As The Guided Fate Paradox begins, you are treated to perhaps one of the more ridiculous opening sequences you’ve seen in a while. Your character, a somewhat timid teenaged boy named Renya, is shopping for groceries and receives a complimentary lottery ticket with his purchase. Though you don’t plan to use the ticket, the cute girl running the lottery booth talks you in to handing it over. As the mysterious lottery machines spins, it declares that you have won. But you’ve never won anything, ever so it’s quite a surprise, but you happily inquire as to what, exactly, you have won.
And that’s where things get a little weird. You have won – divinity. That’s right, you’re god now, no backsies. And so begins your journey, as the cute lottery girl (your personal angel), whisks you off to Celestia to prepare you to grant the wishes of the people (all of them) using the Fate Revolution Circuit. The characters are pretty standard for anime/jrpg, and so there is plenty of suggestive conversation and young girls in questionable outfits, but it works well with the story and never tips over into creepy (which is something that can be difficult to balance).
There’s an awful lot to take in at the beginning of The Guided Fate Paradox, as you learn the ins and outs of the machine as well as the mechanics of the game. The idea is that, rather than directly granting prayers, god enters the Fate Revolution Circuit to influence that world, which in turn will influence the real world. It’s basically a dungeon crawler, with a somewhat different battle system where each time you make a move, the enemy creatures all get a shot as well. This mechanic makes forethought and strategy even more vital than in a standard rpg formula, but it also makes for some really interesting play. Add in that you have a whole lot of choices in the angels you take into battle with you, as well as how they behave, and there is an awful lot of things to take in. Fear not though, the game does a great job of introducing mechanics a little at a time, explaining each one thoroughly in an easily understood fashion. And learn you must, because everything is not heavenly in Celestia, and evil forces are plotting to overthrow your newly acquired heavens.
One of the more surprising features in The Guided Fate Paradox is the leveling up system. You learn early on in the game that each time you enter you will start at level one, no matter how far you have progressed in the game. It’s a surprising choice, but it doesn’t truly eliminate the idea of grinding for power. Even though you start at level one, there is a Total Level system where leveling up in battle adds to your total level score, which can then be used to assign points to attributes, which gives you an extra boost in the dungeons even when your actual level cannot. This is done via a system where you choose which stats to improve, where to best place them, and how you want to combine them with Holy Icons and Holy Artifacts in order to achieve optimum effect. Your choices really do make a difference, and there isn’t any one right answer. Again, the idea here is that you must really consider your strategies in order to get the best effect, and it really adds enjoyment and engagement to your character.
Working up that total level is a priority, but it isn’t all that’s going on in the game. Not only do you level up, but your angels do too – and that’s a real asset when they go into battle with you. You can also strengthen your equipment, giving you a much needed edge when you need to go into battle on your own. And you will need to go it alone, because boss levels are a solo affair. Your angel can help you get there, but once you reach that stage they aren’t allowed to interfere. Going it alone is often really challenging, and death seems to await you at every turn. Yeah…you’re going to want to try and avoid that. Dying means you lose all that stuff you just worked really hard to earn, and starting over isn’t an ideal choice. You can do various things to work around this – keeping exits handy to slip out quick when things get dicey, or storing some of the good stuff before you enter the dungeon – but really, your best strategy is to not die (admittedly easier said than done).
The Guided Fate Paradox is a game with so many different facets and levels that it seems impossible to ever master it all – and yet, it is all presented in a way that somehow makes sense. Players are guided into each system in order to keep things approachable, and how deep you want to get into the strategy of each aspect is up to you. While the controls aren’t always ideal, and the mechanics take a little work to master, for the most part this is a game that will just keep you coming back for more.