Review – For A Vast Future
RPGS, especially JRPGS, have become a contentious genre to get into in recent memory. Always a major investment in time and emotional damage, the titles that continue to enthrall and entertain us have become staggering asks in commitment. Xenoblade Chronicles, Persona, Trails and Tales…the sagas are all now at a forty hour entry, minimum. It’s simply too much and becomes wildly absurd to look a person dead in the eyes and say “It really starts to pick up at the twenty hour mark.” Imagine if you were eating a meal and a person told you that it finally started to get really delicious on the seventh course. You’d rightfully walk out of that restaurant and go drink river water instead. Or maybe that’s just how I deal with skipping the check at Olive Garden; I’m not sure if the response is universal.
But what if you’re down for the concept – the storyline, the character leveling, the turn based combat and exploration of plot – yet would rather have it in a more bite-sized package? KEMCO has done a decent job of creating smaller, nuanced RPGs, though, in recent years, their games more varied and, as a result, girthier. So it’s rather welcoming that we have RedDeerGames to bring us some titles that are a bit more under the radar. This most recent discovery is a Game Boy love letter from Retreaux Games entitled For A Vast Future. This particular game serves to scratch the standard itch of RPGs without the full allotment of several months of play, though, to be fair, you’re still looking at about ten hours.
For A Vast Future is a straightforward dystopian RPG that puts you mostly in the shoes of Chel, our protagonist who starts off in a mostly innocuous fashion. Living with a bunch of orphans in a small village, Chel spends her nights scavenging scrap to earn a few coins, scrape by a living and, hopefully, escape the village sooner rather than later. Chel soon discovers Darr, an android who was left over from the previous regime, and Chel decides he’s her meal ticket and plans to sell him to the highest bidder. As no one near the village has that kind of coin, Chel and Darr set out, soon amassing a rag-tag group of survivors who all want to work with her to take down the shadowy government controlling what’s left of the world, and I guess we’ll do that because why the hell not.
If you’re looking to be dropped into a post-apocalyptic setting with passive exposition and plenty of static storytelling, then For A Vast Future is right up your alley. From the very beginning, Chel and company tend to either communicate with very short utterances or exceptionally long blocks of text, giving details and ideas that you otherwise wouldn’t have asked about. An entire section of a cultist home lets you read up on one perspective of what happened “before” and antagonists that you sort of happen upon will give you more details about the “now.” It’s rare to have an RPG where you can potentially avoid learning the story while still finishing the game, but here we are.
That same sort of quickness to everything further extends into the entire approach to the game itself. Enemies are all visible on the map, giving you options to engage or avoid based on your playing style. Combat is turn based with an active timeline system to let you see who is taking turns next based on speed. Leveling up occurs on the field, and obtaining SP from battles allows you to then dump stats into your character anywhere you are. So, theoretically, you can increase your dexterity, luck, armor or another stat from battle to battle, and you can even reset your skill points at any time.
This, theoretically, should make the game move more quickly and allow for flexibility in builds. After all, having all your SP into things like evasion and dexterity for certain enemies and then quickly redistributing stats into armor and attack for boss fights just makes a lot of sense. The scaling “price” of stats means not being able to just min/max every single time, but there’s still plenty of opportunities, especially late in the game, to pivot your party into all sorts of configurations with little to no preamble. In short, you get to keep erasing your character sheet and rewriting as you see fit.
However, the perceived versatility is also one of the downfalls of the game. Everyone in your party uses different forms of guns, and you all pull from the same bullet pool. Enemies tend to drop basic bullets, and you can refine them into different forms of ammunition at save points (freezing bullets, fire bullets, etc.). Yet the basic bullets are the only ammunition that everyone can use at the same time. If Chel decides she wants to use Pierce bullets (good for ignoring defense/armor), then Darr and the rest need to choose something else, which doesn’t make sense when you have an enemy that’s singularly weak to a particular element.
