on November 9, 2012
You may note that I rated the game as "fun" but overall "poor". The gameplay can become a bit addictive, after a point. Once the hero becomes powerful and just doesn't stop, you can maul your way through enemies that once gave you problems. There's also a massive loot system, and you can combine simlar items to make higher-class ones. This makes for an incredible depth of customization, and a fun factor in picking your equipment, especially once you became the aforementioned death-dealing machine.
But up until you hit that mark, the game is just horrible. Heck, even after you hit it the game itself is still horrible. The story has some potential, but ultimately sounds like something that a two-year-old came up with. The hero loses his sister, searches for her, finds out she's been kidnapped, and then goes on a journey of self-discovery as he uncovers the truth behind a legend surrounding his family and the powers he and his sister share. The dialog used to deliver the story is absolutely bottom-barrel trash, and the voice acting throughout the game will make you cringe. I got to the point where I just read the dialog as quickly as I can so can skip the poor voice acting.
The map is asinine. First, it's huge, which is nice. But whoever made it basically took a giant square and ran a randomizer over it, plugging in a few numbers for "max height". Read: the game has too many hills. They're everywhere. There's no such thing as a flat plain anywhere. It's just up and down and up and down. It's like the developers never actually went outside to see if what they made makes any sense against the real world. I mean, it detailed and can be pretty at times, but the hills are just a pain. This wouldn't be a problem if not for two things:
1) it makes exploration very hard. If you take a wrong turn over a hill, you can end up sliding some stupid distance and not be able to climb back up. Because that one hill will be surrounded by dozens of others, most of which will prevent you from just hopping back up to where you left off, it can literally take 10 minutes to return to the top of it just to go the other way. This is incredibly obnoxious as you MUST explore the entire world to get the location achievements.
2) your horse is an idiot. Once you get one, you'll find that the horse randomly can't pass certain types of terrain. This is especially true of ~60% of the roads, which are bizarrely designed like very deep and broad ruts that are cut into the landscape instead of just being on top of the surface. The sides of most of these roads are so steep that the horse can't walk across them. You'll turn to leave the road to go explore some feature and the horse will get to the edge and then just stop or, more annoying, turn completely around and go the other way? You have to stop the horse, get up off of it, walk across over to where you wanted the a-hole to go, and then call it to you. You'll find that it can, in fact, make it across that spot, just not with you on it.
Speaking of the horse, it's annoying for another set of reasons:
1) it's supposed to make fighting foot soldiers easier, but it doesn't. The horse isn't very maneuverable, and the controls are just poorly done. So trying to fight enemies on foot is a pain of trying to get the horse to face the right direction and trying to get your character to swing his weapon on the right friggin' side of the horse. You also can't wield a two-handed weapon other than a bow from horse back, but you can use double-wielding from horseback. It's just weird.
2) you can pick up herbs and random objects lying on the ground and way out of reach from horseback, but you can't loot the enemy you just killed or open treasure chests from horseback. So you have to keep jumping on and off the thing every time you get in a fight.
3) the controls aren't just unintuitive, they're anti-intuitive. You have to press the up button to move forward. Normal, right? Not so when you realize that holding the button causes the horse to accelerate, and rapidly. And letting it go doens't stop the horse. Push up and let go of the controller, and the horse will keep moving forward. Neat? Kind of. But now you need to stop because some wolves are attacking you. You have to push "down" to stop. But you can only do that when the horse's movement is aligned with the screen. That is, if you've turned the camera to look to the side, you have to turn it back to face forward, THEN hit down to stop the horse. Otherwise, hitting down does something random, whether turning the horse to face toward the camera or turning it away or turning it some other random direction.
It's better to find a horse that can carry a lot of weight and just use it as a travelling treasure chest. Just park it near a transporter or in a nearby city and come back to it as you explore and find treasure you want to keep. The horse can save you a lot of travel time going between towns and cities, but only in areas where you've already killed all the enemies. And the transporter system works better anyway, and you don't want to try to be on the horse INSIDE the towns and cities because it's so unmaneuverable. I actually got my horse caught on a merchant to where the merchant's character was litteraly INSIDE my horse and neither of us could move, and I couldn't dismount because that button is the same as the talk-to-the-merchant button (poor controls). Fortunately, I was able to twist around and get free, but it took a while and was pain.
The controls are bad in every way. In combat, there's no blocking or dodging, just a "jump back". Swinging your weapon can take a while. Not that the swing is slow, but that it can literally take up to a FULL SECOND for the character to respond to the button press and swing his weapon. You can only swing a limited number of times, but that number appears to be random and situationally based and I have no idea what it is. I just know that after X-number of swings, I should just go ahead and hit the jump-back button before I get creamed. The "jump" button is also not the prototypical "A". It's "Y"? X doesn't attack, but draws your weapon. The attack button is a trigger, but if you press it while under attack and your weapon isn't drawn, you don't attack? It's like the character is telling you, "I'm getting hit and you're pressing the attack button, but my weapon's not drawn, so Ima just sit here and bleed everywhere." What the hell?
