Fable Anniversary Review

When you return to a beloved classic and discover how awkward and painfully frustrating it truly was, it’s difficult to accept the truth. Multiple stages of grief follow, though many of us never escape the “denial” phase, declaring undying love while sobbing our way through clunky gameplay that has no hope of living up to our childhood remembrances.

Thankfully, Fable Anniversary has no desire to ruin your decade-old memories. The original Fable holds up rather well, and this remastered, visually buffed version of it retains the proper charm and rollicking spirit that made the game so delightful. Fable projects a certain effervescence, which you hear in its soundtrack’s tinkling bell tones and see in the squat, goblinesque hobbes that shriek and yammer as you fight them. Villagers speak to you in thick Cockney accents, inviting you to drown in pleasures of the flesh, or drearily enthusing about their favorite hallucinogenic mushrooms. (You’ll go find them another, won’t you?) Fable is the Hugh Grant of video games: cheery, affable, and periodically inelegant.

As a remaster, Fable Anniversary is one of the better ones. Should you compare the original and the new release side by side, you immediately see the differences. Low-polygon character models and flap-jaw facial animations have been replaced by smoothly drawn villagers and reasonably expressive lip synching. This isn’t a case of the resolution being cranked up, but entire assets being re-created, including architecture and foliage. The lighting, too, has been adjusted to reflect real-time sun rays and other more natural elements, though this change comes at the cost of ambience. The original Fable burst with bright light and color, though not always in the most natural ways, while the new lighting gives the game a more organic look, but at the cost of the shimmering glow that made Albion so warm and inviting in the original Fable and its sequel. Certain areas are too dim to make exploring them fun.

Allow me to step back a moment, however. If you never played the original, you’ll be less concerned with Fable Anniversary’s improvements, and more concerned with its own unique merits. And there are many. As the unnamed hero of Albion, you gallivant about its charming towns and meadows in third-person perspective, performing quests that have you protecting citizens from bandits, infiltrating prisons, and solving a ghostly spirit’s riddles. But childhood precedes heroism, and the first hour or so of the game chronicles the terrible events that scarred you in your youth while simultaneously serving as an extended tutorial.

I have the power!

Fable Anniversary sings a fine rendition of the original’s victories. Your interactions with the populace aren’t limited to the kind involving a bow or a sword. You express your innermost self not with what you say (as you might in many a modern role-playing game, like Mass Effect) but with what you do. You can disgust your admirers by farting in their faces, or impress potential love interests by offering them gemstones, or boxes of chocolates. Prove your strength by flexing your muscles; prove your cruelty by murdering an old friend in front of hundreds of onlookers.

How you act is reflected in how others perceive you, and in how you look. I admit that I find little amusement in attacking random villagers, and so my list of moral successes grew longer and longer until a halo appeared above my head and onlookers clapped enthusiastically as I passed. Devil’s horns and crimson eyes are your rewards for dirty deeds, though your status as a “hero” remains perpetually intact. Fable II greatly expanded on this system, but even so, Fable Anniversary still seems authentically alive, whereas other games often feel as though they are merely responding to on/off switches when alluding to your past actions. It’s Fable’s focus on action over words that makes the difference. A passerby mentioning that he heard you killed a werewolf is clearly contrived; applause and cries of admiration as you enter a tavern, on the other hand, feel more organic, because the game doesn’t assume everyone in town has heard of the specific actions you performed just moments before.

Everyone’s so mean to me. Even when I sport a beautiful handlebar mustache!

Other actions are also reflected in your physical form; eating too much food to regain health, for instance, makes you fat. It’s a shame the world design doesn’t reflect the openness of Fable Anniversary’s social possibilities. Even in 2004, Fable’s segmented kingdom was confining; now, it is absurdly so. Smallish regions are separated by loading screens, and even those areas limit you to specific paths. Albion is a series of connected nodes that relies on its gently bawdy atmosphere to convey its history rather than on scale and environmental detail.

