Immediately upon starting something feels off. Your character is granted full analogue control but moves in set increments at the same time; slightly flick the stick and they will move several steps before coming to a halt. Whilst exploring this isn’t really an issue, but try to position yourself to pick something up or talk to someone and it’s all too easy to skip past them through no fault of your own. It soon begins to grate, only alleviated by mashing the A button in the hope that you will catch the interaction and interrupt the animation. Eventually it becomes less noticeable, but that’s partly because of the other PC-centric design decisions that just stick out like a sore thumb.
The whole UI has been ported from the PC wholesale, with no attempt to make it more manageable or legible on a TV rather than a monitor. Text is tiny. I mean, almost illegible. I’ve got a good-sized TV (humble brag) but I’m sitting just 5ft away and I still struggled to read most of it. Item labels, enemy health bars and character names are just tiny. What makes it worse is that a lot of text is unnecessary. When talking to characters, who are all voiced, the text scrolls slower than the voiceover, essentially forcing you to listen to it rather than read faster and skip ahead. Voice acting is fairly poor all round so you wouldn’t be missing a great deal and to add insult to injury, should you try to skip ahead there’s no way to go back and listen/read again, save for the last sentence which will be repeated for eternity.
But dig into the game and pick up some items and it soon becomes apparent that dialogue is the best of it. Item descriptions have detailed stats and info but crammed in a small box with differing colors that don’t always stand out particularly well. There are generally 2 of these boxes, one for inventory and a comparison for your equipped item but these overlay your actual inventory, making it hard to see what you have and navigate around. You can disable these easily, but then all you have are tiny pictures with zero information. With a mouse cursor I can see it working well but on a gamepad it just frustrates and adds up in the column for reasons to give this a miss.
Get into the gameplay and things unfortunately do not improve much. I’m not too familiar with the likes of Diablo and its ilk, but the slow pace, lack of interaction and terrible controls make it somewhat of a chore to play. I’ve covered the movement but encounter an enemy and you needn’t worry about this. Not because it suddenly improves, but because you are rooted to the spot, the stick instead aiming your attacks. Holding down the X button is 90% of combat, whether using ranged bows and staffs, or closer swords and axes, attacks happen at a steady rhythm. Level up and you can add magic attacks to the mix but getting them to work is another uphill battle. Press it in the middle of swinging your sword and it just won’t register.
You need to release the attack button to launch magic, which can take a second or two to start, leaving you mostly defenseless. Local defensive buffs are available, such as a flame shield, so any close attackers take damage still, but ranged foes will just keep peppering you regardless. The whole control scheme just feels stodgy and unresponsive even though it is well laid out on the pad. When you can get it to work, all your attacks are easily accessed and there are loads of options to suit every player style. Again, suits mouse and keyboard, where hotkeys would prove useful I’m sure, but the slow pace just doesn’t fit the pad. Coming off playing the great Nine Parchments, it seems every good idea that game had seems to have been reversed here. It’s a shame as the core loop of fighting, looting and getting more powerful could be fun, but it’s just too awkward and stifling to get there.
Like Frozenbytes effort, online multiplayer is supported too. However, following the trend set thus far, it’s implementation falls short. Trading is available between players, but I found it easier to just drop the stuff I didn’t want on the floor for others to pick up and outside of that there didn’t seem to be any real benefit to having another player there. Someone joined my game after I’d beat the first few bosses, so I expected them to join me in an onward march. They were level 1 however, so had to go through all that I had already done. Good for them as I could help but held me back from making my own progress. A complete lack of local MP just means I quickly avoided it altogether and stuck to single player.
Visuals are functional and not much more. Levels are furnished well but a lack of interactivity and life to it pull you out of the experience. Character models are of early Dreamcast levels of detail and polish and outside of some funny physics when characters rag-doll upon defeat, there’s nothing here that stands out. Audio is also lacking, in both ambient noise and a lack of punch in attacks or spells as well as the aforementioned voice acting. Player feedback is almost non-existent, which makes you all the more aware that you are just holding a button and waiting for items to fling out of your foes.
Releasing a PC game on console can work great, but some concessions have to be made for the differing audiences and control schemes. The core gameplay loop is more than capable of holding interest and has been put to great effect in recent games, but here, every opportunity is wasted. If you enjoy obscure interfaces, slow fiddly combat, and dated visuals, then please, fill your boots.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.