07/03/2019

๐Ÿฆ„ Review: Eternity: The Last Unicorn "A Game Out of Time" ๐Ÿฆ„ #GameDev #IndieGame

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๐Ÿฆ„ Developer: Void Studios ๐Ÿฆ„
Rating: Melting
Platform Reviewed: Playstation 4
A game that aims high but unfortunately ends up feeling like a cancelled late-gen PS2 title that was bought, polished and released two generations too late.
Void Studios’ first release, Eternity: The Last Unicorn (E: TLU) came across as sweeping and majestic in not only it’s trailers but also through various blurbs and descriptions (not helped by the mention of ‘Elderly Scrolls’ in the latest trailer, curiously re-named ‘Addy Scrolls’ in-game). Of course, this isn’t a game that can compare with Bethesda’s behemoth titles, coming as it does from a small, new studio.
The story is that four unicorns used to guard over the land and three have been turned to the dark side, leaving a solitary unicorn in the light, which spurs our heroes into action. The playable characters are the Elven Aurehen and the Viking Bior, although both play very similarly (they are both unblinking throughout the game, for one) with the main difference being that Aurehen doesn’t run like the thickest person in the world… through invisible custard.
The game is set in what the Steam page describes as a nostalgic, fixed-camera system that ‘used to be commonly present in old-school games’. Whilst this is true, the majority of those old-school games were mostly of the survival horror or puzzle genre, it doesn’t lend itself well to a hack and slash game for reasons which will become apparent later in this review.
I will commend the game for the depth of lore, there is a lot of text in relation to the locations that you pass through as well as various scrolls to pick up and an ever-expanding glossary, however this doesn’t really capture the places you visit which are little more than a few ‘corridors’  with forked paths that require a lot of back-tracking (especially during the first couple of hours).
You’ll pick up items from defeated enemies and in chests (some of which only one character can open, naturally this is not explained to you) which mean you’ll gain a pretty hefty inventory of crafting items such as bandages and goblin ears etc. but the most important things in the game are healing items. You.Will.Spam.Them.
This brings us onto the combat which is the most bothersome part of the game. Combat in E: TLU always feels random. Firstly, enemies teleport directly in front of you and can attack you before they’ve even fully appeared on screen (at one point I was walking down a path, enemies surrounded me and I was dead before they’d even properly appeared) what’s also a challenge is that your character can only take a few hits and can easily get cornered by even weaker enemies and hacked down in a short, unbreakable loop, resulting in a lengthy re-load (the different locations also take their sweet time to load up) and due to the fixed camera, sometimes scenery or your character will block your view of the attackers, which always come in groups.
As mentioned above, the block button is pretty much totally ineffective and so the best way to attack is to get in a hit or two and dodge back, healing if necessary, this would be functional were it not for the camera which will flick between locations at certain points making viewing the combat an infuriating process, healing also takes a few seconds during which time you character can’t attack and is reduced to a slow walk, resulting in more cheap enemy hits. With the majority of enemies coming in waves, each tedious skirmish could be your last and at its worst moments, the game will require you to grind small areas for specific items in order to craft a way forward, meaning you will literally be walking up and down the same three or so paths for a while in order to kill an enemy that will drop a specific item. It’s easier to leave the area and return to it as enemies reset but that means sitting through two separate loading screens as you leave and re-enter an area.
The game features simple puzzles involving charms and glyphs which break up the combat but all too often end up in a claustrophobic boss fight with the camera jammed at an impractical angle, these lengthy battles really drive home how cumbersome the combat is because it’s hard to get a read on attack patterns or even hitboxes with some of the larger enemies. I get the impression that the lack of hand-holding and artificial difficulty is an attempt to come off as ‘Dark Souls-like’ but that doesn’t have the same impact when the issues are down to poor design.
I feel like I’ve hammered on the game, which isn’t my intention so I’ll mention some positives, the audio is pleasant enough and captures the fantastical setting of the game and the visuals, whilst generic aren’t prone to glitching (although the camera is the deadliest enemy you’ll come across) but aside from this, all other aspects feel half-baked. There’s crafting that seldom gets used, levelling up which feels like it has no effect on gameplay, repetitive, clumsy combat which isn’t satisfying and movement around the world is tedious. Mix this up with an overly grand plot that doesn’t sit with the static gameplay and what you end up with isn’t particularly noteworthy.


Summary
Eternity: The Last Unicorn isn’t a good game. It claims to be based on old-school design premises and nostalgia but that to me feels like a cop-out because it’s clear that aspects of the game don’t sit well together.
I toyed with the idea of giving this a ‘melted’ rating but through it all, it feels like the developers have just over-reached as opposed to rushing something out, I mean it has been in development for four years so it’s not something knocked out in a few months.
Either way, this feels like a game out of time, if I was writing this review for a magazine sixteen years ago, it would probably get lost in the shuffle, for a modern game? Sadly, it wouldn’t even be in the deck.
๐Ÿ’ง❄️ RATING: MELTING ❄️๐Ÿ’ง

Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Recommended with reservations, one to consider if you are a fan of the genre)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)

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