Zenith Review: Writing First, Gameplay Later

September 29th, 2016 -

There certainly are a lot of adventurers that are tasked with saving the world in games. Ever think that maybe those adventurers are the cause of the issues, and are only solving problems that they created in the first place? Argus Windell has lived the life and knows the fate some young adventurers will end up uncovering, and he hopes to put a stop to it before the world unravels. But he’s also retired, and not really wanting to do any of that, so…

1

Zenith starts off promising, with what you’d expect from any ARPG. However, similar to The Bard’s Tale from 2004, it has fun with the tropes associated with the genre. Your captives question you as you tell them of a deadly squad of singing spiders. After your bluff is called, the spiders show up, start singing, and attack the elves. A great start to this adventure, but one that sadly does not live up to the intro.

While the game is very much a parody, with the writing obviously being at the forefront of development, it lacks a lot of polish on the part that is ultimately most important – the game portion itself. That’s not to say a game with substandard gameplay and excellent writing can’t be fun (some would argue this with Telltale), but Zenith doesn’t have a masterful story to tell. It’s a familiar one with a twist, and the apathetic traits of Argus – while amusing for the most part – don’t exactly translate to a gripping plot that has you begging for more.

The fighting, which is the main part of the game outside of writing, feels very clunky and unnatural. The tactics they want used almost seem like they tried to implement the Dark Souls attack and dodge mechanic. But you end up getting hit as you roll away with no real strategy to learn other than to use spells, and the hit box is unclear as many AOE attack animations and casting fields are nowhere near you yet still cause damage. Another issue you’ll run into a lot is the menu system only works half of the time. By this, I mean when trying to use new equipment or consume a potion from the equipment page, the game doesn’t register any input and requires you to back out and re-enter for it to work properly.

2

The game’s aesthetic choices aren’t superb either. While I’m not expecting the best animations or set pieces in an indie developed game, I do expect the main character to have a competent run cycle. Maybe it’s because I’ve made plenty of run cycles over the years, but there is a lot wrong with poor ol’ Argus. He looks like he throws his back out every time he completes the cycle. The worst part is that other characters have less jarring runs, which made me wonder – why not give him a normal one and everyone else weird ones to propel the point of the uppity adventurers? I know he’s retired, but it’s not like his run cycle from his adventuring days of the game is any different.

Speaking of adventurers, you will see “cameos” from other games, such as Claude (Cloud), Aris (Aeris) and Titus (Tidus) near the beginning of the game. At first I thought they’d just be scattered throughout as asides to kind of laugh at, but they are actually written into the story. Not bad, per se, but the pandering seemed a bit overdone. There are some that are implemented well, such as the “cloaked” man or woman, who you can approach and say something like “erm, nice cloak.”

3

The story and the idea propelling this game is not a bad one. Being a mage, becoming a potionist, and then trying to stop some young punks from making the mistakes you did in the past is a great premise. As I mentioned, the writing is by no means bad. I laughed quite a few times while playing through. The lacking part is the gameplay. Zenith has a lot of potential, but lets you down pretty quickly with uninspired fighting mechanics, lack of polish, and a predictably apathetic lead.

ACQUIRE

Pros

  • Parody Humor

Cons

  • Fighting
  • Janky Animations
  • QA Seems Lacking

Zenith was developed by Infinigon and published by BadLand Games. The game launched on PC and PS4 September 20th, 2016 for $14.99 and $19.99, respectively. It is expected to launch September 30th on X1 for $19.99. The game was provided to us for review on PS4. If you’d like to see more of Zenith, check out the official site.

 

Here at FFoP we use a rating method that you may be unfamiliar with, so allow us to clarify. When we review a game, we see what sort of BRA fits. Buy, Rent, or Acquire is the rating we give out – we’ve boiled it down for simplicity. A Buy is worth the full retail value; a Rent is something you may want to try before you buy, or grab at a discount; an Acquire is something you can play, but we’d suggest borrowing it from someone, grabbing it in a game bundle, or some other means. If you want further clarification, please feel free to get in touch.

  • Hilarious RPG, with cool combat style, interesting story, great dialogues and many references to other games/books/movies (my favorite is a dialogue between the protagonist and Voldemort).
    The only con is the inventory HUD, especially because the only way to organize it is selling stuff and buying it again in the order you want.
    But despite that, this game is so awesome that it’s quickly become one of my favorites.

    Great review!

    Comment by Justin on December 18, 2016

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