When you aren’t busy voguing in front of impressed onlookers, you’re traveling down Albion’s narrow pathways, beating up on balverines (that is, werewolves) and trolls using a combination of melee weapons, bows, and magic spells. The magical possibilities are the most intriguing, given how they allow you to summon a ring of flames from the heavens above, or to call forth a trio of sentient swords to get up close and personal with your enemies while you shower arrows on them. There’s no reason to stick with any particular technique, though, and cultivating a diverse combat style is more gratifying than choosing one over another. Depending on the circumstance, ranged attacks might be more effective than hammer swings, and you earn enough experience orbs when completing quests and offing bandits that there’s no reason not to spread the wealth among the three core disciplines.

Prove your strength by flexing your muscles; prove your cruelty by murdering an old friend in front of hundreds of onlookers.

Putting those disciplines into practice can be frustrating, however. The original’s targeting system wasn’t great, and while Fable Anniversary represents some improvement, it’s not much of one. You have to be relatively close to your target for the targeting to even work, so pulling the trigger to lock onto an attacking hobbe may instead reposition the camera, or worse yet, lock onto a nearby comrade, causing you to accidentally launch an arrow into a merchant’s skull when you had a zombie in your sights. You can even lock onto your summoned helpers that way; I can’t count the number of times I wanted to focus on a nymph and the camera centered on a summoned sword. The game’s thoughtless manner of how it chooses targets is puzzling. Even more puzzling is how your arrows may go off in some random direction even when you’ve homed in on a target.

Melee combat, too, has its problems, most of which stem from Fable Anniversary’s animation-first design philosophy, in which most attacks knock you back or down in some manner, wrenching control away from you in the heat of combat. This is typically only a minor nuisance, though some combat encounters seem designed to cause maximum frustration. You can find yourself in irritating loops of interrupting attacks in which you don’t have the time to stand before you’re summarily knocked on your derriere again. The combat arena–an inescapable gaming cliche in Fable–is the most embarrassing example of this flawed approach. Dealing with several trolls tossing boulders at you with no regard for timing is the most tiresome sequence in the game.

You can hire bodyguards if you like having company, but Fable Anniversary is so easy, you probably won’t need help.

The saving grace that makes these foibles more irritating than rage inducing is Fable Anniversary’s low level of difficulty. You usually have more than enough potions and resurrection vials on you to avoid game-ending death, and in fact, I only once saw a game-over screen in Fable Anniversary, when I had failed to finish a quest during its time limit. This is a game about atmosphere and attitude, not about overcoming grueling obstacles by mastering your tactics. It’s also a game about discovery, more so than you might imagine for a game that confines you to such constricted passages. Inspecting various nooks reveals treasure chests, and if you don’t mind the morbid business of digging up graves, you might find buried valuables. Talking demon doors scattered about the land have secrets locked behind them, but they require you to pay strict cover fees if you want to join their clubs. One forces you to raise your combat multiplier before it opens; another asks for a fancy gift. My favorite one encourages you to get fat. “Get some meat on you,” it says. “I want beefy! Blubbery! Plump! Porcine! Stop being a slave to public perception, and treat yourself.”

How could I refuse such an invitation? I gorged on delicious red meat until my hero was as Rubenesque as my own frame, and the door opened after it laid eyes on my jolly ol’ self. These are the kinds of moments that make Fable Anniversary delightful. Its combat and world design have undoubtedly aged, but the game is so ripe with charisma, so upbeat that even its most somber moments don’t suppress your soaring spirits for long. Fable isn’t quite timeless, but its genial mood is infectious, and I’m happy that Fable Anniversary kept my fond memories intact.

The Wolf Among Us: Episode 2 – Smoke and Mirrors Review

There’s a beast lurking inside all of us, but the creature sheriff Bigby harbors is difficult to keep silent. In The Wolf Among Us: Episode 2 – Smoke and Mirrors, you determine just how sharp Bigby’s claws can dig, whether you’re dealing with a mouthy murder suspect, a cowering child, or a jealous husband who sniffs wrongdoing in the smoky air.

