Preview: Six things you should know before starting Stella Glow

Stella Glow, the last Imageepoch game before the developer’s demise, is reaching U.S. shores later this month thanks to Atlus. And here’s the thing: it’s a big, involved game! While it’s fun to lose yourself in a strategy-RPG like this one, here are a few things to note before you jump in that’ll make your experience just a bit brighter.

1. Facing is a very big deal.

Anyone who’s played one of Imageepoch’s Luminous Arc games (or even Final Fantasy Tactics) will know that attacking from the back or side can deal more damage, but here it’s especially important, since damage relative to health tends to be on the low side. The system is more about fewer, stronger enemies and less about hordes of low-level opposition. You’ll need to pick your spots wisely to gain an edge, because dealing double damage by striking from behind can be a life-or-death move… for both sides. After all, they’ll strike your weak points too.

2. There’s a ‘true’ ending.

There’s a clear way Stella Glow‘s story needs to pan out, but the game won’t tell you how to make it happen until it’s too late. (Probably to give you something to strive toward in a new playthrough.) That’s fine for some, but not everyone has another 40 hours for a second run, right? This is a preview, so I’m not going to spoil any story content, but if you want the “true” finale the first time out, always talk to Klaus when it’s an option.

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3. You shouldn’t be afraid to grind.

There are free battles available to hone your skills, and it seems like they’re balanced to not pay out much in the way of experience. That’s okay; fight some anyway. It’s a great way to gain gold without using valuable Free Time slots on part-time jobs instead of party bonding, and one of the only ways in which the game doesn’t gate your progress. What you shouldn’t do here is use resources; these should be about gaining healing items and funds to purchase more protection, and the rewards aren’t so great as to justify any expenditures.

4. Missions can be missed.

None of the special bonuses you can earn are worth taking large risks, but these items can be a nice boost if you can easily pick them up on the way. The key, though, is that the game doesn’t shove the conditions for getting them in your face. So before you start moving around in a map, check the Mission tab on the bottom screen to see what to do. (Most of the time, though, you’ll generally want to keep that screen set to Status so you can keep an eye on health and items.)

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5. It’s Archib-all or nothing.

It’s not uncommon for a strategy-RPG to have a party member who starts off as a weakling and blossoms into a fierce fighter if you invest enough time and effort. What isn’t so common is that character being a big, strong knight in heavy armor. Archibald’s weakness stems from his lack of mobility, as it’s hard for him to keep up with the vanguard and gain experience, but usually those characters make for fine shields. That’s… not really a viable strategy in Stella Glow‘s battles. So here’s our recommendation: make him your priority or ditch him at the first opportunity. If you talk to him as often as you can at the barracks and let him pick up experience in battles, he’ll become a wrecking ball. If you’d rather use other characters, know that giving him some — but not all — of the attention is a waste of time.

6. End-of-chapter sagas take some time.

Stella Glow sometimes presents multi-part battles, and that’s actually rather refreshing: an increased need to conserve SP and keep fully healed makes these missions feel more intense and important. Thankfully, it does a good job of implementing saves between each section, but what it won’t save is your state of mind. Since a strategy-RPG goes a lot better when you actually use strategy, it’s best to take on these larger encounters all at once rather than scramble to remember what you were planning during your last session. And when you don’t have that much time? That’s a prime opportunity for grinding in those free battles, which are much more manageable in scope.

Hopefully those pointers will help you out! Don’t worry about these in the demo, though; that save data doesn’t carry over to the full game.

Stella Glow releases November 17. Stay tuned for our full review next week!

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