Friday, May 9, 2014

Feature Friday #9 - Undead Slayer

Every Friday on our blog I’ll feature a game that’s doing something unique, innovative, and truly noteworthy. This isn’t just an app review; it’s an analytical look at a fresh game from the perspective of someone within the game industry. ~~~ Let’s talk about extremes. This week I’ve been playing Undead Slayer, an RPG brawler that was thrown my way by a colleague (shout out to Sachin!), and it’s truly one of the deepest free-to-play games I’ve played in a long time. Through a few days of playing I appear to be only a fraction of the way through the story, and I’m still unlocking new features. The graphics are awesome; gameplay is fun, innovative, and challenging; even the aforementioned story balances humor and intrigue really well. So this game is extremely good, right? Yes, but there’s a but… It crashes. A lot. That’s extremely bad. This game marks virtually every box on the proverbial checklist, except the most important one: playability. I’m going to largely dwell on the good because that’s the overall impression I have of this game. Undead Slayer seems like an early-to-mid 2000’s console RPG, and I mean that very much as a compliment. The story is more than just present, it’s funny and even a little engaging, lightheartedly poking fun at popular tropes and mechanics within the genre. The graphics are reminiscent of that era of games, and look surprisingly good on a four-inch screen. Its one-touch movement and auto-attacking also work incredibly well, and makes Undead Slayer essentially a one-handed game, despite its landscape layout. The RPG elements - upgrades, skills, allies - are well-weighted, complex, and varied enough to keep you playing for quite a while; the map system not only looks neat, but also provides depth to the game by creating distinct regions; and best of all, Undead Slayer features two equally engaging, interacting game modes. I’ll unpack this a bit and offer my one critique of the gameplay itself.

Quick, which is Undead Slayer, and which is Dark Cloud?!? Just kidding...
Undead Slayer opens with the option to create an account or play as a guest (a huge plus in my book!), then leaves you to choose Story Mode or Extreme Mode. The first time playing through I was only feeling mild, so I opted for the former. Story Mode is everything I’ve already described, unravelling features like character training, bonus levels, and adding allies sporadically through the early levels. The last of these is my favorite, as gaining more powerful allies is only possible by playing Extreme Mode. This phase of the game is largely similar to Story Mode in the way it plays - waves of enemies, ending with a boss - but leaves out the story element. It also lets you access all powerups, in contrast to only the ones you’ve unlocked, as in story mode (it does seem that the rarer, more powerful attacks are less common, but that could just by my perception or small sample size). Extreme Mode is a ton of fun, and I honestly could’ve written a whole column about this aspect of the game, but it also features an unpopular F2P mechanic. Unlike Story Mode, where players can progress at whatever rate their skill allows, Extreme Mode requires a Key for each go. Keys replenish over time, or can be bought with IAP; this game features an energy wall. I really don’t mind IAP most of the time (how dare developers try to make money off of their work!?!), and all things considered, this isn’t a big deal; players who can’t get enough can simply go back to Story Mode and grind or advance to their heart’s content. Regardless, this irks me a bit. As thoughtful as Undead Slayer is throughout, I’m disappointed they resorted to such an unimaginative and overplayed mechanic. Little takes away from the fun I had playing Undead Slayer, and that's what matters. Ultimately, the game is extremely good. I'll mention that it takes some liberties showing both gore and scantily-clad cartoon babes - maybe not the most kid-friendly game around - but as with most aspects so far, they fit right into the overall feel of the title. ~~~ Undead Slayer is a fantastic game, and you can get it for free on Android and iOS. According to e27, “Undead Slayer was actually developed by Hidea, a one-man development startup run by Dong-kyu Kim from South Korea. Publisher Hangame is a subsidiary of NHN”, and one-man startups are cool, so there’s that. If you’re into hack-and-slash, RPGs, gratuitous animated violence and cleavage, or just really good mobile games, check this out. Josh Dombro Community Manager

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