At last year's Tokyo Game Show, Bandai Namco revealed Synduality, a mixed media project including both a video game and an anime.
While the anime series Synduality Noir has already been made available on Disney Plus, we'll have to wait a while longer for the video game, which is coming down the line with the title Synduality: Echo of Ada.
Yet, I got to check out a demo of the game during a behind-closed-doors event just before Tokyo Game Show, and it's certainly interesting.
The game has a post-apocalyptic setting, where mecha pilots called "Drifters" roam the devastated surface to scavenge for resources while fighting against mysterious enemies named "Enders" and occasionally among themselves.
Each Drifter is aided by a Magus, an AI companion that advises them and facilitates their operations with a variety of powers.
Extraction Looter Shooter, Mecha Anime-Style
The gameplay is split into two main modes. The first is a PvPvE mode called "online raid" in which players compete for resources named AO Crystals and items while defending themselves from the Enders.
It's basically an extraction looter shooter in which you have to scavenge as much as you possibly can while weighing the risk of remaining on the field with the reward of gathering more loot.
When you meet other players, you can communicate via a variety of sentences, and you can decide to work together. Yet, alliances forged in this game are fragile, and backstabbing is a clear possibility.
When you decide you have gathered enough loot, you can find an elevator to be extracted, cementing your earnings. Yet, if you get killed your own wreckage can be looted by other players and you lose your items.
The game will give you missions depending on your playstyle. Whether you enjoy PvP, PvE, or co-op gameplay, you'll be given appropriate objectives depending on how you play, so the goal isn't simply killing everyone else or gathering the most items.
Other drifters and the Enders aren't the only threats you'll have to face, as there's an environmental one as well. Poisonous rain can start falling from the sky and your mecha can resist it only for so long.
If your environmental protection runs off, you'll be defeated. On top of that, you also have a hard time limit determined by your mecha's batteries.
The Magus plays an important role. Not only they will help you find your objectives, but the developers claim that they will learn from your playstyle in order to better advise you in personalized ways.
For instance, if you're a player who prefers to avoid conflict, your Magus may let you know when a dangerous enemy is approaching so you can change route and dodge a risky situation.
Interestingly, if you get defeated without ejecting, you can actually lose your Magus. At that point, unless they manage to return on their own, you may have to pay a ransom or lose them.
The maps you play each match on feel rather extensive and if you don't keep an eye on the minimap, it's easy to get lost. Knowledge of the lay of the land is very likely to give you an advantage as you hunt for AO Crystals.
While you explore a map for resources, you'll meet different types of Enders, from what appear to be rank-and-file enemies with canine forms, to the flying Gazers, and the Chasers, which are plant-like and can disappear underground and then pop back up to attack you.
They aren't very challenging on their own, but they can become troublesome if you try to outrun them and get surrounded. In Synduality: Echo of Ada it's better not to leave enemies behind you.
Your own mecha, the Cradle Coffin, is rather heavy in its movements, and its ability to boost to go faster is rather limited. This means that you need to approach situations strategically and mind your boost gauge to avoid being stranded in a dangerous position.
You have a full inventory that you can stock up with weapons, armor, consumables, and ammo, and they have different levels of rarity as you can expect from looter shooters.
The gameplay loop made of looting, fighting, and extracting when things get hairy felt engaging enough for the short time I played.
Yet, I feel that the variety of missions in the final version of the game will be the factor that will make or break this game mode. Diverse objectives are definitely needed to avoid things getting repetitive.
Incidentally, the visuals and art style are quite fetching, with anime-style characters and great mecha design that perfectly conveys the utilitarian nature of the Cradle Coffins. While they can fight, they're definitely salvaging machines first and foremost.
The environments were also well-designed and interesting, with a bunch of different biomes to explore.
Synduality Has An Intriguing Single-Player Mode
Earlier, I mentioned two modes. While I didn't get to try it, there is a second one (which was actually publicly revealed today) that's strictly single-player and story-driven. It's titled "Amasia Research."
You are tasked with exploring records of the mysterious destruction of the prosperous city of Amasia. As you do so, you'll relive the story of the drifter Alba and his magus Ada, which is deeply connected to the city's fate.
Another difference between the modes is that in multiplayer you can freely customize your equipment, while in single-player mode you're reliving specific missions, so your gear is set and you need to be able to make the most out of it to succeed.
The two modes are actually linked: as you play the Online Raid mode, you get missions to participate in the Amasia Research mode.
Amasia Research looks really promising and the storytelling appears to be quite intriguing, but the jury is still out and we'll have to wait and see if it lives up to that promise.
Bandai Namco, the New IP Factory
While it's still early to determine whether Synduality: Echo of Ada will be a great mecha game, I could certainly see that a lot of effort went into creating its IP, world, and characters.
Bandai Namco has been pretty much on a mission to create many new IPs with a strong Japanese flavor, likely more than most other publishers.
The story, characters, and world have intrigued me. Now all we need is a great mecha game built on top of them. I've seen the seed of it, but whether it grows into a strong tree remains to be seen.
Synduality: Echo of Ada was previewed in person at a pre-Tokyo Game Show event at Bandai Namco's HQ in Tokyo