Furthermore, this extends to the Wargear, a fancy name for items. Wargears all need to be crafted from things you find in the field, but the same “scrap” can create first aid kits, grenades and literal water (splash water on an enemy to make them weak to electric attacks). While enemies may rarely drop prefab Wargear, you usually end up with more raw materials, which means making decisions on what to craft. You probably should have a ton of first aid kits, but offensive Wargear means moving the game along at a better clip and not grinding and needing to waste time figuring out what to strike with.
Since enemies drop basic bullets at the end of combat, For A Vast Future feels rife with supplies in the beginning. It only takes until the two hour mark, though, to suddenly be suffering from famine in the weapons department and now feeling like you need to waste valuable Wargears and special bullets because you’ve run out of standard fare. The solution, at least according to some, is to drop all your SP into luck to get better loot, but that hardly seems like a good fix. The second idea of “grind in easier areas” is also pointless because you have to use bullets no matter what: it’s not like you can just punch weak mobs to death and call it a day. There’s no chainsaw to be used in this game.
Also, in terms of storytelling, there’s not really any choices or ideas that you develop as you move forward. Chel is a bit of an anti-hero that you have no choice but to support and then “marvel” as they learn more about the war of Seralia (the world you occupy) and how things are surprisingly not good nowadays. I think there are moments that are at least a bit engaging (Tarn is a relatable if flat character), but a lot of it seems to expect you just to head forward and be content being told “this is good, this is bad.”
It feels, time after time, the developers wanted people to have a lot of choices when it came to playing, and, in the end, it creates a directionless moment in simply trying to exist in the game. Like, being able to palette swap at any point and offset the game into classic Game Boy green or murky Black and White is very cool, but it also takes away some of the personality you’d expect from an RPG. If the colors ultimately don’t matter, why even have a choice at all? You want an RPG to tell you a story, and, if the narrator tells you “they had clothes, probably, whatever,” you aren’t going to focus or try and make a connection to the tale. The inclusion of the good pixel portraits show what it could be like, but we constantly revert to the simple Final Fantasy Adventures sprites.
Which is sort of what you keep circling back to with For A Vast Future. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the overall game: the chiptune soundtrack is decent, but there’s a noticeable lack of sound effects to keep me excited about combat, encounters, or even interactions. There’s more of a linear feel to where I’m going, which is great, and there’s spots of secret discovery, which should definitely be done in order to succeed. The weapon “level up” mechanic is wonky and shallow: you have to trudge back to town with a single gun you’ve found that lets your character decide one upgrade or another (higher crit chance or better accuracy, NOT BOTH). It’s trying so hard to be everything to everyone that it felt like very little for me.
Still, when I want a cheeseburger for the sake of a cheeseburger, I don’t question if the onions are Spanish or Walla Walla. I just want a terrible choice to fill the sadness in my stomach. Maybe when I just want to have a pulpy storyline with a bunch of turn based combat, I pick up a short RPG and blast away at mutated animals and doomsday cultists and call it a day. Perhaps, when I’m hungry for it, For A Vast Future is just the snack I need. Sadly, today, I was looking for something a bit more filling, and this left me just a bit dissatisfied.
Decent pixel crafting with some clean avatars for enemies, particularly bosses. A lot of things sort of blend together in the murk of the color scheme, creating more frustration than nostalgia.
Skill up system is intuitive and versatile, Wargear has too many worthless items, little to no puzzles to explore, and the turn based combat is heavily reliant on status ailments to turn the tide.
Some great chiptune tracks, but many are quite repetitive. Lack of sound effects makes the game feel very stark, to the point where I’m wondering if there’s an error in this port.
Fun Factor: 5.0
Off to a great start, immediately starts slogging, tends to become flatter and then coasts into the hangar at the last minute to avoid exploding on the runway. It’s definitely an RPG, but not quite what I’d hoped.
Final Verdict: 5.0
For A Vast Future is available now on PC and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of For A Vast Future was provided by the publisher.