Game Review: The Serpent Rogue

It’s not too often these days that you come across a game that offers up a description which makes you stop and scratch your head. Developer Sengi Games and publisher Team17 bring you The Serpent Rogue. Now, I could sit here and type out why this made me stop and scratch my head but I think I’ll let the devs do that themselves.

The Serpent Rogue is a botanical action-adventure game set in a medieval fantasy world. Master the art of alchemy, explore forgotten lands, tame wild beasts and protect the realm from impending disaster. You will craft, brew, boil, & concoct potions all in your stead to defeat an ominous danger!

Yes, you read that right. A botanical action-adventure game. No, I have no idea what that meant either when I first read it, but do you know what? It looked pretty damn good.

The Serpent Rogue was a title I knew nothing about. I’ve not been following this one and only learned of it via some random browsing. Yet, just the idea of being sent on a botanical adventure got me interested. You play as an unnamed alchemist known only as The Warden. When the titular Serpent Rogue appears on Mount Morbus, it begins to spread its evil through the land. This is where you come in, as The Warden is tasked with using his alchemy to defeat the evil and stop The Serpent Rogue from taking over the land.

In terms of the story, there is nothing here that is outstanding or really very original at all. Naughty evil turns up and you have to stop it. However, how The Serpent Rogue plays and how it combines several gameplay ideas is rather great. There is some basic combat here, equip a weapon and swing it and a bad guy kind of basic. If I were to highlight a disappointment with the game, then the combat would be it. There is a block button and all you have to do is hold down block, wait for an opening and attack. Very little skill is required and there is minimal variation. As I said, the combat here is basic. But everything else? Well, it’s actually pretty damn involved.

THE SERPENT ROGUE SCREEN 1

There’s a lot of exploration and the map offers up plenty for you to see and do. Lots of NPCs to interact with, hidden areas to discover and more. Then there is the resource gathering that you’ll need for crafting. Strip bushes of any berries, pluck leaves, chop up planks to make wood and going fishing are just the tip of the iceberg. With those resources, you’ll need to research them to find out what properties they have and how best to use them. Then you need recipes to follow, recipes that can be used to cook, craft and concoct a plethora of items. Make (degradable) weapons and tools, upgrade those weapons and tools. Cook food to help with your survival and feed animals (that you also need to research) to befriend them. Then there is the potion making, oh boy is that a lot of fun.

You can make a wide variety of potions. Some of these potions can do the usual of topping up your health and so on, but then there are potions that you can use to change yourself into a wide variety of creatures. Or you can even turn your enemies into animals and make fights a bit easier. Having trouble against a particularly tricky foe… just turn it into a rat and smack it in the face. Of course, making these potions goes back to the whole resource gathering, research and all that gubbins. It’s not as if you can just pull out a potion and away you go. You really need to think ahead, use your ingredients sparingly and well. In terms of crafting and so on, The Serpent Rogue really offers quite a lot of depth. You can’t just jump in to this game and hit the ground running. There is a lot of crawling before you can walk and a lot of walking before you can run. This also brings with it another bugbear.

THE SERPENT ROGUE SCREEN 2

The Serpent Rogue just throws you in at the deep end from the moment you start the game. There is a lack of a tutorial outside of done very light guidance and you will get lost in all this game has to offer very early on. You’ll spend the first few hours using a lot of trial and error as you get used to all the mechanics here. I had to restart my game four times as I did things that made progression pretty damn difficult just because I had to play around and experiment with things, all because the game itself doesn’t tell you much. Even if you are experienced with these types of crafting and exploration games, there’s still a lot to take in and a lack of a tutorial does make things rather aggravating at first. Still, stick with it, learn from your mistakes and The Serpent Rogue offers up a rather impressive and deep game.

Even things you do in the game will shape the world you are in, as there is a cause and effect thing going on. If you kill a lot of enemies and leave the corpses around, that will attract ghouls. Choose to stockpile items in one place and you may attract unwanted attention. Leave food lying around and don’t be surprised when a large mischief of rats turns up. Plus, while the map layouts will always be the same, the enemies, items and so on are randomly generated. There is so much variation here that everybody’s playthrough will be unique to them.

THE SERPENT ROGUE SCREEN 3

Around £15 is the asking price for The Serpent Rogue and that is a good price point too. You do get a lot of game here with a lot of variety. The lack of a tutorial for a game this deep and the rather bland combat is a negative, but they are more of a slight annoyance than anything truly detrimental. The Serpent Rogue will be released on PC (via Steam) and all consoles within hours of me pressing the publish button on this review and I say you should give this one a go.

