Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection Review

By Shawn Collier on September 11, 2018

Over the past few years, western gamers have had the chance to play many of developer Falcom’s entries, including the Ys & The Legend of Heroes series. Publisher XSEED Games is giving players a chance to see and play one of the less heard of series from Falcom, namely the Zwei series. Originally released in 2009 in Japan, how does this English localization fare in today’s gaming scene?

Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection begins with the introduction of treasure hunter Ragna Valentine being shot and left for dead. Luckily for him, a vampire princess named Alwen du Moonbria was in the area and revives him with a cost: until he dies he’ll be a servant of hers, with the first order being retrieving her stolen magic and castle that was taken from her. Ragna isn’t a fan of the “servant” portion of the contract and changes it to both being equal partners, to which Alwen agrees.

Like many other of Falcom’s games, the people you meet around the game’s world are multifaceted and will change as you progress further. Granted this isn’t done to the large extent the Trails in the Sky series employs, but it’s a nice introduction of sorts to the concept expanded upon in that series. It should also be noted that this is technically the second game in the Zwei series, but outside of some reappearances by characters from the original game you’d recognize if you played it, you really don’t need to play that game to fully enjoy this one.

Gameplay-wise, it’s similar to the Ys games, although there are some The Legend of Zelda-like aspects in the sense that the entire game world is open to you, but blocked off where you need a particular item to progress further. You also have some puzzles and dungeon gimmicks to contend with, but they’re developed for a non-Ys gamer who might find the difficulty in those games a bit hard to contend with initially. They strike a nice balance of making the player think, but not being too obtuse to the degree which things would become frustrating.

Another aspect I enjoyed was that dungeons aren’t a straight shot to the boss enemy, instead employing a branching path approach where the non-boss branches have a fair bit of depth to them — plus you’ll obtain unique goodies for progressing through them to the end. The game never feels like you’re wasting time by doing this, which is a huge plus.

The player can choose between the close-range Ragna with his physical attacks or the long-range Alwen with her magical attacks. Because you can switch between the two characters easily in battle, this makes for some interesting combo potential for players who master the game’s battle mechanics.

What is markedly different from prior action-based Falcom titles is the fact that you gain experience (and thus level-up) by eating food instead of mowing down enemies, as well as refilling your health. This feature is interesting, because it lets more skilled players purposefully under-level themselves to make the game more difficult, while newcomers can give themselves an edge by leveling up as long as they have enough food. The catch is that only particular enemies will drop said resource, so you need to learn which will do so by progressing through the dungeons.

XSEED Games’s English localization is to the standards fans of the publisher have come to expect. One minor change for those who’ve played Falcom’s other localized games is that the overall narrative is more of a lighthearted take, so the more serious scenes you might expect from the Ys series, for example, won’t be found here. That isn’t to say its devoid of humorous segments, which is still done here to an amusing effect due to the partner dynamics of the two main protagonists.

Rounding out the bonuses in the PC version is all of the various extra features found in various versions of the game’s Japanese release, but brought together for the first time as a complete “collection” in XSEED’s release. There’s a memo pad and calculator, as well as some various knick-knacks that you can attach to the different UI elements on the screen. It’s not essential to getting to the end of the game, of course, but it plays well into the lighthearted nature of the game overall.

Final Thoughts

Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection will be a treat for long-time Falcom fans without a doubt, but newcomers especially will find this game much more approachable than the Ys series. It’s different than most games veterans and newcomers have played, especially with the food leveling mechanics, but it’s easily worth your time investment.

Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection was reviewed using a PC Digital Copy provided by Nihon Falcom. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
Approachable to newcomers of Falcom and the genre, but doesn’t feel dumbed-down for veterans.
The food leveling system is a pretty ingenious way to get around power-leveling accidentally, since the player has control over how easy or hard they want to make things for themselves.
The lighthearted narrative and dungeon puzzles that aren’t overly difficult make for easy-going play sessions.
Those looking for another game in the exact vein of *Ys* will be disappointed.
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