Metaphor: ReFantazio leaves a strong first impression

I wasn't sure exactly what to expect Metaphor: ReFantazio, sitting down to play it for our first Summer Game Fest appointment this year - but like everyone, I had some assumptions. Persona was the obvious point of comparison; the game has its own social link system, and social stats - slightly retooled and renamed to fit the new game's structure - but for everything you can point at in Metaphor's structure that seems to be reprised from an existing Atlus game, there's plenty here that offers something truly new.

First things first; combat. It's admittedly a little tough to get to grips with all of the nuances in such a short period, but a few things stood out. Metaphor's "Archetype" system gives each of your party members a specific role to play around, and a formation they'll likely want to stay in. A Knight might take the front lines to tank more damage, and its available skills are based around the idea that it's mostly a support class, meant to help defend the rest of your party members. Dancers can debuff enemies, and bolster your party. During our brief foray into a boss fight against the Sea Horror, one Dancer ability that was especially useful was a Synthesis Ability that gave every enemy a one-time weakness to Fire attacks - allowing us to follow things up with attacks that might afford us more turns.

Metaphor uses a Press Turn system, and Synthesis abilities are action where mutliple party members work together for an especially powerful skill. Not only do these cost an extra amount of MP, along with two "turns" instead of one. Following up on the Synergy ability mentioned above, a Mage's fire spell which can attack all of the Tentacles at once instantly replenishes your available turns, giving you more wiggle room for which actions to use during your turn. In practice, our first impression of the battle system is that it feels more like a mix of Etrian Odyssey and Shin Megami Tensei; compared to the relatively straightforward combat from Persona, Metaphor's combat system is setting itself up to be a considerably deeper affair. We'll have to see more before we can say for sure, but it's got me hankering for the full game already.

That being said, the action elements of the game's combat didn't do too much for me. Regular enemies you can attack on the field, and whether by catching them unaware or dealing enough damage you can stun them. Switching to a Squad Battle then offers you an advantage, where all of your party members wlll get an early potshot on the enemies. While it's not a perfect comparison, it's a similar system to Nihon Falcom's The Legend of Heroes: Trails through Daybreak; it gets the job done to make exploration feel more dynamic, but little more than that in practice.

There's a lot more to talk about, of course. Visually, Metaphor is striking; and the soundtrack, or what little we could hear of it, certainly left a strong impression. Similarly, the game's English voice track was very strong from the sections we got to hear of it. Even knowing that the main character was voiced this time around, it was still pretty surprising to watch him open his mouth and speak some lines in response to dialog options I'd chosen - however, it's hard to say exactly how impactful it'll be in the long run.

It's still early days, but Metaphor is off to a promising start. Crucially, it looks to be fulfilling the promise of something truly different for the company - we won't have to wait too much longer to see how the full game turns out, when it launches on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and PC on October 11. Look forward to our full impressions, closer to launch.