This strategy RPG was supposed to be cute but here I am weaponizing the life force of children
Turn-based strategy RPG Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2 recently launched on all platforms, and its trailer gave me such bewildering whiplash that I simply had to try it for myself.
The game leads with lovely illustrations of its anthropomorphic cast of dog boys and cat girls, all fluffy little child soldiers fighting the good fight to recover from the war that took place in the first game (which I haven't played). Sure, I thought. Beastars meets Valkyria Chronicles. I'm down.
Things quickly take a dark turn when the history and nature of the two bio-organic tanks at the center of this conflict, the legendary Taranis and the Tarascus model emulating it, become clear. My alarm bells started ringing around the time the Taranis brainwashed and kidnapped a bunch of these kids just to use them as ammunition for its honest-to-god Soul Cannon. They didn't stop ringing when the friends of those kids, who are of course the only ones capable of piloting these tanks, piled into the Tarascus to chase after them.
Imagine if, when you lost one of your favorite anime lovelies to permadeath in Fire Emblem, you had the option of tying explosives to their corpse and chucking it at the enemy camp. That's basically where we're at with one of the driving mechanics in Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2. The Soul Cannon – I cannot get over that name – drains the life force out of someone and uses it to power a big-ol' laser. The fact that the victims are all cute little animal kids is just overkill at that point.
Fortunately, the tank that you pilot has something of a diet Soul Cannon, more of an 'I can't believe it's not a Soul Cannon' arrangement called the Managarm. This gun will also drain the life force of an adorable child soldier of your choice, but only a little bit – not enough to kill them, just enough to knock them out for the rest of the battle and let the Managarm annihilate whatever you're aiming at. It's only a little bit of life force, people, and frankly a bit of hardship when you're young builds character. That sweet little dog girl named Chick isn't gonna miss that particular hunk of her mortal soul, I'm sure.
Dour narrative implications aside, this is admittedly an interesting idea because the penalty for firing the Managarm is tremendous. You lose XP from that battle and you won't get to use the drained soldier for a while, and that's a big loss since putting the right units in the right battle stations yields huge combat bonuses. You've got to match damage types to delay enemy attacks on the turn timeline, sync up close friends so they can perform link attacks, and put essential skills like armor reduction in the frontlines to ensure you get a good battle rating. But like certain militaries, I do sometimes find it tempting to weaponize the lives of youths who have no other options.
I've only played the opening chapter, but Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2 really does seem like a legitimately good strategy game. The narrative is substantially more messed up than I expected – and it seemed pretty messed up to begin with – but my initial read of Beastars meets Valkyria Chronicles feels spot-on so far.
To be clear, that's high praise; I freakin' love Valkyria Chronicles. Here, too, managing resources, including the lives of your cute little fighters, is hugely important, and I'm a sucker for character development that comes with gameplay benefits like the aforementioned link attacks between close friends. And I haven't even gotten to upgrading your tank, charting a route through battlefields based on the different resources you'll get, leadership skills, or even the time travel subplot. There's a lot going on here, and I'd recommend it if you want something morally and strategically challenging.
Check out our After Us review for a nice palette cleanser about rescuing animal spirits.