Review: Razenroth

Store page / View this review on Steam

Review copy provided by developer via Curator Connect

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I can usually appreciate a game if it accomplishes what it sets out to do. Not every title needs to be some huge, multi-faceted epic, and sometimes I prefer simpler games of smaller scope. Razenroth tells a very simple story, and gives you simple tools to accomplish your quest. But I went into it with little in the way of expectations, and still found myself disappointed. The thing is, no matter the scope of your game, it needs to meet some basic levels of engagement and gratification, and there just wasn’t enough of either to keep me with it.

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Charles Carter is on the trail of his missing grandfather, Joseph. He didn’t just wander down to the horse track though. A trail of clues leads Charles to a forgotten place called the Valley of Whispers, and a cabin that appears to have once housed Joseph. But dark forces are afoot, twisting the surrounding forest into a nightmare landscape of dead trees and ravenous monsters. Fortunately for Charles, this trauma has brought out a powerful talent for magic which he can use to blast his foes. There are plenty in his way though, and completing his dark odyssey will require a little help in the form of new gear and spells to take on tougher foes.

Razenroth is another twin-stick shooter, played from a bird’s-eye view of the accursed woods. Charles starts out with magic shots on left click and a big shot on right, and as you guide him through the randomly-generated landscapes you’ll find coins, crystals, gear, and new spells to keep him competitive with the foul beasts around. There’s also a leveling system which allows you to enhance stats and pick some minor gameplay perks every few levels. Among the items you can find are helpful familiars, randomized gear, and plenty of health and mana pickups to keep you fighting.

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This all must sound pretty boilerplate, and in fact that’s the problem with the whole thing. I can’t point to anything that Razenroth does that’s unique to the genre or better than other versions of it. The map is just a chain of  random boxes, with a very conspicuous hallway always leading to the boss. The combat feels weightless, as enemies shrug off attacks and spontaneously splatter when taking fatal damage. There’s really no exciting loot to look for, and the meta-progression requires multiple runs of currency just to start a proper grind for. After 15-20 minutes of this, I found myself struggling to focus on the game mainly because there’s no real variety between the levels. The backdrops look different and the enemies are a bit faster or weirder-looking, but it’s the same lightweight strafing and shooting the whole way through.

As happens with so many indie titles, no one on the development side ever seemed to step back and question if what they were making was fun. It works, of course… you can zap monsters and collect coins and die if you don’t pay attention to your foes. But there really feels like there’s nothing to work for, nothing to keep you coming back to the same woods, fighting the same monsters, and so on. Razenroth could probably be good with some more engaging level design and characters, but as it stands the memories are already halfway out the door.

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