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Review

Review: The Lost Child

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It’s gre­at to see that new DRPGs (Diceless Role-Play­ing Games) are being released, even after the genre’s popu­la­ri­ty has long sin­ce pas­sed. While many new ent­ries end up being some­what bland, series like Etri­an Odys­sey mana­ge to show that the­re is still a lot that can be done with the hum­ble dun­ge­on craw­ler.  The Lost Child is not a game that tri­es to real­ly bring anything new to the gen­re, and its few attempts at ori­gi­na­li­ty do litt­le to impro­ve an over­all bland expe­ri­ence.

Unli­ke many RPGs, The Lost Child takes place in a modern day set­ting. Main cha­rac­ter Haya­to is a repor­ter for an occult maga­zi­ne who quick­ly runs into trou­ble with demons. Lua, an angel and the only other per­ma­nent par­ty mem­ber, gives Haya­to the gan­gour. This device can cap­tu­re demons, allo­wing him to effec­tively fight against the enemies he will start to encoun­ter. The sto­ry is clear­ly not the game’s main focus, as litt­le inte­res­ting hap­pens until near the end. The Lost Child has some vague links to the developer’s pre­vious game El Shad­dai (XTga­mer review), but they’re pret­ty much mea­ningless to the over­all plot.

As with many dun­ge­on craw­lers deve­lo­ped or published by Kado­ka­wa Games, The Lost Child fol­lows a rather sim­plistic for­mu­la. You learn of a new area through tips given to the occult maga­zi­ne, you talk to a coup­le of NPCs and then make your way into the dun­ge­on. You’ll gene­ral­ly end up visi­t­ing dun­ge­ons mul­ti­ple parts at dif­fe­rent points during the sto­ry, but pro­gress is very line­ar and the­re is usual­ly litt­le rea­son to visit pla­ces other than whe­re you need to go for the next sto­ry event.

Dun­ge­ons in DRPGs are obvious­ly a very important part of the gen­re, but there’s not much to look for­ward to here. The Lost Child has a decent amount of dun­ge­ons to explo­re, but most of them are lacking when it comes to their design and the various puz­zles that they con­tain. Most floors also have a lot of dead ends that con­tain no trea­su­re or any real reward for explo­ra­ti­on. This is pre­sent in other dun­ge­on craw­lers too, but at least games like Mary Skel­ter (XTga­mer review) actual­ly try to make use of inte­res­ting dun­ge­on design to keep the play­er enga­ged.

The one saving grace of The Lost Child is its mons­ter cap­tu­ring mecha­nic. Using the gan­gour, you can cap­tu­re demons and later angels and fal­len angels. Cap­tu­ring is easy, only requi­ring you to kill an ene­my using one of the gangour’s spe­cial attacks, and the­re is no limit to the amount of mons­ters you can car­ry at any time. Along­si­de expe­ri­ence which is used to level up Haya­to and Lua, batt­les also reward three dif­fe­rent types of kar­ma. Kar­ma acts as expe­ri­ence for mons­ters, but it isn’t instant­ly con­su­med after batt­le. Ins­tead, you can free­ly give kar­ma to any mons­ter you own regard­less of whe­ther they’re in your par­ty. This makes the pro­cess of powering up new mons­ters far fas­ter sin­ce you can just use a stron­ger par­ty to gather kar­ma quick­ly. The mons­ter catching mecha­nic may be simp­ler that other games, but it’s a nice chan­ge of pace not having to micro­ma­na­ge what mons­ters you’re car­ry­ing all the time.

The issue is that while the mons­ter cap­tu­ring mecha­nic might be decent, actual­ly batt­ling with them isn’t par­ti­cu­lar­ly fun. Com­bat plays out very simi­lar­ly to most turn based DRPGs, the gan­gour being the only real uni­que fea­ture. The gan­gour can only be used by Haya­to, and has various attacks that can be powe­red up depen­ding on the mons­ters in your par­ty. Most of the attacks just end up being dif­fe­rent varia­ti­ons of ‘do X amount of dama­ge of Y ele­ment’, making the gan­gour a mis­sed oppor­tu­ni­ty to spi­ce up the batt­le sys­tem.

Wor­se than the gan­gour being a bland fea­ture is the game’s poor dif­fi­cul­ty balan­ce. On the default set­ting The Lost Child is a cake­walk asi­de from a few bos­ses. Enemies die in one turn, and bos­ses usual­ly only requi­re you to spam your stron­gest moves. It makes crea­ting a balan­ced par­ty unne­cessa­ry, sin­ce you’ll be fine with a few mons­ters that know strong sin­gle tar­get attacks. Now, you might be won­de­ring why we didn’t just chan­ge to a har­der dif­fi­cul­ty set­ting. Well, the issue then ends up being that bos­ses are extre­me­ly unfair wit­hout many hours of grin­ding. The increa­se in dif­fi­cul­ty bet­ween the two set­tings is far too lar­ge, eit­her making the game incredi­b­ly easy or incredi­b­ly frus­tra­ting. A lot of this is down to accu­ra­cy, as on har­der dif­fi­cul­ties attacks miss far more fre­quent­ly.

Like many Vita games The Lost Child doesn’t look so gre­at when brought to con­so­les – we review­ed the Play­Sta­ti­on 4 ver­si­on, the game is also avail­ab­le for Nin­ten­do Switch. Mons­ter designs looks fan­tastic, each fac­tion having its own look, but the­se are some­what rui­ned by the low reso­lu­ti­on spri­tes used for almost ever­ything. Stran­ge­ly enough, the art­work used for the main cha­rac­ters is also wor­se than every other cha­rac­ter and mons­ter design.  Howe­ver, the­se still look bet­ter than the 3D envi­ron­ments. Com­pa­red to series like Demon Gaze and Etri­an Odys­sey that fea­ture a varie­ty of inte­res­ting loca­ti­ons, dun­ge­ons in The Lost Child lack are bland and lifeless.

Conclusion

I went into The Lost Child expec­ting litt­le more than a ser­vice­ab­le dun­ge­on craw­ler, and for the most part that’s what I got. Though the­re may have been a coup­le of inte­res­ting ide­as here and the­re, this is a by-the-num­bers DRPG that does litt­le to stand out from bet­ter ent­ries in the gen­re. I can only recom­mend The Lost Child if you’re real­ly despe­ra­te for a new dun­ge­on craw­ler to play.

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