Review – Rise of the Third Power
Stegosoft is a relatively new indie developer, with their first project, Ara Fell, being first released in 2016 and was met with general favorable reviews. I was fortunate enough to be able to play Ara Fell: Enhanced Edition when it came out in March of 2020, which fixed many of the issues players had with the original version. I fell in love with the game almost immediately. It was a fantastic blending of ARPG and JRPG styles, and was one of the first retro-themed RPGs that truly managed to capture the charm of the older titles that inspired it. Naturally, when I heard that Stegosoft had another game int the works, I awaited it eagerly. I just wondered if Rise of the Third Power would be able to capture the same magic as Ara Fell.
Rise of the Third Power is set twenty years after the events of the Great War, where the three kingdoms of Rin battled for power and left the world a broken mess. Arkadya was blamed for initiating the conflict, and the kingdoms of Cirinthia and Tariq formed an alliance to bring peace and prosperity back to the realm of Rin. Desperate to restore power back to to Arkadya, the Emperor Noraskov has sought to marry his son, Prince Gage, to the Cirinthian princess, Arielle. It appears as if the realm of Rin would finally be unified.
But as these stories usually go, not everything is as they appear. While Rise of the Third Power does begin with a somewhat contrived premise, it’s not long before things start to become more complicated and interesting. Much like Ara Fell, Rise of the Third Power starts off with a story that falls in line with many of the tropes in the genre, but it does so in a very self-aware way. The humor throughout the game is wonderful and makes the characters much more endearing. It does eventually take a turn towards more dramatic themes, as betrayals emerge and loyalties are tested.
I have to give the developers at Stegosoft Games credit, they know how to reel you in to their stories. Rise of the Third Power is equally hilarious and thought-provoking. I’m constantly surprised by how deep their games can get. Rise of the Third Power especially impressed me with its character developments. You’ll meet many characters along the way and each of them have their own motivations for wanting to get involved with this fight.
What shocked me most was how flawed and complex most of the characters are. It made them feel more believable and each of them had their own arc fully fleshed out. Many of them walk morally gray areas during the events of the game, and it’s refreshing to see characters that make mistakes, aren’t always thinking on the right side of things, and grow from their experiences. I found myself genuinely caring about each member of the team, which is rare for me in most games I play.
Eventually, you’ll acquire a party of eight companions. You can play as each of these characters during battles, and each of them have their own specific strengths and weaknesses. Rise of the Third Power is your typical turn-based JRPG styled game, so there’s a lot of strategy to be found in which combinations of characters you’ll want to start each fight with. My only other small gripe with the combat system is that the move/abilities list for each character feels somewhat limited. However, this is likely due to budgetary constraints from being such a small studio. At least the moves that are available are flashy and satisfying.
Unlike Ara Fell, which allowed up to four characters on the battle screen at once, Rise of the Third Power only allows three. Thankfully, this is isn’t usually a huge problem since the game does allow you you to swap out your party members throughout the fight. Although, there are times that it can feel tedious when you have to constantly swap out teammates in order to get the best attack or defense strategies in place.
That being said, I still really enjoyed the combat in Rise of the Third Power. The ways that you can combine moves between characters to unleash special attacks are really creative. I also found Rise of the Third Power to be appropriately challenging, without feeling unfair. Even though there were a few areas where I needed to grind for XP, I never found myself having to grind for very long. Honestly, I always appreciate when a RPG doesn’t force the player to grind for hours just to get past a certain section. I also never encountered any ridiculous difficulty spikes, which I also greatly appreciate.
There was also a surprising amount of enemy varieties and locations in Rise of the Third Power as well. Yes, each area typically has only about four to five different enemy types, but Rin is broken up into smaller regions and each of those have their own catalogue of enemies. I never felt bored battling the same foes because I would move onto the next section before that was even an issue. The frequently changing landscapes also did wonders for keeping the whole game feeling fresh and interesting.
The art style in Rise of the Third Power is beautiful. It features a wonderful blending of 16-bit pixel art, hand-drawn characters for the dialogue sections, and dramatic lighting effects during battles. I loved watching the various dynamic animations during the encounters. As I’ve also mentioned, there are a ton of different locations, each of which have their own distinct look. Rin is a massive place, spanning across several continents. Each of them have their own climate and culture, which are expertly depicted and even given subtle differences within each region.
This is further explored through the game’s sound design. There’s no voice acting in Rise of the Third Power, but the soundtrack is phenomenal. Every region has its own theme, as well as most of the smaller areas within those. There are a surprising amounts of songs in Rise of the Third Power, and every one of them are fantastic. From the metal/sea shanty mashups, to the soft, ethereal orchestral melodies, each song has its own unique sound and tone. This is another soundtrack I’ll be listening to regularly.
I was already hopeful that I would enjoy Rise of the Third Power because of just how much I loved Ara Fell, but I wasn’t prepared for just how much it would enthrall me. It’s one of the very few games in recent memory that I couldn’t put down. The story started off a little hackneyed, but this was a purposeful design choice. It doesn’t take too long to before it lets you know that there’s more going on than might first think. There are plenty of twists, turns, and revelations along the journey that make for a delightfully complex and engaging experience. There are a lot of retro-themed RPGs on the market, but Rise of the Third Power is one you shouldn’t let pass you by.
The pixelated 16-bit art style is beautiful, especially in contrast with the dynamic lighting an animations during battles.
A turn-based RPG featuring up to eight playable characters. Each character has their own attacks, as well as some that can be combined with other teammates. However, the list of attacks and abilities for each character is somewhat limited.
No voice acting, but the sound effects are well done and the soundtrack is phenomenal.
Fun Factor: 9.0
Rise of the Third Power is a far cry from being just another retro-inspired RPG. The story might seem a tad contrived at first, but it quickly develops into something much deeper and unexpected.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Rise of the Third Power is available now on PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of Rise of the Third Power was provided by the publisher.