In Fabletown, Bigby’s former identity as the Big Bad Wolf is an open secret, but it’s hardly the only one. The fables that live there–Ichabod Crane, Mr. Toad, and Little Jack Horner, to name a few–need to keep their identities a secret from the mundane masses, and thus reach out to each other when they hit hard times. Episode 1’s harrowing finale plunged this episodic adventure game’s story into the kind of darkness that encourages even the strongest of us to seek comfort–but it’s also in the darkness that it’s easiest for evil to hide. Smoke and Mirrors is an apt title for a story in which you can’t always believe what you see, and don’t always find refuge where you look.

Bigby is no one’s buddy.

If you played Episode 1, you likely have a good idea of who Bigby is. At least, I know who my Bigby is: a steel-fisted, impatient bastard who shows little restraint when cornered, but is fiercely protective of Fabletown’s most vulnerable residents. As the episode led me through its story beats, I often had the chance to express both sympathy and savagery, and I admit I took some inner delight when pummeling a sickening suspect until he cried for mercy, all while an approving Bluebeard looked on with perverse pleasure. When I got to my knees to speak to a diminutive witness later on, my heart filled with compassion, and I pledged to myself to find the jackass responsible for the tumult.

It was when jealousy intruded on my ongoing investigation that I realized how attached to Bigby I’d become. I was angry at the assumptions my accuser was making, annoyed that my time was being wasted, and concerned for the innocent witness watching a volatile confrontation unfold. I let out my inner wolf, and found the same catharsis in it that Bigby did. Perhaps my own demons linger more closely to the surface than I imagined.

Smoke and Mirrors is an apt title for a story in which you can’t always believe what you see, and don’t always find refuge where you look.

I’m sorry that I can’t be more specific; explaining the details would dull the story’s bite. Besides, as you navigate your way through Smoke and Mirrors’ multiple crime scenes, events may play out differently. I appreciated how the game acknowledged my previous choices in its details, however. A smashed wall and a missing limb were sober visual reminders of past (mis)deeds that made me more mindful of the barbarian I could be, and some fables’ looks of apprehension demonstrated lingering fears over a previous outburst. The characters in The Wolf Among Us aren’t highly detailed, but their faces express grief and anger with just the right amount of melodrama to fit the game’s noir tone. The atmosphere is possibly the series’ greatest triumph. Had the game not taken itself so seriously, its depictions of potty-mouthed amphibians and sadistic warlords might have been more groan-worthy than glorious. Yet the heaving soundtrack, the spot-on voice acting, and the violet skies keep the fantasy grounded. These characters are no longer living a fairy tale.

Time to open a can of whoop-ass.

Nonetheless, Smoke and Mirrors occasionally feels like it’s spinning its wheels. There are few of the quick-time button events that gave the first episode such tension, and the stakes aren’t as high. As a result, the game simmers but never quite boils over, and I was left wishing for more chances to sic myself on a foe as threatening as the Woodsman. As it is, dealing with Smoke and Mirrors’ relatively harmless lowlifes doesn’t have the same appeal as chasing the smoother criminals, even when they deserve a smack in the mouth now and again. Much of the time, you’re left investigating crime scenes and interrogating fables, which can lead to some minor but noticeable idiosyncrasies. I was struck several times by how Bigby’s tone of voice changed from one line to the next, betraying how several branches of questioning might still lead to the same line of recorded dialogue. I was also so distracted by a plot point mentioned out of the blue that I had to go back and watch that portion again to make sure I wasn’t out of my mind, and indeed, a character delivered a line that appeared to match a different dialogue branch than the one I’d chosen.

Ultimately, Smoke and Mirrors feels like a necessary bridge spanning the impactful first episode and the events portrayed in the episode three preview that concludes this episode. It smolders more than it burns, though in some sense, that’s an appropriate trajectory for Bigby’s ongoing investigation. There’s a moment when Bigby lights a cigar and contemplates his next step. That’s exactly where The Wolf Among Us stands now: percolating and pondering before the next punch to the gut.

