Billed at the time as the RPG alternative to the lukewarmly received Final Fantasy XIII, Resonance of Fate is a title which features unique and challenging battle dynamics. The battle system has made it more a more engaging experience to some while turning others away, and whether you overcome it or not will ultimately decide whether you’ll progress through the story. Personally, it took a lot of time for me to find my groove with Resonance of Fate. Thankfully, I had a few dedicated readers looking out for me. Tom Sonley, a longtime supporter of my writing and this blog, went out of his way to essentially teach me how to play. I figured that I’d pay him back by helping to deconstruct the unorthodox story, by his request.
As always, this series is dedicated to explaining the ins and outs of this title, from the obvious to the subtle. Hopefully, it will provide some perspective on the characters you meet, locations you visit, and plot points you’re subjected to. Fair warning: spoilers are ahead.
What’s going on in the world of Resonance of Fate?
Resonance of Fate is set in a world not dissimilar to our own, in which the planet has suffered a gross change, leading to layers of poisonous gas, global illness, and near extinction of the human species. In response to the traumatic change, the remaining humans developed Basel, a ground-based air purifier, to cleanse life. This was known as the Zenith System. Humanity went into rebuild mode and created a civilization that formed around the Basel. To fight back the illness that had rendered the planet to a nigh post-apocalyptic state, the lives of Basel region’s inhabitants were tied to “quartz” and linked to the Zenith System. In doing this, they have become immune to disease and possible mutations, but they also can’t leave the Basel area and now have to face a somewhat limited lifespan. People can still die from unnatural causes, but they are also now incredibly durable. So durable, that people can withstand falls from great heights and bullet wounds without dying (at least, that’s the supposed reasoning). People soon forgot that there was a world outside of Basel, partially because they were being controlled to think that way. The Cardinals, who are political and religious leaders native to this game’s world, have fostered worship of Basel and its machinery. They’ve enacted a class-based social structure in the Basel region, which has led to the types of socio-economic clashes which humanity has become so well known for. Regardless, everyone lives a somewhat happy and healthy life until a mysterious ailment begins killing off citizens without warning (basically, the Zenith System goes haywire).
What is a quartz?
The quartz is the link between a human and the system that decides who lives and dies. It limits the life of the human it is attached to by about a hundred years and may also function as a form of population control.
Where do our main characters fit into this world?
While the player doesn’t know it at the time, Vashyron, Zephyr, and Leanne play a big role in the events of Basel and the Cardinals’ activities long before we ever meet them. When we are introduced to them, they are working together as a private military firm in order to make a living and lead somewhat normal lives. These gun-slinging mercenaries are willing to do practically any job, but their pasts have caught up to them. I’ll get into the spoilerific details of their pasts a little later, but we should probably touch on who they are at least.
When we meet Vashyron, he is acting as the leader of a squad of Hunters and taking on a variety of contract missions. He’s known as the only survivor on the losing side of a major assault, under the command of a Cardinal. Zephyr was brought up by the seminary from an early age, and a traumatic incident led him to meet Vashyron, who had been contracted to subdue him. He now makes a living as a member of Vashyron’s squad. Leanne lives with Vashyron and Zephyr. She first met Zephyr when she tried to commit suicide and he jumped in to save her. She also makes a living on Vashyron’s squad.
What’s the deal with the Cardinals?
Where to start? They ultimately exist as antagonists and are responsible for a lot of the bad which is taking place in Basel. The reason for their nefarious nature? Prelate Frieda. Now a Basel martyr, Frieda dreamed of a world where the people could live free of their quartz and live life on their own terms. It is through this preaching that she attracted the Cardinals as followers, with Cardinal Rowen being here closest friend. Because her way of thinking was so radical, she was killed and the Cardinals – particularly Rowen – descended into a state of despair. Rowen loved her dearly and sought a way to bring her back to life. He reasoned that if the Zenith System had control over life and death, it could ultimately be exploited for resurrection. He then commissioned Sullivan to begin research on this concept, and experiments began at Aetersyl. The Cardinals found 20 children and began augmenting their quartz to experiment on their lifespans, ultimately deciding to coordinate their deaths with a future birthday. If they could control death, Sullivan believed, they could control life. Rowen didn’t originally approve of these experiments, but he was willing to go to any length to discover a way to bring the Prelate back.
