With a wealth of RPG games for the PSP out there on the market today, choosing one worthy of your moola can be an epic quest all on its own. But Throne of Agony, built from the ground up specifically for the Sony handheld, gets the formula just right.
The story, created by fantasy writer Chris Taylor, starts out with three strangers in the lands of Aranna – each with their own past and destiny. Full credit goes to the character designers as the three heroes are not only uniquely different, but come with intriguing back-stories as well. There is Serin, an Elf who - despite being blind - has exceptional speed and agility. Her visual impairment is almost a blessing as night-fall and dark corridors don’t make any difference to her heightened senses. Unfortunately though, she is haunted by horrific visions that sometimes she cannot control. On the more combat-heavy side of things, you can be Mogrim the half-giant. Unsurprisingly, strength and brute force are his forte. The third character, Allister, rounds up the sorcery side of things, being the Battle-Mage. However, even after your initial choice of hero, the complex levelling up system throughout the game allows you to master other skills along the way. I tried to become a pastry chef but the closest I got was Blood Assassin (who can make a great chocolate mousse).
As you would expect in all RPG games, building up your character is essential. Throne of Agony makes this whole process fun and rewarding thanks to the huge array of options at your disposal. By defeating enemies and exploring new lands you gain points which can be used to learn new skills (fighting and magic related usually) and to upgrade your class. It works in a ladder fashion, so you may start off as a Rogue Thief and eventually upgrade until you are a Master Ninja for example. All of the classes are evenly matched, but making the decision at each levelling up point can be a time-consuming venture. Do I master my long-range fireball? Or learn how to heal minor injuries?
Another feature that adds a surprising amount of value are the followers that you can choose to aid you on your quests. Some characters give you a pet that tags along with you. But we’re not talking about Paws the cat or Blub the goldfish. As Serin you can opt to have a war-hawk which can be sent off to seek out enemies or attack foes behind you. Other characters give you miniature dragons, fire elementals and human archers at your disposal. It certainly makes wandering the forests a bit less lonely.
There is no question, the amount of gameplay in this game is huge. The world for you to explore is absolutely massive and packed full of quests, creatures and places to explore. Even after the tens of hours it takes to finish the main story, you then have the option of replaying with your levelled up character or starting again with a new one. If you choose to replay with your super character, all of the enemies and creatures are levelled up to an appropriate level for when you play the second time. Playing as a different character opens up new quests and storylines according to their backstory, so there is huge replay value in this title. Unfortunately, this huge fantastic world does come with a down side. The loading times in Throne of Agony can become tedious. Quests which have you travelling from village to village can be a time-consuming experience. Even though you have a World Map for quick selection of place to place, each switch comes with about 40 seconds to one minute of loading time. It doesn’t sound too bad, but after travelling to a village to talk to a man and then going elsewhere four or five times in a row, it can be frustrating. However, as you progress through the game you will find little shortcuts that can eliminate some of the needless travelling (for example teleportation spells are a life-saver!).
Overall this has to be one of the best RPG games for the PSP, and brought back fond memories of playing Diablo on the PC for hours on end. Crisp graphics and a great storyline are one thing, but with the intriguing characters and top-notch levelling-up engine – this game excels above the others.