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Video Game Review – Zenith

From Infinigon, an action RPG that follows the story of a reluctant wizard dragged out of the bottle he’s crawled into, and thrust into an adventure he’s not all that interested in. I had no idea this game existed, and was pleasantly surprised when it dropped into my lap. It’s been a while since I played a game knowing nothing about it, so it was refreshing to go blindly into something new.

Now, I will say that since getting Zenith I haven’t played much more than a couple of hours for reasons I’ll get to shortly; suffice to say that this is very much a “first impressions” review, but I made sure to get a big impression in the mean time.

NSFW Warning because of the rude words Zenith uses. That language is acceptable behind the wheel of a car, but not in the workplace, or around young people and the permanently offended.

Story

We begin with our reluctant hero, Argus Windell, already in deep trouble at the hands of his captors, a band of elves that we can easily label “The bad guys” because… well they’re threatening the hero, nice and easy right? Actually this looks to be a straight forward wartime situation where honestly neither side is right, they just have different opinions on what belongs to whom and how it should be dealt with, all swiftly and effortlessly delivered with a minimum of dialogue and no painfully expositional lines. This opening scene also delivers a lot of information about the nature of our main character Argus, who has a very classic “begrudging but snarky hero” thing going very well for him, comes across as well informed and fairly important.

Then in come the giant, arctic, tenor singing spiders to comically spare his life, followed by a chase to grab his stuff from the fleeing elves who have mercifully scattered into easily defeated groups in their flight. You follow a path laid out for rich people to fill their adventure fantasies complete with conveniently dispersed chests and potions for which Argus has a snide remark, and the first joke that made me laugh in the game (a sorcerer who never hired guards for his tower, he just left bottles of red-coloured poison lying around) after only a few minutes gameplay. Score one for Infinigon.

Shortly after this point I’m thrown a bit of a curveball. After Argus is helped out by his friends there’s the sudden appearance of a spaceship, a jarring blast of sci-fi injected into what I’d taken as plain fantasy, but after a fairly short space of time the sides start to drift together, and just like that I’m impressed. I don’t often see games where civilisations have the presence of mind to use magic to do sensible things. Fireballs, strange and terrible artifacts, sure, but let’s talk transport here!

In short a lot of story is injected into not a lot of time, and done so very well. This section could get longer, but there’s more to discuss…

Style

Visually the game suffers a little from an obviously low budget, but delivers at the very least a comfortable viewing experience with a few interesting little quirks that stand out, and played with all graphics set to full it’s more than enjoyable, with crisper and cleaner without overwhelming the senses in bright lights and pointless details. Once the magical technology fusion becomes more organic to the situation the characters start to look more fitting, shifting from overly colourful and out of place to a kind of understated magic-punk, stylish but not overbaked.

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Textboxes can only be advanced by means of the spacebar, fairly high on the list of things you’d think to try, but there is no other option. Still, only a minor nuisance, but there are a few instances of text floating above character heads during cutscenes in which the text is hard to read because it lacks a harder outline, and the colours aren’t distinct enough to clearly make out the words. At least these aren’t the moments when important details are revealed, more often than not it’s during these moments when you aren’t entirely focused on the dialogue.

Gameplay

Here’s where I have a few gripes.

I’m in no doubt that this game would have played much better with a controller, I was running on mouse and keyboard. The controls were well mapped and thought out, (unlike a few blockbusters I could mention) and despite the fact that they couldn’t be adjusted, I found there wasn’t really a need. Where the issues came for me were with facing my character in the right direction. Two noticeable instances in which this was an issue:

Enemy corpses fade fast in Zenith. More often than not I’d find myself finishing a fight having lost half of my spoils already, which became less of an issue if I could easily spam to collect mid-combat, but that’s not so easy to do. Now this wouldn’t be so irritating, but post-fight I’d often find myself amidst the bodies unable to pick them clean fast enough because I have to spin myself around to face the bodies that still have something to grab, and when they’re merged together, and every time I turn I also run a few feet, suddenly the corpse I wanted is behind me, and again, and aga- oh now it’s gone.

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Second was a puzzle. Now I loved the puzzle, definitely stealing that for my regular Dungeons & Dragons game (strictly not for profit of course) but the objects that I needed to interact with in a specific order were fairly densely packed together given that I was having trouble getting Argus to point in the right direction.

That said, once you’ve acclimatised a little to the pace and motion of the game combat itself flows fairly nicely, and you’re quickly given a few nice little tactical options; interesting melee weapons, a ranged spell, a conjured shield, and a massive shockwave spell to cover your back when you’re surrounded. Potions have a recharge time to prevent spamming (and overdose of course) which is a little long. You may find yourself needing more than one in a fight and unable to drink fast enough, made worse by the fact that health doesn’t replenish naturally. All of which brings me to my final point.

Why I Stopped Playing…

Your first boss is fairly early in the game, before you’ve even gained your first level and started to really see what Argus is capable of achieving. The demon Deuueagh has moderate health which should make for a quick fight, jumps backwards and forwards from the combat area, leaving you with a smattering of easily defeated skeletons to keep you occupied. Sounds good on paper, but there are some pretty tremendous problems I found with it.

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If you like your RPGs hardcore with a punishing difficulty curve I commend you, sadly that’s not me, and Zenith could do with a variable difficulty for the likes of people who enjoy games despite being really bad at them (me). It wouldn’t even require any alterations in the level designs, shortened waits for potions would be a good start because this boss hits hard, and is fast enough to hit you constantly no matter how much you run or block.

Worst of all, with only one save point prior to the fight, there’s a nice little cutscene for you to watch over and over and over again following disappointment after disappointment. Come on Infinigon, that’s game design basics, at least make it easier to skip past.

… For A Short While

I have a new computer!

Aside from being overjoyed and looking forward to doing a lot more game reviews in the near future, it made the game run a lot smoother, look quite a bit nicer, and more importantly I surpassed Deuueagh to find the first major plot point and break into what one might call “the game proper”.

And that’s the thing, for all the issues I faced early in the game I found I really wanted to surpass them and break into the real meat of what Zenith had to offer me. Now that first awkward hurdle is behind me I’m enjoying it more and more, and while it’s still a game hampered by design flaws, it’s still fun, compelling, and ultimately achieves what it sets out to achieve; a humorous ARPG filled with parody, sarcasm, action, and elves in barrels being thrown over mountains. Well one, but that’s more than I expected.

Get Zenith. It’s worth it at £10.99, and I think Infinigon as a studio has a lot more to offer in the future.

2 responses

  1. Really cool game!

    Although the gameplay doesn’t shine with its terrible combat system lacking a Z-lock or puzzles that require very precise maneuvering, you can get used to it and since the game isn’t particularly difficult it doesn’t hinder progression all that much!

    It’s much closer to a linear-ish story driven Diablo-like Beat’em all than any wRPG or jRPG conventions.

    But anyway, gameplay is not the reason you’ll want to keep playing: The game harbors good and genuinely funny writing as well as a pretty good story and these elements alone are compelling enough to push you to complete the game.

    I’d like to add that the OST is brilliant and you actually end up humming the melodies as they come, the team did a really good job with this.

    I quite enjoyed the few hours I spent with the game and really recommend trying it out!

    Liked by 1 person

    December 18, 2016 at 9:46 pm

  2. Agreed on all counts. Certainly looking forward to what the team can produce in future

    Like

    December 18, 2016 at 9:53 pm

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