Did it work?
No actually, it didn’t. She was never resurrected and the experiments led to many complications, most of which are linked to your player party. Call it poor foresight or risky business if you want, things got pretty out of hand.
Juris, who was one of the men in charge of the quartz experiment, began to feel great guilt over what they were doing and decided to help one of the subjects, subject #20, escape Aetersyl. He somehow implanted her quartz within her body, essentially fooling the Zenith System and putting her life “into her own hands.” This subject would later be known as Leanne – a member of your player party. After this was complete, Juris was confronted by Cardinal Rowen. Rowen initially objected to Juris’ actions, but eventually allowed Leanne to escape (likely out of guilt). Before leaving, Leanne learned of her expiration date from Juris’ notebook. We’ll call this the conclusion of the first set of Cardinal experiments.
The second set of Cardinal experiments owes its origins to humanity’s survival instinct. When disease and mutations were demolishing the human race, many were left out in the cold. Many died, but some developed mutations which allowed them to both overcome disease and evolve into something much stronger. In fact, it could be argued that those outside Basel were subject to the next phase of human evolution. The survivors were much stronger and effectively immortal, but they also had a great hate-on for Basel and the Zenith System for abandoning them. One of these evolved survivors was a girl named Rebecca. The rage she felt towards Basel pushed her to attack what was left of civilization. She slaughtered numerous humans until she reached Vashyron.
At that time, Vashyron was known as a Knight of Zenith. This basically means that the Zenith System had his back, regardless of what he did in retaliation. When she struck him, the Zenith System struck her back. It saved his life and broke her mind. Sullivan found her in a crippled state and decided to use her for a second set of experiments. Unbeknownst to Cardinal Rowen, Sullivan had always wished to live outside Basel and saw Rebecca as the perfect subject for his research. He believed that he could free people from Basel once and for all if he could only copy her traits. Involving 20 more children, all taken from the Crank Seminary, Sullivan built on his former research. Only one child survived this second set of experiments. His name was Zephyr.
Zephyr’s transformation gave him incredible speed and strength, but also made him mentally unstable. Flying into a rage, Zephyr killed almost all those involved in the experiments and blew up the seminary where they were being conducted. Feeling great remorse, he had expected to be killed by Vashyron who was sent in for him. However, after being shot in the head twice by the Knight of Zenith, Zephyr’s immortality prevailed. To figure out why he was spared from death, he decided to try living normally again and began working for Vashyron.
How was is anyone in this world able to survive mortal wounds like being shot in the head?
If you’re shot in the Basel region, you will probably die; furthermore, the Zenith System has started to break down and kill people spontaneously (such as the late Prelate Frida). However, there are rare occurrences where the system, for unknown reasons, will invert this law and prevent a person’s death from something that really should have killed them (such as a shot to the head). This is important for the Three main characters, as all of them should have died in the past, but were spared by Zenith.
So where did these experiments leave Rowen and Sullivan?
On opposite sides of the same coin, essentially. The ultimate outcome of all this research was a tool constructed by Sullivan to control the Zenith System. He used Cardinal Rowen’s ring and bound the control system to it, giving Rowen ultimate control over life and death. Because of this new power, Rowen undergoes a crisis of faith and begins to belief himself to be God. Sullivan, on the other hand, continued to study Rebecca in order to find a way for the humans to live free from the Zenith System. Their goals are both in line with Prelate Frieda to an extent, but different methods. Cardinal Rowen seeks to control Zenith, while Sullivan seeks to depart from it.
If Leanne was trying to commit suicide before her date of appointed death, how is she still alive at the beginning of the game?