Octodad: Dadliest Catch Review

For a typical hero like Superman, saving dozens of people from a burning building may be all in a day’s work. But Octodad is a different kind of hero, one whose struggles remind us that the trials and tribulations of everyday life can be tough for us all. You see, Octodad has carved out an ordinary life for himself as a husband and father, but secretly, he’s an octopus, which makes living this ordinary life especially difficult. Ordinary tasks like making coffee and mowing the lawn are acts that require determination and heroism when you’ve got flailing octopus tentacles instead of human hands. Initially, the juxtaposition of common domestic situations with the gleefully absurd concept makes Octodad: Dadliest Catch a delightful comic romp. However, as the game progresses, it gets away from its spirit of leisurely whimsy, with stealth sequences and boss battles that don’t play to the strengths of Octodad’s goofy controls.

Simply walking around takes more focus in Octodad than it does in your typical game, because you must hold the left and right bumpers to raise your left or right “legs” and then maneuver those legs around with thumbsticks. It’s almost impossible to walk around as Octodad without knocking over objects left and right, and that’s a big part of the fun. Here you are, an octopus in a tuxedo on your wedding day, walking down the aisle, making a complete mess of things, and yet nobody suspects a thing. Like walking around, interacting with objects is also a lot more complicated for Octodad than it is for your typical video game hero. The fact that you use one thumbstick to move your “arm” horizontally and another to move it vertically fills tasks like grilling burgers and shopping for groceries with the potential for hilarious physical comedy.

The early stages aren’t challenging in the least, and this works in the game’s favor. You can just relax and laugh at yourself as your attempts to do ordinary things are rendered anything but ordinary by the fact that you are an octopus. But before long, Dadliest Catch loses its way. Despite Octodad’s burbled objections, the family takes a trip to the local aquarium. Octodad is terrified of the aquarium because the marine biologists there, with their exhaustive knowledge of sea creatures and their remarkable powers of deductive reasoning, can see through his carefully constructed disguise and determine that he is, in fact, no ordinary father, but a cephalo-pop. You must sneak around these marine biologists, and once the game starts actually demanding some degree of physical prowess from you, the looseness and complexity that previously made the controls fun to grapple with suddenly make them frustrating.

Yeah, this could be a little tricky.

It’s hard to see the humor in a situation when you find yourself failing it repeatedly and applying trial and error to find a path that might successfully take you through a treacherous environment. Additionally, the activities you have to complete at the aquarium lack the domestic quality that makes the first few stages so amusing. The game is at its funniest when it puts the absurd Octodad in ordinary situations. It’s a lot less funny when the situations he’s placed in are as absurd as he is.

There also just aren’t enough situations in Octodad in general. You can easily complete the game in about two hours, and it ends up feeling like an incomplete experience that doesn’t come close to fulfilling its potential. Although the flimsy narrative couldn’t be more cliche in its communication of a message about loving ourselves and each other for who we really are, Octodad is an endearing hero whose struggle to live an ordinary life under extraordinary circumstances is bizarrely inspiring. Unfortunately, Dadliest Catch is just an inconsistent, intermittently hilarious trifle, and not the game this terrific character deserves.

Rekoil Review

It is said that first impressions are everything, and Rekoil does a fine job of reinforcing that notion. I felt excited when I booted up the shooter for the first time; a game labeled as a spiritual successor to classic shooters of old was appealing to me. I jumped into a server, picked my loadout, and entered the map, where I was promptly killed at spawn. Well, not everyone is an expert right away, I thought. But after I was killed about five times by my new friend spawn camping from a corner, I felt my heart sink. Yes, first impressions can mean everything, and over the course of many hours following, I could only conclude that my early suspicion was correct: Rekoil is a broken game.

An online-only first-person shooter with the military trappings of games like Call of Duty and Counter-Strike, Rekoil takes things back to basics, eschewing many mechanics gamers have come to accept as standard. The game focuses on competitive gameplay without being concerned about experience points, ranks, guard dogs, or tactical air strikes. It offers six loadouts, including the familiar assault, recon, and sniper classes. Each loadout contains five to six weapons, as well as a sidearm, a melee weapon, and a choice of two grenade types, along with multiple weapon skins like arctic camo and glistening gold plating–all of which are available at the start.

