The story? Well, every 5000 years or so there is a rift in the fabric of the cosmos – something about planets aligning. When this mammoth universal event occurs there is a chance to escape to death’s domain. We are moments before such an event and you are a knight who cannot move on to death’s domain, as you are cursed to eternity for your sins. You have to pass through the dungeons to get to the rift and end your torment. Unfortunately, there a whole load of monsters, traps, puzzles and more in your way – a mass of treasure to collect.
So, bottom-line, Karnage Chronicles is an RPG with a hell of a lot of action and adventure. It is a game built for virtual reality, so the developers have played to all the strengths of the functionality. But wait, we are jumping ahead. Let’s start with some basics.
The game is a dungeon-crawler with all sorts of ghouls and goblins coming at you from corridors in every direction. You hack your way through the monstrous enemies and gradually improve your inventory and then you find the foe becomes refreshingly more challenging. The game works as a solo-player moving through a campaign, but it is so much better as a four-player co-op. Shooting up the enemy with your mates makes this a much more lively affair and makes it confusing why this hasn’t been a more prominent title since its release. Time to explore why this game hasn’t too off the way you would think it would.
The vital details
Release Date: Rift, Vive, WMR 31st July 2020
RPG, Action, Fantasy
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer, Co-op
Developer and Publisher: Nordic Trolls
Supports: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, Windows MR
Play area: Standing, Room-Scale
Input: Motion controllers
Comfort levels: Comfortable
So, the game seemingly has all the fundamental ingredients of a great game – monsters, co-op, shooting and loot to collect. What is holding this game back?
The gameplay is as you would expect. You begin small and easy, getting used to the controls and the strategies of the game. You pick off a few monsters and gain some experience. To progress, you need to collect the loot, else you are stuck in these early levels. Here we find problem one – despite some serious melee kill sprees, the number of monsters cleared does not add to your level of experience. The only way to progress is through the collection of kit that is littered around the corridors.
However, you will be glad it doesn’t progress too quickly as the level of difficulty ramps up pretty harshly. Suddenly, all the little minions get really good at dodging you and repelling your attacks. You will find that monsters will respawn in areas you thought you had cleared and then, to top the level of angst, little mushroom-like monsters start dropping on your head.
The combat might appear quite simple on the surface, but there are some pleasant intricacies that require some mastery. You could waggle aimlessly and survive the early encounters, however later in the game, you will need to be more orchestrated with your moves, including physically dodging arrows.
The problem is that there are lots of times when you are caught in a cycle of minion murder, which keeps coming at you again and again. The action gets so repetitive that you become tired of the effort quite quickly, especially when the developers throw in some of those tricks that they are so fond of dropping on you.
There are also massive chunks of time between upgrades, which makes the latter part of levels far too difficult. You are left with an inadequate weapon to deal with the intensity of the attack. This leads us to conclude that the game was made with co-op at the heart of the experience rather than single-player campaign mode. You need your pals to help you combat the melee.
The problems of the gameplay are overwhelmingly subsumed by the technical impressiveness of the game. You will have to learn to wield the game controller with some subtlety. There is some clever anti-wiggle tech that kicks in when you are in close-quarter combat. Don’t think that you will be able to just swing furiously, as the quality of your blows matter. You also have the choice between several types of locomotion.
But, it is the graphics, which are so detailed that will grab your attention. It was a pleasure to walk through the dungeons and caverns and see the artistry. You will agree with most of the reviews that the game looks visually stunning.
There is also a lot of content, with a lot of action. We played for six hours before we emerged from what was meant to be a taster session. Therefore, even though we found the gameplay repetitive, it seemingly didn’t stop our appetite to continue to play. But, it was a co-op game. I am not sure I had the same pleasure digging my through a campaign and was massively frustrated when I failed to collect the loot after some savage battle. Does the unique loot make up for this – sure the imagination that goes into the inventory was appreciated. Any creativity welcomed here! There are coins, precious metals, certain trash items that can be adapted and some gear that you can wear.
Our brief takeaway
The developers sum up why we enjoyed the game so much, as they note that there is “frequent violence, blood, crude language, and nudity”. In short, they do not apology for what makes the game fun – which is the freedom to let go and embrace your inner savage.
The play might feel a little repetitive at times but it didn’t stop us from becoming sucked in. This game deserves a better reception than it has received – we think this is a hidden gem with a lot of potential for development.