Tears of Avia takes you to a quiet town within the world of Estera, a town that is quickly invaded by monsters, because of course it is. It also turns out that you’re the Seeker, a being capable of finding the titular Tears, and that’s a pretty good thing, because some ancient demon is also trying to find them.
So it’s up to you to venture forth and scour the world for them, finding new members to add to your party along the way, chatting with NPCs and embarking into battle via the portal in each town once you have a heading. The story is all very typical fantasy RPG fare and slim on surprises, but it’s handled well enough not to detract from the game as a whole.
Tears of Avia’s gameplay is very firmly in the turn-based strategy camp; think Fire Emblem or XCOM, just without the same levels of polish. You manage your team by visiting a town’s tavern, picking and choosing which units you wish to use in each battle, stepping out from the spawning portal to move and attack on your turn before watching the enemy take theirs.
Here the game does a few interesting things, beginning with party compositions. You can pick a single member from your party to fight the entire battle should you wish, or stagger the additions throughout a battle. Secondly, as long as you only do each once per turn, you can move and attack in any order, creating a lot more strategic opportunities in battle for the player.
Another great design decision lies in the simple skill system. As you level your characters and unlock more of their skill tree, you tcan hen pick your loadout of abilities before each battle. Then, with each skill having a cool down timer between uses, you have to carefully consider which attacks you use each turn or you can end up with a character that’s temporarily useless.
These skills can also be levelled up using resources you can purchase in the towns, giving them reduced cooldowns or increased potency, among other things. The skill system also creates its own challenges in terms of your loadout. You can only have a certain number of skills equipped, so you have to decide which would be the best for any given scenario or battle.
The inventory system here is a barebones affair, but it works really well, with each character having a slot for a weapon and another for an accessory, switching them in and out being as simple as a click. Most battles drop weapons and accessories better than those you can buy, with some needing identifying to uncover the passive abilities, but nothing more complicated than that.
Tears of Avia is not without its problems, especially when it comes to the combat. Firstly, it is a very slow process, even when pressing buttons to speed it up, and especially on large maps as each character can only move so fast. Secondly, with characters and enemies looking fairly similar, it’s far too easy to accidentally kill your allies with AOE attacks with no warning.
Outside the combat, there’s more issues, even if they’re mostly minor things. For instance, in the towns it’s almost impossible to orient yourself with the faded icons around the edge of the screen denoting key elements instead of, you know, a map of any kind. Also, there isn’t adequate explanation of a lot of the game elements. It shouldn’t impact you too badly, but it’s no less of an issue.
Aesthetically, Tears of Avia continues to be a mixed bag in all senses of the word. The sound design itself is mostly solid, with the limited range of music all hitting the right way, but the visuals are just wildly inconsistent. Some of the character designs are great, such as Momoko, then there are others like Raul that just don’t seem to line up with the visual design of the rest of the characters.
These inconsistencies are evened out somewhat in the combat view, but character interactions make the difference in quality very noticeable. Also, the animations are incredibly rough throughout, especially in the combat. Thankfully, there is an option to turn attack animations off and I couldn’t recommend this more. It cannot be overstated how rough the attacks look at times!