Rekoil includes several large, open-air maps, such as City Park.

Getting into a match is nearly effortless, with the only slowdown caused by irritating load times while choosing your loadout. Starting up, you enter one of many dedicated servers, choose your weapons, and jump straight into the fray, all within minutes. The premise works well, and harks back to the days of Quake and Unreal Tournament, realms of frags and gravel-voiced announcers who barked through your speakers, where getting in and going to work was only a few clicks away. Unfortunately, not long after you enter a match, Rekoil begins to fall apart at the seams.

I suspected something was amiss when I began my first match with a five-death deficit before I could even fire my first bullet. There are many problems that plague Rekoil, but among the most frustrating is the awful spawn system. In a regular deathmatch, I often either entered the game to find myself cut down by an enemy behind me or appeared right in the middle of a gunfight, getting killed before given the chance to gain my bearings. Sometimes several players spawn at a single point at once, encouraging spawn camping. In maps like Refinery or Streets, a player can rack up more than 10 effortless kills before being stopped.

You fight on open terrain and in crowded halls and stairwells.

In team-based matches, spawning into gunfire is greatly reduced, because you typically enter the game at the furthest location from the majority of the opposing team. But the spawn woes are not completely obliterated; some maps spawn you in the open where proper cover is in short supply. Experienced players who know where to look keep an eye on these locations with a sniper rifle, picking off players as they enter into the arena.

The weapons in Rekoil are inconsistent, mostly when it comes to accuracy. The AK-47, a popular favorite among players, is labeled as powerful but inaccurate at long distances. However, I could still kill off enemies even while standing halfway across maps, something that shouldn’t be possible with the gun’s weapon spread. In one match, as I stood in the center of the arena, I got away with four headshots in a row, which led me to wonder if the hit boxes are excessively large. But I experienced other battles where I spent an entire clip firing from the hip at an opponent several feet away without seeing a single hit marker. These issues could be related to faulty hit boxes, but it’s different from game to game, leading to confusion.

There are many problems that plague Rekoil, but among the most frustrating is the awful spawn system.

Sniper rifles, on the other hand, feel too accurate. Many team deathmatches devolve into full-on sniper battles, and it’s easy to understand why: sniping is effortless in Rekoil, thanks to the fact that nearly every rifle is a snap to aim and extraordinarily accurate, able to kill with a single round to the body most of the time. The unusual accuracy, power, and speed make sniper rifles deadly even in close quarters. In my hands, the sniper rifle defeated three opponents in a row, one with a headshot, all within the space of about 10 feet.

Atrocious server lag causes further problems in Rekoil. There are about 50 dedicated servers available in the game, and only a few of them have acceptable levels of server ping, that is, when they are empty. As players fill servers, ping may rocket up to 150 or more than 200. The high ping creates a host of issues, including players jumping all over the map, missed shots, getting killed even though you already moved behind cover, and, my favorite, grenades that completely disappear into the ether after being tossed. Poor optimization is another issue. Even if your computer easily handles most modern games, Rekoil still struggles to maintain 30 frames per second during busy moments.

There are many weapons available, from assault rifles to SMGs.

Rekoil suffers from game-breaking glitches that range from aggravating to completely bewildering. More than once, the game booted me back to the menu without warning, and often when that happens, the game crashes, forcing you to restart your computer. In more than one match, a player was rendered completely invisible, yet could still kill without restraint. This wasn’t an issue of hacking, because it once happened to me. It was tempting to abuse my newly acquired superpower to improve my kill/death ratio while grabbing an easy win, but Rekoil doesn’t track any stats, nor does it include a leaderboard, so the novelty of abusing the glitch quickly wore off, and I left to join a different server.

Rekoil still struggles to maintain 30 frames per second during busy moments, even at low settings.

