Nights of Azure is an interesting take on the action RPG genre. It features a simple hack ‘n’ slash based combat system and it spices it up further with the inclusion of a collectible demons system called “Servan”. Players can summon them in battle using their skill points and utilize them to kill monsters or heal themselves in battle. The game has a straightforward plot that is easy to follow and keeps the player busy with the addition of sidequests, story events and arena-based challenges.
Nights of Azure story takes place in the kingdom of Ruswal. The game starts with the arrival of the lead character Arnice who shortly meets with her childhood friend Lilysse. Both appear to be fairly close with each other and their relationship is slowly built over the course of game, often in amusing cutscenes that consist of playful banter between both these characters. Upon their arrival, they soon learn that the place is plagued by strange creatures and monsters during the night. This is later revealed to be the work of Nightlord. Arnice’s mission is to stop the Nightlord from taking over the world. The story takes an interesting turn once we learn that in order to fulfill our mission, we will be required to sacrifice a Saint, which turns out to be Arnice’s childhood friend Lilysse.
The core gameplay of Nights of Azure is relatively simple. The game does a good job of explaining the various systems featured in the combat at the start, which should make for an easy understanding of the basics of the combat. The combat feels fairly simple in the start. We can execute a light attack or a heavy attack or we can combine both attack combinations to execute various moves, just like in an action RPG. Unfortunately there aren’t many combos to choose here and despite the player having access to different weapons, the combat can often end up being repetitive with majority of battles being fought with the help of the “Servan”. The game also lacks challenge for the most part due to the addition of these “Servan”. These are the monsters that can be summoned and and are highly effective in battle. The player can summon up to four of them in battle which makes majority of the battles relatively easier. Once summoned, they will keep with the player until either they die or we return back to the main hub of the game called “Ende Hotel”.
Ende Hotel is the main hub where majority of the story events and activity will take place. We can take sidequests from various characters, purchase new items and equipment or take part in challenges featured in the Arena, which is located in the basement of the Hotel. The challenges can be a fun distraction from the main quest. We are ranked based on our performance in each of the challenge and depending on our ranking, we get 1 to 3 stars. Each of the star tier has its own reward associated with it. Getting three stars in all the challenges will require strategy and sometimes luck in order to get some of the better rewards.
Just like it is the case with a typical RPG, the game features a level up system. This system is built on the blood that the players can collect by fulfilling quests, fighting monsters or performing various activities. Once you enter Ende Hotel, you can freely roam around the world map, or you can choose to participate in the Arena or head to the Altar of Jorth to level up Arnice. Leveling up allows the player to reveal new skills which require a set of points to unlock in the game.
Since the majority of the game is set during the Night, when players will be able to roam around the world map and defeat the monsters, there isn’t much to do during the day. Players can choose to accomplish a variety of sidequests or participate in the so called day-time activities which awards the player skill points that can be used to unlock and purchase new skills. These day-time activities usually require Arnice to perform various tasks in Ende Hotel e.g cleaning her room instead of sleeping during the day.
Speaking of skills, each of the Servan can be customized to fit the needs of the player. We can use items on them to boost their stats or make them learn new skills that can be helpful in the battle. The customization is rather limited and since it is easy to get hold of items for the customization, it is possible to make the Servan extremely powerful, which in turn makes the game easier. New Servan can be also located as Items dropped by the monsters or bought through shops. These Servan will require a specific amount of blood to form a contract with the player or as it is called: “Actualize” in the game. Summoning them will require skill points which can be regenerated through skills or items.
In term of exploration, the game follow a very basic dungeon design layout which is often linear. There are also boss battles that are featured during specific story sequences or can be encountered in some of the side quests. The boss battles often require no strategy if the player has a powerful team of Servan for use in the battle, as they make short work of any boss fight. Not to mention there are items available in the game that when equipped, give the player stat regenerating effects like recovering a set amount of SP/HP after certain interval or attack.
Coming to the conclusion, Nights of Azure is a remarkable attempt from Gust as their first take on the action RPG genre. It also offers an interesting relationship dynamic between the two lead characters that is often left unexplored in majority of the games. The game is rather short in length compared to the average RPG but it is tightly designed which isn’t often the case for some of the long RPGs.
Nights of Azure is available now on the PS4. It was developed by Gust and published by Koei Tecmo. The review covers the PS4 version of the game.