A preview to a prelude (v 0.4.1)
I dodge left, barely avoiding the sharpened steel tip of the blade and swing a back-handed strike, my enemy doesn’t see it coming and catches it to the back of the steel plated helmet, he yelps and stumbles forward, I lunge at him and bring my sword down hard from above across his broad back, causing him to slam into the cold stone paved floor. I laugh triumphantly, letting my guard slip as I relax my aching wrists. He regains his footing and charges at me swinging wildly left and right, I am pushed back towards a corner and hardly withstanding the flurry of blows. I spot my moment and lunge at him, not attacking… Just getting inside a range where his fairly lengthy weapon is useless. Suddenly we’re locked into a wrestle, a dance of death… It appears that he is holding my sword arm but is also unable to attack, this is fruitless. I leap back then step forward with a strong arc swing but it seems my opponent has the same Idea, we parry eachothers blows though I am quicker to follow up with the next, I strike his leg effectively ending his current attack and step to his right as I bring my sword across his throat with a tastefully executed back-handed blow, he gasps and lets out his last cry as he hits the ground for the second time. This time for good.
You could be forgiven for believing that the above passage is from some kind of action fantasy novel written in the first-person (Albeit badly!) and yet it is just a blow-for-blow description of just one of the many (And one of the easier) fights you will get into in the upcoming game ‘Exanima’ from Bare Mettle entertainment. The game itself is a prelude to an upcoming game ‘Sui Generis’ and is here for several reasons, though in my honest opinion I find many features here groundbreaking for the genre (As well as the game world-at-large) the Kickstarter never flew to the heights I’d have expected so the developers created a business model not unlike After Reset’s (Though evidently with much more content to show (Especially considering its just hit greenlight) in the way that us backers funded the prelude. Exanima hopes to both attract fans and backers, raise money for the upcoming Sui Generis and in some small part im sure, to show off the fantastic engine. Being a £60 backer I have had access to both the combat arena and Exanima for some time, as well as development videos, in alpha stage and now in beta and soon to be released on Steam and have wracked up more hours between the two ‘modes’ if-you-will than I have on anything else of late.
The combat is the best I’ve experienced in a game, mostly owing to a dynamic combat engine which effectively makes the combat procedurally generated, as in there are only a couple of animations (Overhead swing, soon thrust too) and the rest depends on the weight of the weapon, power of swing, whether its deflected off of something and if so then what, how hard, which direction etc, balance of the weapon, where on the weapon itself you connected etc. Its extremely complex but that doesn’t matter when you’re playing, its simple to control but will take you a very long time to master. If you’re someone who’s never really played isometric view games due to the lack of immersion then this may be the perfect game to change your mind. It is bloody, exciting and glorious. In the dark dingy dungeon where our scene is laid you will be fighting for your life against the undead, where your choice of a torch for sight, or a shield (Okay barrel-lid) for protection may mean the difference between pushing further and a restart. The game is a roguelike and as such a wrong move will cost you dearly. Exanima is so varied in its time to complete that its really a matter of how quickly you pick up the fighting controls and whether you get lucky.
Exanima departs from its upcoming big-brother in that, it is at its core a dungeon crawler, whereas Sui Generis is to be an epic, open world light fantasy sandbox, with a level of freedom and dynamics not unlike Dwarf Fortresses ‘Adventure mode’. In Exanima you awake on the floor of a pitch dark dungeon. You gain your footing and pick up the torch from the ground before you. I will add here that every item in the game has physics, and light/ fire/ shadows etc all work dynamically as I swing the torch through the air around me and place it in my characters hand in the inventory. The inventory has no slots, just a model of your character and a space below for storage. You drag and drop items on your hero and they will fit or replace another item which will return to the blank space. I have taken the liberty of dressing and undressing in photo’s to show this and I have heard that taking all tiny items into account you could potentially wear 1000 items of varying thickness etc and all items have random stats such as material, level of decay etc. As every item has physics say you run into a fallen chair… You will tumble over it realistically, perhaps even taking damage and the same goes for enemies, furniture has saved my life in Exanima multiple times, it’l save yours too. The way weapons hit other ‘models’ in Exanima is fantastic, gone are the ways of ghost-like enemies, our weapons passing through them this way and that yet doing to internal damage, just a lack of collision box etc. In Exanima a weapon never passes through, if deflects, glances you, slices you, impacts you…. Never will it cheaply pass through however. Impressive.
Exanima also features an arena mode for 1 v 1 fighting. This is where I have spent the majority of my time. There are 2x arenas, novice where you face people of lesser skill and equipment and expert arena (Available once novice is completed) and is absolutely out of this world. You begin much the same as ‘New game’ – By making a character. The character models here anr incredible, the age slider gives the most realistic images of a mature body, with sliders to make them gaunt, muscular or fat… It possibly the truest-to-life creator I’ve seen. You select height, voice (pitch, depth) and hair then select your starting equipment and weapons. I must add that never before have I literally played a games arena mode, over and over and before I know it its 6AM and yet again I cannot beat expert, it is so addictive its hard to believe until you play it. I have died in 1 hit, I have killed in 1 hit, fights have lasted minutes of immense concentration and chants and shouts of victory erupt from my mouth like I’m at Wembley.
Exanima is just the right taste of Sui Generis to get the name out there and cause some waves. As a massive gamer and someone who loves isometric ARPGs I cannot think of another game I am as excited for as Exanima (And its incredible big-bro Sui Generis). Its actually a smart way of doing things, as the dialogue etc for SG isn’t complete, so Exanima contains all of the thus-completed features of SG, in an easy-to-digest roguelike dungeon crawler. I hope this gains Bare Mettle the rep they need for nothing short of programming wizardry. They do and always will have my support and I’d imagine myself playing SG for years to come, diving in and out of Exanima as and when to appreciate its roots. Join me people, the potentially best ARPG ever depends on how well Exanima does. Luckily for us all you need to do is buy the best dungeon-crawler out there! if you stick around Its going to be an incredible journey.
I give Exanima 95/100 though as a major fan I’m biased (But as mentioned before I wouldn’t be biased if it was shit lol), it is not the longest dungeon crawler by far but oh my days it makes up for it with replayability and arena mode… The combat is singularly the best I’ve played in a game. The graphics, music and sense of foreboding/ dread are absolutely up there with the best and it’s grasp/ implementation of physics is incredible. The story unravels through letters, parchment and secret notes, all building up a dark tale of love, tragedy and magicks. I love Exanima insane amounts and to think that this is a stepping stone towards SG makes me weak at the knees. Bare Mettle I have no idea where you have come from but thank you, you’re quickly becoming my favorite developer.
[ 95 / 100 ]
Exanima on Steam Greenlight