Developer: Crystal Depths Studio
Publisher: Crystal Depths Studio
Here I am again, reviewing another Action RPG. This time, I’m covering a game from the talented people over at Crystal Depths Studio, Evil Genome. Crystal Depths Studio is a Chinese studio, and from what I’ve gathered, this is their first game. Due to this, I’m going to try and give a fair review taking these things into consideration. Although, I’ll be straight with you. I didn’t like this game, so I’m going to do my very best to give the readers and developers (if you’re reading) some critical feedback that they can take away from this review. Not that I don’t plan to do that in all of my reviews, but I don’t want to particularly bash a game without thoroughly articulating why I am doing so. As a result, this will more than likely be the longest review I’ve written for this site, so far.
I’ll keep the synopsis brief. Evil Genome begins with a cinematic of our heroine, Lachesis, crashing her mech. Waking up with amnesia, she finds herself in the company of her trusty utility drone. Following the uneventful meeting, the drone and Lachesis explore the unknown land they’ve found themselves in, in search of Lachesis’s memory chip.
The voice acting for Evil Genome is pretty dry. Lachesis has a pretty decent voice actor, but her dialogue doesn’t do the performance any favors. The drone, on the other hand, delivers lines that could give Peter Dinklage a run for his money. Man in Cave is an enigma, in that, the same voice is used across a more than one NPC, but all are dubbed “Man in Cave.” Another thing to note, all the non-event dialogue that the NPCs spout when you pass by is painfully scripted. For example, whenever I pass by this woman in the desert town she makes this strange yell. So, I stepped 5ft. ahead of her, and headed back towards her in the opposite direction. She does the exact same yell. It’s not only her either, every NPC can be triggered to do the exact same passing chatter as they did when you walked passed them the first time. I understand some repeated dialogue, but there isn’t even a five-second delay before they repeat themselves.
Strange. I can’t seem to find “Man in Cave” in the creature database.
In addition to the voices, the sound effects don’t stand out much, either. Every time Lachesis hits an enemy, I’m greeted with the same sound effect. The only exception to this is when I use unique skills like “Energy Trap,” for example. In that case, I’m greeted with an explosion because it’s a landmine. Coupled with this, the background music only seems to change during boss fights and every new area you go to. Mind you, the areas are decently sized so you’ll be hearing the same track for a couple hours at least.
Now, to get into the combat. Evil Genome puts on a good show with its combat. In that, I enjoy leveling up to see the new skills and the animations that follow, but I don’t enjoy the combat mechanics. To put it plainly, the combat is clunky. It’s not the fluid combat you see from games of the same genre in which Evil Genome draws inspiration. Games such as Strider, Furi, and most recently ICEY, incorporate combat systems that are smooth and flexible. Evil Genome, on the other hand, has a lot of seconds of downtime between dodge rolls, sword combos, and aerial movements. I can’t think of any time where I was able to successfully dodge an attack and move straight into the following combo. To elaborate, I don’t understand why I’m limited to three dodge rolls on a cooldown timer, or why there’s a good two-second delay before you can dodge again, but it’s very aggravating and disrupts the flow of combat. As a result, these elements build up to an overall unenjoyable combat experience.
Since it was one of the more enjoyable portions of the mechanics, I want to add more detail to the skill tree. The skill tree is very large and confusing. In that regard, it’s very reminiscent of the Final Fantasy X sphere grid tree, which isn’t a good thing, because that was a redundantly complex skill system. While I personally enjoyed it, I can imagine Evil Genome’s skill tree being aggravating to many players due to its complication. Had I not been experienced with RPG skill trees, talent trees, and the like, I could have had a lot of trouble with the three skill tree paths and sub-paths that it later branches in to.
In between combat, there are occasionally save points. Although, these save points are pretty rare. The repercussions of dying before reaching a save point means some really bad rollbacks for the player. While I understand they might have wanted to include a moderate level of difficulty by allowing repercussions for dying, instantly dying to a spike trap can sometimes set me back as far as half an hour. At these save points you can also shop for healing items and buy equipment. The healing items are fairly priced, but I ended using them so often due to the erratic dodging mechanics. As such, I was spending a large chunk of my money on them consistently. Additionally, the equipment vendor was always selling useless junk equipment and the store inventories never seemed to change over time. Due to this, I never bought equipment and instead used the enhance equipment option on the equipment I looted. This proved to be a remotely similar system to the Final Fantasy XIII’s (dare I invoke the name) weapon enhancement system albeit vaguer.
The visual elements are not too bad. It’s a fairly good looking game for what I imagine wasn’t an enormous budget. The first level has a nice desert background with many enemies you would expect to see in a desert such as scorpions and some odd-looking hedgehog creatures. Each area has a few bosses as well. The bosses have some unique designs and attack animations and patterns, which I suppose is the reward for the arduous journey to their lair.
This segues to the final point I want to make, the incentive to continue playing. The player reward. The dopamine rush from playing a video game. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t get this kind of feeling when I play Evil Genome. I spent time leveling up to see if the idea of getting further into the talent tree got me excited, and it didn’t. Perhaps the thrill of the boss fights will keep me going? Nope. I cleared a handful of boss battles, and they had unique attack patterns, but they didn’t feel like they brought anything new to the table. The only thing the boss battles really did were remind me of how much I hate the dodging in the game. Is it the story that is meant to keep me around? No, the story is pretty bland, and I never felt attached to Lachesis for a second. Overall, this makes me wonder what exactly the developers had in mind when they were making Evil Genome. Usually, an Action RPG drives one or more of these features home in order to capture the players’ attention (most often with combat) and keep them playing. However, I just didn’t get the feeling with Evil Genome. All the parts that make up this game are there and are performing their functions, but there’s no specific functionality to this machine that seems to shine.
Overall, I believe that Crystal Depths Studio is a talented team, and Evil Genome is by no means a horrible game, but it’s a game that’s bogged down by its lack of polish. There’s a plethora of successful Action RPGs, Metroidvania, and Hack-and-Slash games in which the developers could have drawn inspiration from. Instead, it feels like a game that ignored good reference material to strike out on its own, and as a result, led it to the same pitfalls that plagued early iterations of the genre.
Final Verdict: At Evil Genome’s asking price of $15, I can’t vouch for you getting your money’s worth without a sale. All in all, I would not get Evil Genome without doing some research on it beforehand.
[Note: This product was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.]