As you can imagine, there are only so many types of PC games. RTS, shooter, and racing, among others, are all common, and it’s fairly likely that you come across one title that closely reminds you of another. I have had the pleasure of reviewing just such releases in the past. In these types of match-ups, unfortunately for the newcomers, the incumbent, well-established release from the AAA-studio typically prevails for a variety of reasons. This time around, however, I was very pleasantly surprised by Sobaka Studio’s most recent offering: Redeemer.
In Redeemer, you control a character engaging in close-quarters combat across a map, in the top-down view that I first encountered when I took up Diablo way back when (oh crap, that was ’96 *takes a sip of Ensure*). Like many people, I formed a special bond with the first game I encountered in a new format, and I thoroughly enjoyed Diablo II when it came out, as well. Diablo III, however, lost me. I can’t imagine I put in more than five or six hours before I was completely turned off. There was no energy, no magic, no secret sauce that left me unable to relinquish control of the mouse and keyboard. Mind you; this is the type of secret sauce you expect from the likes of Blizzard – especially with the budget they’ve got.
Out of the gate, Sobaka struck a chord with me. Their fantastic opening animation is enchanting: a strong, muscular arm flexing, and then making a shadow puppet dog with its mouth barking. I chuckled audibly because the Russian game dev’s name translates to ‘dog,’ just like in my native Ukrainian tongue. I quickly dismissed the animation and how much I liked it, begging my subconscious not to skew my feelings about the actual game simply based on that [EN: It seldom works out that way though, does it?]. Thankfully, I was greeted with quality craftsmanship after the intro as well.
Immediately I’m struck with artwork that’s fantastic. I know that tends to be overused, so allow me to elaborate. It’s easy to over-do art: not only is it a time suck on the studio, though, but it also tends to make the release tacky. Sobaka gets things right with art that’s both dramatic and engaging while being minimalistic enough for the eye to quickly process and digest. We’re not talking just cut-scenes here, either. The actual textures, animations, and overall feel in-game are just spot on. Great art should pull you in without trying too hard, and that happens effortlessly in Redeemer.
Another common theme amongst many releases is that the intro or tutorial can feel a bit forced or sophomoric. I’m a gamer, of course, I know what WASD does! However, Redeemer glides you through quickly learning the controls in a perfectly light and refreshing aperitif. Actual fun was had right out of the gate, and that doesn’t happen too often. Too many times, you writhe in agony as you force through the baby steps and keystrokes, but I relished even the simplest face-bashing no more than one minute after launch. The basic mappings are all intuitive, and at no time did I feel the need to customize; an accomplishment for someone as picky as myself.
I may parallel the feel of this to Diablo, but please understand that what is missing is the depth of lore and infinite customizations for which Blizzard is known. However, that also leads to bulk and management overhead for the player, and you can lose the passion and energy that comes with just being able to punch someone in the face. Pound for pound, if you want some excitement, playability, and old-fashioned fun, then vote team Sobaka and button mash to your heart’s content.
The durability mechanic utilized in melee weapon attacks is also another feature to look forward to. Each use of a weapon chips away at that item’s meter until it breaks and vanishes from use, and they wear out quickly. When approaching a group of enemies, it makes you think of whom you should attack first, and I like the challenge. If there’s a stronger enemy in the group, but he’s towards the rear, some maneuvering is required to ensure you’re using your highest DPS against him first. Add to that the fact that I can throw crates or barrels, execute stealth kills from behind, or do environmental kills like shoving someone in a fireplace, and I’m a happy camper.
If only Diablo III was this fun and exciting to play between all the fluff and management overhead, I wouldn’t have abandoned it; Redeemer has excatly what I want when I crave quick, well-produced top-down action content. The secret sauce and energy are in full effect, and the face bashing is exceptionally fun both with hands, along with the more advanced killing methods. Fans of the format who often get dragged down with the inventory management and lore of other releases would be wise to check it out. ЗашибисьCollusion!]