WRATH: Aeon of Ruin is currently in Steam’s Early Access program, so it should be noted that my opinions stated in this review were formulated based on the current state of the game as of this writing.
The game starts with no preamble; it simply drops you into the first world hub, Mourningvale. In the Early Access version, there is no story or dialogue to speak of; they're saving it for the full release. Honestly? I didn't miss it. I'm sure the story will add a bit more to the overall package but I play titles like this for the fast-paced carnage and the enjoyment of uncovering each level's secrets. Your primary goal is to make it through the level and grab the relic at the end of each one. As is, there are about 3-4 hours of gameplay spread across two levels (The Undercrofts and The Mire) but that depends on how much of a completionist you are. The game conveniently tracks how many of the level's enemies you have killed, whether or not you've obtained that level's relic, and how many of the secrets you've uncovered. The game saves the state of the level so if you choose to return after clearing it, the level will be just as you left it, so you won't have to worry about killing all those enemies over again. According to the developer’s roadmap they are planning on adding in the rest of the levels for the first hub world during Early Access and aiming for a full release in summer 2020. The full release is slated to include (aside from the story elements) another two hub worlds with five levels a piece; a bunch of lore to be found; multiplayer deathmatch mode; and more weapons and enemies among other stuff.
Weapons weapons WEAPONS! With a game like this, of course we have to take a good look at what you’ll be smiting demonic hordes with, and true to the genre each one comes with an alternate firing mode. In my opinion though, while the alternate fire should be more useful than the regular, it often feels like I’m doing less damage. There are five in the game so far, and while they could be called traditional in terms of functions, style-wise they are far from it. You start off with only the Blade of Ruination; a wicked-looking blade attached to your bracer that can unleash a lunging attack that can plow through multiple monsters when using the alt. fire button. What is also cool about the lunge is that when used in conjunction with the jump, it can help propel the user into areas he normally wouldn’t be able to reach. The Coach Gun and Shotgun function as a regular handgun and shotgun would, respectively. Alt. fire with the Coach Gun fires off three bullets at once, while the Shotgun charges up for a ricochet shot. The Fang Spitter fires rapid machinegun-like fangs at the target while alt. fire mode launches a pair of fangs that will slightly home in on the enemy if your aim is close enough. Last but not least, the Retcher is a small catapult-like weapon that slings exploding green globs that bounce and explode on enemy contact, while the alt. fire shoots off three in rapid succession. For the most part, I found myself alternating between the Retcher for heavy enemies and the Shotgun for just about everything else. I love me some boomsticks, can’t beat a classic.
Artifacts are special consumable items that can be found around the world. Some have combat applications but others are more like utilities. For example; there are limited save shrines to be found per level and they can be only activated once each. That's where the artifact Soul Tether comes into play. Using a Soul Tether saves your current progress anywhere, anytime, but since they're finite you need to use them strategically. Drowner's Apparatus allows you to breathe underwater for a limited time. On the flip side, an artifact like Cruel Aegis takes some of your character's life force but grants you temporary invincibility. Other than the Soul Tether, I didn't feel it was necessary to use the other artifacts other than to try them out for the review. I'm fairly certain that you'll need to rely on them more in later levels but take that with a grain of salt.
Built using the original Quake Engine, WRATH authentically looks and feels the part of a 90's run n' gun blast 'em up but with slicker pixelated visuals. I feel like I'm back in my childhood days, sitting at my uncle's DOS playing episode 1 of Wolfenstein 3D over and over while waiting for the next episode disk to arrive in the mail. The marketing materials claim that 'The veins of WRATH pump with the DNA of revered 90's shooters.' And with what I’ve played so far, I would have to enthusiastically agree. If you're like me and you grew up playing id and 3D Realms games like Doom, Hexen, Wolfenstein, Quake, and Duke Nukem 3D then you're going to feel right at home with WRATH: Aeon of Ruin. I can’t promise you how it will look a year out from now, but as-is? WRATH is a hell of a fun blast to the past.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 8.5/10
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