IntroductionZenith, developed by Infinigon, and published by BadLand Indie, is an action RPG with a strong foundation of parody-like humor. As you embark on your adventure through this medieval fantasy realm that shows signs of every major RPG, you'll meet oddly similar characters as well as lovable original ones, encounter cliche enemies with something weirdly unique (like giant singing spiders in the opening scene), and play out a story mixed with so many movies and games its hard to list. You can buy the game on Steam for $12.99, or PlayStation Network for $19.99.
StoryYou're just a lonesome wizard named Argus Windell who wants to build himself an isolated and magical ice palace in an attempt to flee society. Or at least that's what you tell the Elf Captain as you attempt to make your way back to the Temple of Tempers; you're actually a member of the Imperial mages. You needed to return to camp in order to grab a sacred book that will assist you in opening the passageways into said Temple. After narrowly escaping the Elves with the help of your two friends and singing spiders (weird I know), the Emperor's military comes into the scene with a science-fiction looking aircraft.
After traveling to the mountain housing the temple with him and his entourage of highly official, but arguably unprofessional guards, you enter. This is the introduction of the game that takes about 30 minutes or so to reach, depending on your reading speed. From here the story plays out in cliche fashion with the strangest of events; an apocalypse is released from portals, and now it's up to you to fix what you have started.
GameplayAs you traverse the world (more or less as the maps are pretty linear) you'll find all the things any RPG should have; glowing blue save points, chests containing lootable necessities, characters to interact with, and an array of enemies to burry your sword in. There's no active quest marker as there is no active map, and no real side quests, but you can bring up the main quest with the press of the L1 button. While the controls are super easy to remember, they don't work smoothly in regards to combat (discussed further down in this gameplay section).
Characters provide a few different purposes in the game (not just to progress the actual story). You'll find much of the comedy spread throughout your play by interacting with them and catching parody-meant comments like "Gerard Rivera" in the picture above as he makes comments about just wanting to be left alone from random jobs so he can pursue his main quest. When talking to the Potionist near the beginning of the game, Argus makes the statement, "Everyone always saves them for special occasions that never come up." It's small but a huge part of what makes the game.
The other way you'll find characters being involved in the game is as companions. You'll have a few that aid you in your adventures but the majority of that time will be spent with one. Asides from being somewhat helpful in combat, these companions will serve to be of little use. Equipment and actions will be completely determined by them; most of the time they'll just be hacking and slashing their way into enemies with little regards to protecting you or working as a team. The combat they participate in will be no different from the difficulties you'll also face.
For PS4, the attack button is "X", dodge is "Circle", special attack abilities are assigned to "Square" and "Triangle" (based on crystals you have equipped that will determine which type of element you infuse spells with), "R1" activates the interaction with readable objects and chests when they glow yellow, "R2" summons a defensive shield. Those are the simplistic controls mentioned before, but the flow of them in use is anything but simplistic. You'll find a little strategy to using them, and most of the time combat is purely luck based. When I came across my first boss fight, I was instantly destroyed due to my dodge being ineffective.
Even when timed right, enemies will have an easy time hitting you, and health is a somewhat constant problem. You'll have great difficulties targeting enemies when there are more than one; there's no targeting assist or system, so even attacks are just as much luck based as defensive maneuverings. The camera is arguably your greatest enemy while playing. It is always in a locked position, forcing you to somewhat fight in uncomfortable views. During cutscenes or times of puzzle solving, the camera is in a beautiful spot, but those are obviously of less important moments.
If there are checkpoints in the game, I failed to active them and was only able to use my previously saved points as a respawn marker. This isn't miserable all the time, but when you fight a boss after 5 or so minutes of text dialogue and a puzzle to solve, and are forced to go through it all again because you are learning the combat of said boss, it can be pretty depressing.
Sound and GraphicsThe sound was pretty disappointing in this game; the music, while funny and unique for an RPG was interesting, it carries and many times felt overplayed and repetitive. It also brings unadjustable and unbalanced volumes, that when mixed in with the same issues with the sound effects, is a little rough on the ears. There's a lot of cursing thrown into texts, and sometimes it's actually what makes a particular scene humorous, perhaps leading to the choice to not voice act it and come across too vulgar, but with a linear game, I don't see why that would have been too complicated to accomplish.
The game world presented graphics expected in regards to a game of this size and price but failed in more than a few aspects. Within a few minutes into actual gameplay, I was met by a small group of elves who essentially glitches their way across the map to me, little jump by little jump. This will carry out through the rest of the game too, and will at times be met with additional screen tearing or frame rate drops. Character designs were pretty good; I was more than easily able to comprehend who was meant to represent who when the games parody jokes were being made, but as far as Argus goes, he remained the same appearance regardless of armor choice.
This could also have been to focus on a humorous story more than RPG elements, but it still falls in the genre of RPG so it's disappointing to have seen (or not seen). Occasionally text dialogue will appear outside of the nice box on the bottom of the screen (during cutscenes) and it will appear in random colors like purple or red. While it may not sound that bad, a lot of times the text was lost in the environment, making it impossible to read with no real purpose for not being in mentioned text boxes as the rest of dialogue is.
ConclusionZenith is actually a genuinely humorous game. I did find much of the text dialogue to be funny or at the very least cringe avoiding. It fails in many regards but does deliver on a fun story to play through. Polishing would go a long way to make this game appealable; the game suffers from frame rate drops and glitches, as well as a locked camera that is at times unbearably miserable. The camera could be less of an issue if the combat was more intuitive and strategic; it's really just a hack and slash game based on luck with the skin of a comedy RPG.
Some things can be arguably overlooked and understood due to the game being an indie game (lack of voice acting, depth of equipment and loot system) as long as it could maintain a great story element, but even the features it has is too simplified or non-existant. If you can deal with the many faults found in this game, though, you will find a decent game and greatly humorous story, but it will really come down to how patient you are as a gamer to enjoy the things it does well with.
|+ Tons of Humor||- No checkpoints; only saves|
|+ Simplified RPG elements||- No voice acting|
|+ Interesting characters and personalities||- Camera angle and zoom are locked|
|+ Easy to follow the story||- Occasional glitches, frame rate drops, and tearing|
|- Long loading times|