Great Components, but the Fighting Got in the Way for Me
Sigh.........This game was very highly anticipated for me. I am a huge Zelda fan and being all of the rumors that I heard about this being a Zelda clone, I came into this hoping that I would get my classic Zelda gameplay, but in a shiny new wrapper. At the outset of this game I was totally in heaven. All of the Zelda hallmarks were there and I was having a blast. The thing that was a let down for me though was not the Zelda elements, but rather the God of War/DMC style swordplay.
Let me first touch base on what made this game really good. All of the components that the developers put into play here worked really well. They took the dungeons of Zelda, mashed it with the fighting of God of War and threw in a bit of Panzer Dragoon for flair. It works.....The Zelda style dungeons and weapons were spot on almost to a comical point and for the most part the puzzles were decent. There were a few points in the game, namely the fourth dungeon where the path forward was not clearly laid out, but for the most part it all worked.
The story was also fun as well. You set out as the horseman War on a quest to find out why you were summoned and why the end of the world happened.
There was one component in this game that really got on my nerves though and that was the fighting mechanic. Now technically it was implemented pretty well. If you are a fan of the God of War or Devil May Cry series you will see where the fighting goes here. There is a healthy dosage of combos and such thrown in too. The problem however is that I just cannot stand that style of fighting mechanic incorporated into this style of game. The big issue was that the fighting sequences almost always involved a situation where the game would lock down a room that you had to clear before moving on. This just took all of the momentum out of the game and for the most part just resulted in frustrating fighting sequences that I wanted to be over as quirky as possible. I had no enjoyment in these moments at all and I often found them occurring right before I was about to tackle or right after I completed a puzzle element. In both of those situations my mind is focused on the puzzle aspect of the game and the fighting just felt like a stalling tactic to make the game longer.
I also had several frustration moments that were similar to problems I had in Bayonetta where I found myself backed into a corner by a group of enemies only to get pummeled. Being that health often times only seemed to come from chest I felt like I was always just on the wire while I scrambled to get from point to point. Adding the complex fighting elements also added a complexity to the controls that you just don't see in the Zelda games. Because the game had to manage combos for several different weapons, most of these combos have to be pulled off using a crazy contortion of the fingers, place in just the right way with just the right timing. I never felt fully comfortable with all of the tasks that ended up being assigned to the right bumper button. It sort of operated as a "shift" key and I often times found myself pressing it and hitting some other button on accident and triggering something I did not want to. Countless times I implemented the wrath transformation when I really just wanted to utilize one of my special moves. This same but also acts as your dash button. Why couldn't anything be mapped to the left bumper?
The game also features a lot of backtracking either within the dungeons or within the over world elements themselves. That in and of itself is not the worst thing in the world, but when you have to traverse these areas several times, only to constantly come across repopulated enemies (that are often times more difficult), the momentum again just gets ground to a halt. After the first dungeon or so you begin to recognize the backtracking and when you do come across a health chest you almost have to pause and consider whether you really should utilize it now or if you should wait for when you come back. Problem is you have no idea if the three health bars you have will get you throughout the next area, or if you will be full when you come back this way the second time.
It could be that I just hate the combat in general, but i felt it just killed any forward momentum I felt I had in the game. The Zelda series always allowed the player to progress through areas with either quick encounters with enemies or by bypassing them altogether. The constant stopping to take on a five minute encounter just killed me in the end to the point where I wanted to throw the controller in frustration. The fighting mechanic worked great in most boss battle scenarios, but on the whole dragged the game down. Everything else though was pretty spot on and was developed in a very interesting world.