Evergrace is a by-the-book action RPG from the same developers responsible for two other PlayStation 2 launch games, Armored Core 2 and Eternal Ring. Evergrace separates itself from the rest of the action RPG pack with an emphasis on customization options and a dearth of gameplay.
While Evergrace's story - a tale of two outcasts who are mysteriously transported to another world and given a quest to save a cursed land from absolute evil - is relatively original, its gameplay isn't - despite a few interesting nuances. As you explore the ruins of the Rieubane Empire from a third-person perspective, you'll search for keys, hit switches, and perform many other perfunctory RPG duties in order to advance. Unfortunately, explore is a term used loosely - you are confined by gravity and the terrain types, making for a stiff, by-the-book tour of the empire. As you wander around, enemies randomly appear in your path to provide the necessary combat element. Unfortunately, the combat is a strategy-free, slow-paced affair, made so by pea-brained AI and a limited number of combat options. Most battles require you to simply shuffle around toward an enemy's backside, strike, and repeat until the foe is dead. As in the Secret of Mana games, your character has a power meter that is depleted by each strike - attack with 75 percent power and you'll inflict 75 percent of your normal damage rate. This wouldn't be a problem if running didn't drain your power - exploring the world or even dodging generally leaves you unprepared to fight, requiring you to "walk it off" before engaging in combat. The two characters both maneuver with taxing stiffness in some of the game's tighter areas, which is a nuisance and usually results in numerous unavoidable hits.
While you choose either Yuterald or Shalami at the beginning of the game, you can actually switch between the two characters' paths at your leisure by using save crystals. While the two tracks and stories are completely independent, each of the characters will make appearances in the other's quest. In From Software fashion, Evergrace features a high level of customization options for the avid RPG player. In a nod to Final Fantasy VII's Materia system, "palmira" gems can be mixed and matched on weapons and armor to create your own unique arsenal. For example, placing a flame palmira on a sword will result in a flame sword of some sort. Palmira have limited uses, however, so you will have to use these magical resources sparingly. Armor, unlike in most games, is accurately represented on the character models. Taking advantage of this, you can custom-color your outfits to tailor your character's appearance however you choose. Gifted with an eye for fashion, the shopkeeper may give you a discount if you assemble a pleasing and color-coordinated ensemble. Levels aren't handled in the typical fashion, either - every once in a while an enemy will drop a seed. Consuming these magical seeds lets you increment your characters' stats however you please. While these are all interesting features, they don't hide the fact that Evergrace's core gameplay is awkward and uninteresting.
Originally developed for the PlayStation, Evergrace was retrofitted for the PlayStation 2 to fill the system's RPG void. Unfortunately, this shows - Evergrace isn't as graphically pleasing as a PlayStation 2 RPG probably should be. While the player characters have relatively high polygon counts and interchangeable armor, the enemies and environment are a different story. Sure, clumps of grass have been added and the monsters' textures are fairly high resolution, but Evergrace still manages to look like a high-resolution PlayStation game. Even with these less-than-cutting-edge visuals, Evergrace's battles are somehow subject to slowdown when more than two enemies appear on the screen. Fortunately, Evergrace's sound represents a stronger effort. Soothing fantasy-themed music wafts through the environments and digitized dialog moves the story along.
All in all, Evergrace is just shy of average - there's nothing particularly bad here, but what little good it has is purely incidental and generally ignorable. Fans of the genre will probably see enough of the game during a standard rental period.