Review: AMID EVIL
Review copy provided by publisher
Once you get far enough out from the classics of the genre, you start getting homages to that early era of gaming. It happened with pixel platformers, point-and-clicks, and now first-person shooters from the chunky 90s. Titles like DUSK seek to revive those very specific feelings first conjured by originators like Quake, with AMID EVIL joining the bloody fray to pay homage to the likes of Heretic and Hexen. But AMID EVIL excels in remarkable ways that put it ahead of the retro revival pack, and even thrust it to the forefront of the FPS genre as a whole. There are few games that have given me such a visceral, memorable rush as this one, which leaves it to stand as one of my all-time favorites among shooters.
You are the unnamed Champion, chosen by the gods to deliver the many realms of existence from a darkness that threatens them. From the Gateway of the Ancients, you set out into six worlds that have fallen to corruption, overrun with the forces of a nameless evil. Traveling to fortresses, cathedrals, factories, towers, ruins, and even great stretches of void, you must battle back the evil to reach and defeat the guardians preventing you from confronting the source. Mighty though it is, your battle axe will not be enough to cull the hordes, so you will find six other weapons of arcane power to dispense death upon your foes with. Once you have freed the six realms and left their invaders as nothing but blood and limbs, you can take a stand against the unspeakable force that hides just beyond the veil, pulling the strings of corruption.
I love me some poetic license but honestly I don’t think I’m even doing the scope of AMID EVIL justice there. Starting out, you’ll have access to the first two episodes in order, one a collection of castles and fortresses and there other a landscape of otherworldly ruins. Once those two are complete you’ll have free access to the other four, with themes ranging from sun-touched towers to cold, alien machinery to islands floating in the very planes of existence. Each episode is four levels, three lengthy areas to explore and a grand boss encounter, and will probably take you around an hour per episode your first time through. These episodes have their own unique enemies to match their themes, and play quite differently owing to the diverse layouts and atmospheres you’ll encounter.
Unlike the gritty hell complexes of DUSK, the levels of AMID EVIL are vibrant, beautiful, and awe-inspiring. I’m not saying the immense foundries and cathedrals of DUSK aren’t awe-inspiring, but the vistas of AMID EVIL look taken right from painted posters and album covers of the 80s. Never have I been so fully immersed in unique, inventive fantasy realms as this, whirling with arcane machinery and gazing out over infinite expanses. The Arcane Expanse levels feature ornate citadels floating in their own universes, traversable by floating orbs of water. The Forges have a dark, metallic motif with alien structures and grinding gears. There’s a boss that you fight in a swirling void that was equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. And the final episode features perhaps the most creative and beautiful levels I have ever seen in an FPS.
None of this would matter if the foes didn’t live up to this majesty, but they are just as deadly as their worlds are striking. Each episode gets around half a dozen enemies specific to it, from golems and constructs to knights and wizards to spirits and elementals depending on the theme. These beings have diverse attack patterns, whether they be hanging back and slinging walls of fire to leaping nearly the entire length of the level to bury axes in your face. Your tactics in taking them down will need to be just as diverse, and the many creative landscapes you’ll engage them in provides a wealth of variety for combat.
Notable also is your arsenal, a small assortment of magical weapons that still feels more than adequate for the task. Beyond your battle axe you’ll find six weapons that run off of four colors of mana. Blue weapons include a staff that rapid-fires homing spheres and a trident that shoots a storm of accurate lightning bolts. Your green weapons are a scimitar that launches energy waves and a spiked mace that fires shotgun blasts of crystals that pin enemies to the wall all the way in the next zip code. Orange mana is reserved for a staff that shoots exploding planets; yes, entire planets. And your purple weapon is an homage to the BFG, releasing orbs that disintegrate everything nearby. Enemies also drop souls you can use to unleash a brief rage mode that makes all the weapons so much more brutal, like making the blue staff fire a vaporizing stream of orbs and the mace crystals home in and ricochet. This is one of the few FPSes where I found myself constantly switching weapons, not because I would run out of mana but because I wanted to see how every weapon worked in every situation.
I mean this in the best way: AMID EVIL makes you feel like the baddest wizard ever painted on the side of a van. In all honesty I can’t remember the last time I had this much pure, unadulterated fun with a shooter, sprinting across arcane landscapes to launch exploding planets at crystalline constructs. DUSK came close, as it and AMID EVIL come from similar places, but what AMID EVIL does is truly special. DUSK returned something we had been missing since the halcyon days of Quake, but AMID EVIL offers something we never really had: an all-time great fantasy shooter. I’m genuinely sad I’ve beaten it, and I am immensely tempted to start another playthrough on the next difficulty immediately just so the battle doesn’t have to end. If there’s any justice in this world of ours, AMID EVIL will spawn a whole host of sequels because it is absolutely one of my favorite FPSes now.