Though Rekoil has an immense number of problems, there are actual moments when the game is genuinely fun. Several of the 10 available maps are well designed, including Prison, where gunfights occur on winding staircases and in empty cells while a helicopter buzzes over a ruined basketball court. Sawmill features two mills separated by stacks of cut lumber, perfect for Capture the Briefcase. Another favorite, Refinery, features arid, sun-bleached terrain. Here, I experienced tense battles, where ebony streams of oil sprayed through bullet-riddled drums while I strafed from side to side, my rifle roaring. These tense, heart-pounding skirmishes are my most memorable moments in Rekoil. In these short interludes, you may briefly recall your years playing twitch shooters such as Quake and Unreal Tournament.

Every weapon in the armory is available from the start.

Rekoil currently features several game modes, including the ever-popular Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. Adding to that is Domination, where the two factions fight to capture and hold spots on a map. There is also Hold the Briefcase, in which teams gain points the longer they have the briefcase in their position, and Capture the Briefcase, which is Rekoil’s own variant of Capture the Flag. The game also includes its own version of Halo 4’s Flood mode, called Rekondite. In this mode, one player is chosen to be the rekondite, a transparent foe gifted with unnatural speed and a strong melee attack. Those killed are respawned as rekondites, and remaining players must survive against the increasing number of invisible enemies.

Rekoil proudly advertises eSport support, offering Twitch.tv tools and a full spectator mode. But while my test run with Twitch seemed acceptable, I cannot say the same about spectator mode. Some of the maps include invisible walls, which range from being a small nuisance, by preventing you from hopping over small rocks or ledges or from getting behind cover, to being problematic, such as tall barriers that bounce grenades back at you. The invisible walls in these maps prevented my floating camera from smoothly skimming the battlefield, forcing me to search for an opening as if I were trapped in an imperceptible maze. I don’t believe eSports commentators will find the patience to cover a game that makes it so difficult to follow matches.

Beyond technical concerns, the most problematic issue Rekoil faces is the complete absence of a strong online community. When I first booted up the game on the day of its release, there were no more than 30 people playing it. The number fluctuated throughout the week, and more often than not, I played games only half full and sometimes with odd-numbered teams. Less than half that number showed up to play in the days that followed.

Rekoil suffers from game-breaking glitches that range from aggravating to completely bewildering.

Rekoil has taken a laundry list of what could go wrong with a game and promptly checked nearly every box. There are moments when everything seems to go right, and you are reminded why simple online multiplayer shooters ruled the world. But those moments are wedged between frustrating glitches, lag, and a plethora of other problems. Those dedicated enough can spend time in Rekoil’s map creation tool, but with an online community numbering mere dozens and dwindling, it is uncertain there will be many players to share your map with. Rekoil sets its sights on resurrecting the simple online shooter, and promptly misses its target.

Echo Prime Review

Echo Prime is a brawler with role-playing game elements, and if you’re into that sort of thing, odds are good that you’ve already played a number of better games it resembles. The developers at Robot Entertainment pulled together a variety of familiar elements to produce an accessible romp through sci-fi tropes, but enough issues also came along for the ride that it’s difficult to regard the result as more than a disappointing misfire.

Your time with Echo Prime is mostly spent plodding along one series of corridors or another, relying on a few basic melee attacks, projectile weapons, and special abilities to vanquish any resistance met along the way. Sometimes there are special circumstances, such as a boss encounter or a mission wherein you must survive several waves of adversaries or defend a stationary target, but generally you simply advance from left to right and slash or shoot everything that moves. That’s not unusual within the genre. What’s unusual is the way most areas don’t take more than a couple of minutes to clear. It’s easy to boot up the game and drop into a mission within a half-minute or so, which is convenient if your time is limited and you just want to wind down by exterminating alien scum.

This encounter was bound to end poorly for one of us.