Game Review: Greak: Memories of Azur

Normally, when I do a review, I usually start with some pithy introduction. I’m not going to bother here as I really just want I get stuck into this one. Greak: Memories of Azur is a stylistic 2D action-platformer from developer Navegante Entertainment and publisher Team17. As I said, I just want to get stuck in with this, here’s a trailer so you can see just how ‘effing stunning the game looks.

That’s the first thing I want to cover, as that was the first thing that hit me when I played, those awesome visuals. The art style is this wonderful hand-drawn thing that really is stunningly beautiful. Coupled with some amazingly smooth and detailed animation, then wrapped up in an awesome looking world that is just as visually pleasing as everything else. Greak: Memories of Azur is a very easy game to fall in love with purely based on its amazingly impressive art and animation. Sadly, in this case, I need to break out an oft-used phrase. Beauty is only skin deep.

Kicking off with the obligatory tutorial where you are introduced to the game’s controls and mechanics. Being a 2D action-platformer, you’ll pretty much know how to play Greak: Memories of Azur before you even pick up the controller. That is not necessarily a bad thing either, there’s something very comforting about familiarity and understanding a game right from the off is always very welcome. So yeah, this is pretty much your bog-standard 2D action-platformer that you have probably played dozens of times already. That is not to say that the game doesn’t have any new ideas, it does and one very specific idea that is the game’s unique selling point. Only, it’s not a good one. But before I do get to that.

GREAK SCREEN !

Honestly, Greak: Memories of Azur is perhaps a bit too familiar. Yup the core 2D action-platforming gameplay is there and in that regard, it is very competent. Alas, the quests you get sent on are all too generic and plain Jane. Fetch quests where you have to collect so many of one item and return to the quest giver. Collect ingredients to do a spot of cooking, all topped off with huge amounts of backtracking of course. Everything here has just been done so many times before that the game never really offers anything new or interesting to get your teeth into.

There is one thing that the game does differently, that unique selling point I alluded to earlier. See, you don’t control one character in Greak: Memories of Azur, you actually control three. the titular Greak is just one of three siblings in the game as he is joined by Adara and Raydel. All three have their own abilities and skills. Greak favours melee combat and has a very handy double-jump ability. Adara uses magic attacks, while her jump is aided by a floating skill. Then there is Raydel who is a hefty sword and shield type of fella and he uses a handy hookshot to get around. Now, after the introduction to the game (where you are split up), you’ll eventually get to control all three characters and use all of their skills. Swapping between characters is as easy as tapping the D-pad. Alternatively, you can actually control all three characters at once by holding down one of the trigger buttons… and this is where the game falls apart.

GREAK SCREEN 2

There are multiple times in Greak: Memories of Azur when you’ll need two or all three of the characters to get past one of the game’s many (but seen it all before) puzzles. Traversing with all three (or even just two) characters is just an utter pain in the arse. Because all three characters play differently with different jump mechanics, you can’t do something as simple as jump a gap with more than one character. As an example, there was a point where I had to jump from a platform to a swinging rope that was above a pit of spikes. Now, controlling all three characters, with each one jumping differently, only one of the three made it to the rope while the other two fell on the spikes. That is just one of many examples where the whole multi-character thing falls apart. Honestly, you’re better off just leaving the other two characters behind and playing it with just the one… which kind of destroys the whole unique selling point of the game and renders it redundant.

But of course, there are parts of Greak: Memories of Azur where you need all three characters. So you have to use the multi-character thing… which is just too damn annoying. Then there’s the stupidly restrictive inventory. You only start with three slots, which you can add to by buying upgrades… but to get the coin for those upgrades, you’ll need to grind and grind and grind some more. The thing about the restrictive inventory is that even key quest items take up a slot, sometimes more than one slot. Plus, you’ll need to carry healing items (trust me, you really, really need to carry healing items). Then you’ll also be carrying ingredients to make those healing items too. Basically, when it comes to inventory, there’s a layer of micromanagement that really shouldn’t be there in a game like this. But do you know what’s worse? There is in-game dialogue from the various NPCs that point out your lack of an inventory. So the devs went out of their way to code in NPCs that comment on your lack of an inventory instead of just giving you a bigger inventory?

GREAK SCREEN 3

Now, Greak: Memories of Azur is not a terrible game, it’s not even a bad game. It’s just a very ‘meh’ game with a few niggles that become bigger issues and ruin the gameplay later. Seriously, if this had dropped the multi-character thing and given you a bigger inventory from the start, it could’ve been a good little 2D action-platformer. Sure, it wouldn’t have broken the mould or anything, but it would’ve been so much more enjoyable and playable. With a price point of around £16/$19, I suggest waiting for a sale, even with it being as drop-dead gorgeous as it is.