I’m not sure how they do it, but Experience Inc. has once again taken a sub-genre of RPGs that appears stale and churned out something new and fun. Admittedly, I was worried that Saviors of Sapphire Wings would be too “samey” since, as of this writing, I recently finished both Demon Gaze and Demon Gaze II. But, from the start, Sapphire Wings sets an exciting stage, introduces players to likable characters, and keeps them engaged with both classic and contemporary gameplay features. It’s not perfect, and sometimes the difficulty can feel unfair. In fact, the in-game tutorials warns you that bosses are so strong that they can take out your characters within one turn. I say embrace the challenge so you can save the world from darkness once again.
Sapphire Wings begins with you taking control of Landlight, a chosen hero who, along with his allies, is about to battle the overlord of darkness Ol=Ohma. This final encounter will determine the fate of the land. It’s quite the introduction. It has an even more of an impact when things don’t go the way they usually do. Ol=Ohma charms both of Landlight’s allies into doing their bidding, and Landlight’s legendary sword shatters. The world is plunged into darkness. But, all hope is not lost. Landlight’s soul hibernates for one hundred years and ends up in you: a reincarnation of the chosen hero. While your memories are fuzzy and your power isn’t anywhere near what it once was, you are the last hope (again) to banish the darkness. Guided by a mysterious woman named Merlin, you will gather new allies and new powers to put a stop to Ol=Ohma.
Other than the disheartening introduction, Sapphire Wings sounds like a standard good versus evil plot. In some ways it is. Drill down further, and you have a fantastic tale filled lore and intrigue with plenty of surprises. One of the best aspects of the game is the cast. Sapphire Wings has a sizeable roster of characters that join you for the common good. Referred to as Squires, these party members all have their own reasons for helping you on your journey. You’ll learn all the good, bad, ugly, and in-between about them and what makes them tick. There’s more: Landlight is a silent protagonist, but he’s constantly given choices that will raise or lower their affection. Always be careful about the choices you make because higher affection means more powers for your team.
Another thing you need to be careful about is developing your Squires. Like other games from Experience Inc, Sapphire Wings has a robust character customization system. When they first join your team, all characters are given a set number of points to distribute towards their base stats. As they grow, they’ll acquire new skills and abilities. The game gives you an idea of what classes you should go with when you first meet new characters, but you’re given the freedom to customize them as you like with a variety of classes and sub-classes. This is one area where the game, unsurprisingly, shines. The combination of class and sub-class can lead to some impressive results. It’s satisfying to watch you and your squires develop an arsenal of magic, skills, and combination abilities.
In the introduction, I sort of touched on how I was worried that Sapphire Wings would be too similar to other dungeon RPGs from Experience Inc. It can feel that way during the first hour or so. In towns, you can buy and sell goods with your limited funds. In dungeons, you and a few Squires will head towards a goal. Along the way, you will uncover treasures, traps and enemies. Basic stuff so far. Luckily, it doesn’t take long for the game to introduce new features to make gameplay feel fresh. The first is your base: Rondaer. This flying fortress serves as your home where you can interact with your Squires, participate in side-missions, craft or improve items, and more. In dungeons, you’ll be able to set traps in order to bait enemies into attacking. These traps are similar to the Circles from Demon Gaze. The better the bait, the more dangerous the foe. However, more dangerous foes means better rewards if you survive the battle. Which brings me to combat. Again, things start simple since your options feels limited. You’ll spend most of the early fights attacking, using simple spells, or using items. But, as your characters grow and develop, you’ll have more options at your disposal. It’s a good thing, too. Enemies hit hard. One extra fun feature are Union Abilities. Landlight can give commands for the party to perform an all-out attack or evasive maneuver at the cost of Union Points. These are crucial for surviving the tough bosses. More powerful Unions can be learned by building strong bonds with the Squires.
After about 30 hours, I witnessed a satisfying conclusion and epilogue. Those that know Experience Inc.’s M/O know that there is a hearty amount of post-game content available. Much to my surprise, I dabbled in it for about ten hours. After learning what I had to do to continue past that point, I decided to call it quits. The game is fun, but certain aspects of the grind even tested my patience. This being a linear narrative, I can’t see myself returning to this game for a long, long time. Still, my initial journey through it and the challenges that came with it were memorable. It’s for this (and other) reasons that I highly recommend Saviors of Sapphire Wings to all RPG fans. It does so much right, and it has a good level of approachability. Dungeon crawlers often have a tough barrier of entry. Saviors of Sapphire Wings eases players into it while still delivering the challenge veterans have come to expect.
Overall, 9/10: Knights of the Round assemble! Saviors of Sapphire Wings is another solid dungeon crawling RPG from Experience Inc.