When Leanne was nearing the time of her appointed death, she attempted to kill herself by falling to hear death only to have Zephyr catch her and save her life. He was able to use his incredibly durable body, which was gained from the trait swapping experiments Sullivan had done to him, to cushion her fall. At the moment Leanne’s quartz was programmed to fail, Zenith intervened and the artificial expiration date on her quartz was nullified. This experience was also beneficial to Zephyr, who found a reason for living in taking care of her.
Why did Zephyr go crazy and kill everyone in the seminary?
It’s not explicitly stated in-game, but I think it’s a mix of factors. Firstly, his traits were being swapped with Rebecca’s mutant body. I’m assuming this would have been a traumatic experience. Furthermore, Rebecca’s mind had already been broken when she was being used as a subject, so that might have had an effect on how Zephyr received her attributes. Finally, there is the possibility that he was grief-stricken over his sister’s illness and lost control.
In the battle with Cardinal Largerfeld, who was in charge of the Crank Seminary, it is revealed that Zephyr had a sister among the children and had unknowingly killed her. I’d like to believe that he would not have been sane or conscious while this took place.
That being said, there is a religious element to this act. Being the sole successful subject of these experiments and partially inhuman, Zephyr went on a rage-filled spree to defy Resonance of Fate’s “God.” Hence the destruction of the church. Zephyr, like Rebecca and Sullivan, don’t need to rely on quartz; they’ve already defied “God” (the Zenith System).
Why did Sullivan build the power to control the Zenith System into Cardial Rowen’s ring?
The ring once belonged to Prelate Frieda. I think it was chosen as a conduit to the Zenith System for symbolic reasons only.
How does it all end?
Rowen continues to be maniacally cray cray in the background, completely oblivious to the fact that Leanne has survived past her planned expiration date. On Christmas, she walks past Rowen at the Basilica and the realization that she is still alive questions his understanding of the situation. Before accepting himself as God, he saw no way that a God could exist outside the system. In seeing someone who is supposed to be dead, Rowen asserts that there is in fact a God.
After attempting to kill Leanne and Sullivan in one fell swoop, Rowen gathers his forcers into the Basillica and awaits Veshyron, Zephyr, and Leanne’s arrival. He tries again to force God’s hand and validate his faith, but is continually faced with no response. After a crushing defeat by the player party, he uses the power he wields over the Zenith System to ensure his life and the lives of the other Cardinals. Vashyron, seeing the pointlessness of the conflict, forces the party to retreat.
Meanwhile, Sullivan succeeded in his second experiment. He gave his quartz to Rebecca, who destroys it. His life was no longer bound to the Zenith system, and he joins Rebecca in the outside world. Because of his unethical experiments, humans can now be separated from their quartz.
Rowen eventually realizes that his faith was misplaced. After leaving the ring that controlled the Zenith System on Prelate Frieda’s final resting place, it is made clear how much of a fool he feels he is for worshiping a giant computer. He takes his research in the same direction as Sullivan’s, using some notes that the researcher left behind. Several years later, we see Leanne, Zephyr, and Vashyron outside of Basel. They have left to begin recolonizing the planet.
How were they able to go outside of Basel without being poisoned by the atmosphere?
It’s never explicitly stated, but the general understanding is that the atmosphere had finally recovered after a thousand years or so. Also, their bodies would have built immunities by that point using Sullivan’s research.
Was Sullivan a good guy or a bad guy?
Hmm. I’d say he’s an extremely pragmatic researcher who believes ends justify means. He was working towards the greater good for all humanity, but how he got there was ethically deplorable. Is he an antagonist? Kind of. Is he a bad guy? Not necessarily.
Does Zephyr ever get revenge on Sullivan for his experiments?
In the bonus dungeon “Neverland”, the party runs into Sullivan and battles him and Rebecca as the game’s secret bosses. Even if the player defeats him, Sullivan claims that he is immortal, and that the “theories” of the world are now see-through to him. Zephyr claims he will keep killing Sullivan until he dies permanently, to which Sullivan says he looks forward to it.
That’s all that can really be said about the story. It’s hella’ complicated and there are some questions that just don’t have answers, but hopefully this has laid out all the finer points of Resonance of Fate.