The Caligula Effect 2 Review: Plan B

by Chris Camilleri
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Many sequels have quite some big boots to fill, especially if the first title of the series had huge success, so it is only natural that the second game disappoints a little. Coupled with the fact that a continuation of the story will bring about arguments about the better course of action after the events of the first title, a follow-up story sequel is surely a big headache for developers. This is why Caligula Effect 2 played it safe by taking the events of the first game into action and accepting their happening, but not delving into the aftermath, and instead creating a brand new experience while keeping the most loved elements into play.

The Caligula Effect 2 is, as mentioned just above, a sequel to Furyu’s 2016 title Caligula originally launching only on the dear beloved PS Vita to then come to multiple consoles including PC later on. The title came to mixed reviews, so it was rather surprising that a remake and even a sequel came out from the franchise. The sequel keeps the properties of its predecessor more or less, with all the mechanics people loved from the first game returning, which in fairness gave the game its unique identity.

Caligula Effect 2 starts off with an obscure intro, showing some of the characters before actually delving into the shoes of the protagonist, who can be male or female depending on player choice, which is a neat factor in these games. You make acquaintance with χ, a virtuadoll much like μ in the first game. In fact, this connection to the first game is the strongest link to the first Caligula, as χ is on a quest to stop the reputation of μ, her mother, being further damaged after the events of the game. In 2, χ is actually the one helping the protagonist save the situation from the world which Regret has created.

Regret is the antagonist this time around, with an interesting villainous goal of making a perfect world. That sounds like the opposite of the bad guy’s intention usually, but Regret is intent at making people in this world as happy as they can be, chasing their dreams in this idyllic but fake place which people have no idea they are inhabiting. It is precisely because your character is breaking out of this dream that you embark on this quest to save the people around you and return to reality because, at the end of the day, no matter how beautiful a dream is, it’s never ideal to be living a lie.

This is where the Go-Home club is formed, as was the case with the club in the first game as well. χ is basically the link between the two titles, and while not being a direct sequel in terms of events as this is an entirely new cast, the events are a result of the story of the first game, so having χ practically serve as your loremaster in case you did not play the first game is a neat quirk of Caligula Effect 2.

It takes practically no time to delve into the action, as the protagonist is swarmed by enemy soldiers chasing after χ, realizing that she is in this world to try to stop Regret’s effort at breaking the peace in this fake world. You spring into action, unleashing the Catharsis Effect, a power that comes from the inner personality traits of the character. Obviously you are not able to put your own traits in the game, but the weapon gained from this form can be revealing of your true nature. For example, Gin Noto, the first actual recruit after you to the Go Home club, uses a crossbow, relating to the fact that he is a lone wolf personality, distancing himself from people unless he feels the need to do so.

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Combat in Caligula Effect 2 is by far its strongest point, and similarly to the first title it implements the imaginary chain in its turn-based combat system, a “blueprint” attack model where you can preview your own attacks before they actually hit, as well as delay your own actions across a timeline to make them happen at a later time than planned. Delaying your attacks is pivotal to creating some very cool combos with different characters, as well as getting a chance of avoiding attacks simply with the recovery animations of some strikes, which is a cool addition and one which is of great use once mastery of the system is achieved.

The system can feel a little complicated at the beginning, but players will get the hang of things in no time and this will enable them to create fantastic set plays or combos to not only be very stylish but also effective, ensuring a quick battle victory in a couple of rounds. Obviously the system will start to get a little complicated the more elements you put in, and having a party of 4 people battling against 4 enemies will mean some actual havoc on the battlefield, but once you clear one or two mobs the situation should prove to be a lot easier, and that is the key to winning fights in Caligula.

It is not about how many attacks you can chain together, but how much damage you are able to pump out in one turn basically. Counter hits in Caligula Effect 2 are huge in battle, and choosing your own attack as well as its timing will do a major effect in any battle. See your ally about to get hit after your attack? Go for a close range counter hit attack and delay it just enough to catch your enemy’s attack before it even connects and trump it with your own counter hit, providing the opportunity for a followup with your other party members. As we said, the combat and specifically imaginary chain are the focal point in the game, and it is awesome to see this focus put upon realizing it to a great potential. The world is literally your oyster when it comes to the possibilities in battle.

Another element to keep in mind during battle is Stress. We are not talking about the negative thoughts and pressure in your real life, but about a mechanic which involves a meter which builds up during combat. When full, you will be able to unleash a very powerful attack which will inflict multiple times the damage of your standard abilities, meaning careful usage is very important here. Not all characters have an attack as their stress ability; the tank for example has a very good “barrier super” which makes all incoming damage redundant for a set amount of time, making it an incredible turn-around tool against bosses or tough opponents.

Voltage is yet another battle mechanic, aimed at adding a further element of strategy into Caligula’s already elaborate fighting stages. Voltage is a bar for χ, and this is filled through combat and also by picking up crystals in the outside world, while dungeon crawling that is. This Voltage will then permit χ to start singing when full, giving your party a buff of sorts, determined by the song she is currently singing. The song is chosen by the player, so you will be able to choose whatever helps your gameplan most. Voltage also basically steals the turn, so it would be wise to use your attacks and slot the Voltage activation in between your cooldowns and your opponent’s strike.

Equipment is pretty standard in Caligula 2, with the neat quirk of having item abilities become permanent abilities if a certain piece of equipment is worn for a period of time. These abilities or stat buffs can then be transferred to the character, making possible the use of a rotation of sorts to get the same stat benefits to all your party in turn. This mechanic is not very useful early on since you will only get a couple pieces of equipment to put on your characters, but as your party slowly grows, so will the possibilities to make more use of this feature.

If Caligula 2 shines in the battle department, it is fairly lacklustre in the artistic ones, being graphics and audio. While not a disaster, graphics are a little disappointing for a PS4 title. Characters are as bland as can be, and their design leaves a lot to the imagination, unfortunately. The soundtrack is pretty much the same concept, although χ’s songs during battle are quite cool to hear, and will keep lingering in your head for a while.

As a whole package, The Caligula Effect 2 ends up being hit and miss, and it is understandable given how there are clear weaknesses to the title. That said, it for sure has plenty of enjoyable moments, including combat which will remain fun for the whole duration of the game, with the imaginary chain system providing some sick set plays from the first battle up until the last. If the characters or story will not have you hooked, the combat surely will.

The Caligula Effect 2 is out now on Nintendo Switch and PS4. Click here to buy from the official page.

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