The "Power Wheel" is a nice concept, but poorly executed. Each weapon has different skills associated with it, but the skills are grouped together so that if you assign a type for one slot, you assign several different weapon-specific abilities to that slot. All you have to do is change weapons, and the slot automatically changes to that weapon's skill from the same group. It's a nice touch, BUT, when you select the power from the D-pad, it doesn't pause gameplay to bring up the actual wheel. It just changes an icon in the top left of the screen, and because of the inaccuracies of the D-pad you often get the wrong power. And once you've selected the right power, you have to then press the other shoulder trigger. This makes combat a malay of pushing the attack trigger, desperately trying to select a power from the D-pad, and pushing the power trigger. I just leave mine on my heal spell and don't bother with the others because most of them have low percentage success rates anyway. All you really need in the game is just a lot of strength and an axe weapon with high slashing and bludgeon damage, and you can run over just about everything. The powers are mostly superfluous and not very useful.
Also, the treasure system is vast. This is, at first, a boon because you get to sweep through and get more and more powerful items. However, in order to combine items to make a higher-class one, you have to have two of the exact same type. Each piece of armor has a "Set" number, and there are least 600 "sets" in the game. A set includes helmet, chest, gauntlets, leggings, and boots. That's 3000 items in armor alone. Then there's dozens of different types of shields, and at least 100 different types of weapons, and at least 9 different types of ring. There aren't that many chests or enemies in the game, which means you're not going to find a lot of the same item in the wild. Some items are very powerful, but also super rare, so in order to get those to a decently effective and high enough class you have to find them and purchase them. This can be difficult as earning gold is limited since enemies do not respawn, chests do not refill, and you can only steal from each NPC one time. My suggestion is to save up until the very end and just power up your favorite end-game end-bringer by visiting shops.
The camera is also very annoying. It's constantly recentering, but the default angle the camera centers on is mind-bogglgingly bizarre. When you're on your horse, the camera recenters to what seems to be a large angle toward the sky. But since most of the game is bizarrely hilly as I've said before, and you'll be facing down-slope most of the time, this means that most of what you care about is going to be at the very bottom of the screen. If you try to angle the camera down, it will instantly retilt back up. When you're not on your horse, the angle is different whether you're running across a semi-flat area (usually ACROSS the side of a hill rather than down it), the angle is slightly upward. But if you're running downhill, the angle changes to look at a spot about a meter in front of your character, making objects just a few meters away disappear off the top of the screen. So you have to angle the camera upward to see where you're going. You also can't just hold the camera an angle since moving the stick even slightly will always move the camera as far to one side as it will go. So you have to constantly fight the camera's recentering by tweaking the right stick in the direction you want to move the camera. The entire game. Non-stop. It. Is. Really. Annoying.
Then there's the frame rate. The camera doens't move smoothly in any sense of the word. When turning, the screen jumps by at least an entire degree at a time. Running forward is jumpy too: object don't glide by the way they do in most smooth-motion games. They jump toward and eventually past you. The motion is eye-jarring horrible. You'll want to play this game on a small a screen as you can so you don't ruin your eyes with the motion-sickness-inducing frame rate. Part of the problem with the rate is from the fact that the game seems to load up the ENTIRE WORLD into memory, rather than just a small piece. If you can get high enough on one side of the map, you can see clear to the other side of it, including cities, towers, and fortresses. Most features, like smaller towns and NPCs, will pop into sight as you get close enough. But the actual lay of the land is visible at any distance, and you can see the trees being rendered from far away. If the developer had actually put a horizon that, the game would be a lot smoother.
Finally, there's the character themselves. I don't think they hired an artist to create the wireframes. They're just atrocious. Everything. The main character's main, NPCs, Orcs, Groms, and wolves are all ugly. Wolves don't have any of the sleekness or elegance associated with real wolves, either: they all look like pug-faced pitbulls and run around like spastic poodles. Bears are hideous. The only things that look halfway decent are the skeletons, and that's only because there's no a lot to them to screw up visually.
This game is bad. It's got a lot of good ideas, but it's just poorly executed. It definitely won't thrill you, and can be very frustrating at times. The dialog sucks, the story is sub-par, and the controls are bad. It is, however, mindless and generally easy to play. If you ignore the story and spend a few hours building up your character, it be an somewhat relaxing stress-relief to sit back, turn off your brain, and just tear through enemy ranks. When the price drops below $10, it can be worth the buy to have something to do for a week or so. But don't buy this game expecting to be wowed. Because, as an actual game, it does suck and sucks hard.