Thanks to some engaging character customization, which goes deep enough to feel mysterious but not so deep as to become overly confusing, you probably won’t be in any particular hurry to end your first play session. A brief opening sequence acquaints you with the controls and then immediately introduces you to special entities called “echoes,” who help you battle an alien race known as the Slivers. Echoes grant the brawny, nameless protagonist access to a wide range of passive or active abilities. One makes it possible to inflict more damage with projectile weapons, for instance. Another produces a temporary turret. As you gain levels, it’s possible to equip multiple echoes at once, to suit either your overall style of play or the particular mission at hand. At first, the possibilities are intriguing.

There are more than 60 echo personas, but gathering them all requires luck and time. You acquire or enhance one of three echo cards whenever you level up a piece of equipment through frequent use in combat. More expensive gear begets better echoes, so there’s incentive to spend a half-hour saving up for a sword or pistol you otherwise might not care about. Additionally, a lot of that equipment isn’t even for sale until you reach a high enough level. Then you must spend another 10 or 15 minutes in battle to kill enough goons that you level up the chosen gear, and there’s still no guarantee you’ll be offered anything new. At least you can easily sample the possibilities ahead of that point. Missions let you temporarily equip one of three random echoes that a friend or stranger has accessed; plus, you can spend some of your hard-earned credits to designate a particular one from a full list, if someone you follow has already unlocked it. There’s even a leaderboard, accessible from the title screen, which offers a record of who has acquired the most echoes. The feature serves as a nice way to inject a competitive element into an otherwise solitary experience.

Choosing a handsome guest echo to bring along is always a treat.

Although the echoes would seem to bring variety to the game thanks to their number alone, the bulk of them are no more important to your heroic mission than a set of drapes. The abilities they grant all seem awesome, but they are hobbled by cooling periods that render them unavailable for 20, 40, or even 60 seconds at a time. After activating your favored ability at the start of a stage, you might not even have another chance to use it before you reach the exit. Some of the special moves are also underwhelming, designed to help you defeat only a handful of the 20 or 30 adversaries you might need to vanquish in a corridor. It’s much simpler to make headway by gearing up with a few passive moves that offer persistent benefits, but then the game adds “too easy” to its list of shortcomings.

Perhaps the bigger issue at play is the stupid alien resistance. You can generally run through an area at a moderate clip, firing shots toward the right side of the screen, and that obliterates half your foes before they even have a chance to properly join the fray (if you haven’t already dropped them without even seeing them). If you stop as enemies first come into sight, they often stand around like mannequins and absorb your shots. Even some of the beefier opponents might soak up bullets and collapse with nary a whimper, or they wait to rush you until half their life meter is depleted and they can’t possibly survive long enough to get close and do any real harm. Attacking from a distance is also useful because when you take that tack, your adversaries may respond by springing into action one at a time. If you advance cautiously and use the architecture to your advantage (watch for enemies that rush you but get confused by pillars and such), you can avoid difficult encounters most of the time. The pathfinding in general is spotty, for that matter. Sometimes the hero inexplicably gets stuck when you clear a stage, and he makes a badly choreographed dash for the nearest exit.

You’re not the boss of me!

Some of the above issues might not matter so much, if only you weren’t compelled to spend so much time doing the same few things. That tends to make any shortcomings harder to ignore. There’s not much in the way of unique scenery to admire as a distraction, either. You see the same few ice caves, metal platforms, elevators, and bunkers dozens of times over the course of the campaign and then dozens of times more if–as the game encourages–you keep going once you’ve cleared the last of the underwhelming story-based missions that mostly are distinguishable from the endlessly looping side missions only because they’re labeled as such. Environments are beautifully illustrated, and the enemy animations all look good (especially the bosses), but a couple of dozen unique enemy units and maybe half that number of arenas aren’t enough to prevent a 12-hour campaign from becoming a slog.

It’s a chore to name a single feature or idea in Echo Prime that most experienced players haven’t already encountered elsewhere, in a better game. There’s an enjoyable experience lurking here somewhere, if you can endure the repetitive play and the limited volume of unique content that matters, and if you make and keep a promise to yourself not to abuse the weak AI. Otherwise, you’re better off saving some other galaxy.