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Zenith – Review

October 14th, 2019 by

Zenith 001From the outset, Zenith forcefully conveys its difference from other modern Action-RPGs with its distinctive aesthetic, satirical humour and ArcanePunk setting, and while it achieves this aim, it is not all a positive distinction.

When we meet our protagonist, Argus Wendell, he has been apprehended by Elves from the Homogeny, who are currently at war with the empire that Argus serves as an Imperial Wizard and member of the Infinigon. It is in this first conversation that the level of humour is established, as Argus attempts to distract his captors with tales of running from “Tenor Spiders” that sing as they attack, only for the camera to pan to reveal the very Spiders the Elves mocked awaiting their moment to pounce, accompanied by an acapella attack song.

The story continues apace with Argus and his mage colleagues racing to unlock a forgotten temple before the Elves, recovering an ancient artifact that could turn the tide of the war and earning promotions for their efforts.

The story then jumps forward seven years, to find Argus has settled down in a quiet town to become a potionist, (the most maligned role for a Mage), and the empire has collapsed entirely in the intervening years. It is not long before you discover adventurers are sniffing about a nearby dungeon and Argus is catapulted back into the world of elves, empires and ancient weapons.

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Combat is a rather simplified affair, even for an Action-RPG. Holding the right trigger blocks but utlises mana to sustain, and the face buttons are your primary attack, dodge and magic attacks you can equip with gems and scrolls you find throughout the game in chests and from vendors. Each of your attacks corresponds to one of three elements; fire, ice or earth and there are three weapon types for your primary attack; a sword, a hammer and a armoured fist, each with their own combination attack for your primary. While this may sound like a decent variation of options, it is extremely limited by the control system in game. As an action RPG, everything is direct and should you encounter numerous enemies, which is the case for the most part, any blocking drains your mana extremely fast, which limits the skills you can use.
Within the first few encounters, I had done away with attempting to block as a waste of resource as it restricted use to only the primary attack, and with no targetting system to speak of, it can be quite hit and miss to get attacks to hit the right target, especially when the area is crowded.

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Levelling up, if you haven’t guessed the theme by now, is defined primarily by one of three trees corresponding to the elements central to the game, and can add everything from additional corresponding elemental resistance to additional combo moves to your primary attack.

Throughout the game you will find or buy armour that can boost your stats, and to look at it it may seem quite complex, but in reality the only benefit I could see was the benefit you get from moving from one level of gear to the next, and that only really had a minimal impact on combat survivalbility throughout. 90% of the combat ended up either running from fights against enemies that i found did significantly more damage to me, than I did to them, or purely running the numbers on whether I would be able to burn through them faster than they could kill me. Although dodging is possible it rarely avoided damage and i found standing my ground and only dodging the big attacks would see me through most encounters.

This is exarcebated by the potion system in game. Each potion type is on a timer, so you can alternate using minor and major potions, but the latter only appeared to buy or drop around three quarters of the way through the campaign, by which time their use was relatively limited and the timer continues to count in the overworld, so there were occassions that I sat around waiting for the recharge to expire.

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Aesthetically, Zenith put my in mind of early PS2 era games, that on the big screen appeared quite blocky and cumbersome but seemed to be more bearable in handheld mode, and while the audio had a pleasant old school vibe that added weight to the scripted sections, it did become extremely repetitive at times.
Despite the clunky and sometimes frustrating combat, the relatively light touch armoury, skill and weapon systems, and the clunky controls I found I enjoyed the game overall. It was short enough to keep things interesting and moving along at a decent pace while the unique story, quirky dialogue and numerous nods to rpg tropes and pop culture hit the mark more often than not.

 

Midlife Gamer Rating: 5/10     Format:  Switch/PC/PS4/XBOX    Release Date: Out Now

Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Zenith  by the publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of  one week. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.

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