7 people found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
0.0 hrs last two weeks / 9.5 hrs on record
Posted: Sep 8, 2016 @ 1:08am
Updated: Nov 24, 2016 @ 12:40pm
Product received for free

(Disclaimer: I have not played the initial version, only the current "Back from Hell" version, and I was generously gifted a key by someone on NeoGAF -- thanks again mate.)

tl;dr version (Read below for more details)

The good:
+ Amazing visuals
+ Solid soundtrack
+ Excellent boss designs
+ Responsive controls

The okay/decent:
+ Combat
+ Platforming and traps
+ Goofy metal lyrics-styled dialogue

The mediocre (not bad, just a bit meh):
- Level design
- Could use more enemy variety

I won't lie, this is a game that is primarily driven by its amazing artistic direction. The visuals are consistently impressive, not just the art and environments, or the cool parallax effects, or the excellent animations (esp. the headbanging one when you defeat a boss!), but all the intricate details, from the guttering torches, flying insects buzzing around rotting carcasses, the rain or snow, the dripping blood or ooze, etc. Every level is just... "wow", every time. It's essentially a metal album cover come to life, and I mean the really cool and badass album covers, like those made by Necrolord, Kris Verwimp, SV Bell, Eliran Kantor, Andreas Marshall, Dan Seagrave, Chris Moyen/Thorncross, etc., not the ♥♥♥♥♥♥ ones like Riot's Fire Down Under.

Metal soundtracks for games are nothing new, but to my knowledge, very few, if any, have one quite like it. It's basically instrumental doom/gothic metal, instead of the more common traditional and/or blazing shredding wailing guitar type of metal you're more likely to find. It could have benefited from a few more tracks, but it's otherwise excellent and the music fits the mood of the game admirably well. Good job by the ex-Celtic Frost guy.

Story and dialogue? Well, there is some, but it's not very important in a game like this, so who cares really. All the writing is very cheesy, but it pretty much reads like metal lyrics. If that's your thing, you'll find yourself smiling at the cheesy, pompous lines. If not, you'll probably roll your eyes, but hopefully you're not that uptight.

Now, the gameplay. To be frank, it's mostly okay, not great. Level design is very simple for the most part, not a whole lot of verticality, very rare secrets, and simple moving forward hacking mobs, with the occasional hit-the-switch-and-come-back. Most of the time, it's just a matter of defeating the combat encounters and avoiding the traps and survive until the next checkpoint. The traps are generally easy to avoid and serve mostly to mix up the pace, but the combat encounters can be really quite difficult. Bathoryn, the protagonist, cannot take a whole lot of hits and dies really fast (or I just suck). Fortunately respawning is instant and loading times are super-fast, and checkpoints are generous enough to avoid too much frustration, so it's not THAT bad. Still, prepare to die be slain often.

Combat is hack-and-slash with some ranged magic (as long as you have mana left), with some nice focus on parrying and countering, charged attacks (hard to time correctly but rewarding to pull off), flinging projectiles back at the enemy, and switching between the steel sword, the flame blade, and the ice axe. Overall it's not that deep but it's serviceable enough, the controls are fairly responsive. There could be a bit more enemy variety though, I mean I'm fine with smashing skeletons, but that's a lot of skellies... something to think about in a sequel, maybe. That said, the boss fights is when the combat shines, forcing you to use all of your arsenal and skill. I really found the bosses to be well designed and the highlights of the game (Mother Beholder can get ♥♥♥♥ed though!).

I am terrible at this kind of old-school brutal game and took a good 9 hours of dying repeatedly before gitting gud (I swear at least one full hour is against Mother Beholder, gahhh) and pulling through. A skilled player would probably take far less before reaching the ending.

In short, I would recommend this game, mostly for its artistic appeal. It's a metal album cover (or a bunch of them) come to life which is a really ♥♥♥♥ing cool thing, unless you don't like metal, in which case, I don't like you, so please go away. The gameplay underneath is nothing mind-blowing, but just decent enough to make it worth playing.

\m/ Hail the Great Horned Metal God \m/
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