when to utilize this charge, preferably when the enemy is down and not moving around too much, is crucial to deliver the most damage possible.

Visions of Mana reminded me a lot of Dragon Quest IX in that it looks amazing, still retains its classic essence, and hopes to revive a classic franchise from years ago. Be sure to look out for more announcements about the game’s development as it gets closer to launching this summer.

Giancarlo Saldana

Giancarlo Saldana

Giancarlo grew up playing video games and finally started writing about them on a blog after college. He soon began to write for small gaming websites as a hobby and then as a freelance writer for sites like 1UP, GamesRadar, MacLife, and TechRadar. Giancarlo also was an editor for Blast Magazine, an online gaming magazine based in Boston where he covered various video game topics from the city's indie scene to E3 and PAX. Now he writes reviews and occasional previews for Gamepressure covering a broad range of genres from puzzle games to JRPGs to open-world adventures. His favorite series include Pokémon, Assassin's Creed, and The Legend of Zelda, but he also has a soft spot for fighting and music games like Super Smash Bros and Rock Band. When not playing Overwatch after a long day at work, he enjoys spending time working out, meal prepping, and discovering new international films and TV shows.


Visions of Mana

Visions of Mana

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