Explore a school of magic as you meet a varied cast of students and staff. Throughout you’ll find magical gems that illuminate past moments in time. Happy Ray Games tells this story through charm and turn-based RPG elements—Ikenfell.
The common theme of the story is searching. The most literal definition is where Ikenfell begins; Maritte is searching for her lost sister, Safina, who is a student of magic at Ikenfell. As we’ll learn throughout the game we, as Maritte, suddenly experience an awakening of magic at the start of your journey. We follow her as she meets a wide cast of students along the way. The main plot point is finding Safina but Ikenfell does a fantastic job presenting characters and showing why you should care about the detours.
Ikenfell is queer through and through. I love it for that. This is one of the first games where I’ve seen Ze/Zir pronouns being used. Never did it stop to explain that. I embarrassingly thought it was a typo at first. This is exactly how I personally think pronouns should be used. Just go for it! The onus is upon the player to educate themselves.
Turn-based RPGs aren’t my favorite style of gameplay within the genre but there was a special feature that I fully took advantage of. Well, it’s more of a combination of two settings in the options menu. Timing mode deals with in game battle actions both offensive and defensive; your attack will deal more damage if you react to a visual queue on time and vice versa for defense. Victory option will save you in a pinch as it’ll end the battle with a win and no penalty whatsoever. This combination allowed me to fully enjoy the battle system on my terms while still being invested in the story. I recommend setting timing mode to semi-auto and victory mode to on.
Even knowing I had my battle safety net I still felt accomplished when I emerged victorious. Each student you meet has a unique specialty. Petronella is one of the early students you meet. They are a timid alchemist that packs a punch. Rook is met soon after, a bookworm spellcaster who has one of the coolest looking attacks—Soul Pierce. I rotated all the students I met at least once into my party but at the end of it all I settled on two of my favorites. My party was a combination of me being the muscle with Maritte alongside having someone spellcasting HP regeneration while another spellcasting defenses.
The battle system is engaging, especially if you have the actions accessibility setting completely off. You can be easily caught off guard if you’re not paying attention to whose turn is next. Boss battles can sometimes be multiple stages. I will say that some of the battles respawn minions throughout so sometimes it’s better to ignore them and focus on the opponent with the largest HP.
Don’t worry so much about XP gains either. There are quick ways of grinding XP even early on but I’d say you’re doing yourself a disservice. Learn the battle system or just use the victory option. Most of the time there was even a struggle because I tried brute forcing my way to win. Buy all the items; be mindful of the equipment for whoever your main party is.
I won’t say much about the music because it’s completely wonderful. The piano and string instruments are put to good use to create an enchanting soundtrack for the setting. There are some themes that feel out of place but it could be just because they have lyrics. Certain boss battles did trigger unique musical themes which I would’ve loved to see more of. Otherwise it is a treat to play this before bed with headphones.
To keep things short there’s two quality of life features I’d love to see. I found myself constantly checking my opponents health. This would’ve been perfect to map to a button/trigger. It helps plan out my moves which just makes sense for a turn based game. One other constant action I was taking is looking at my map. Not only because of how beautiful it is but mostly because I wanted to know where to head next or just know generally my location.
At the end of it all I had an experience that left me with a wonder of going back to these characters. We already know Ikenfell but what else is out there in the continent as one of the students alluded to. I hope this team is able to take another opportunity because the foundation is here. If you’re looking for a meaningful cast, enchanting music, and a rich accessible battle system then this is it.