By Drew D. / December 8th, 2020
|Release Date||PC: July 19, 2016
Xbox One: Jan 20, 2017
PS4: Jan 24, 2017
|Platform||PC, Xbox One, PS4|
As a fan of Metroid-style games, Hunter’s Legacy has been hanging on the fringes of my mind since its debut back in 2016. Having observed its mixed reception across a myriad of sites and storefronts, as well as my colleagues’ reviews here at oprainfall, I was still intrigued enough to try this out when the opportunity arose. After my experience, mixed seems to be my personal takeaway, for the glimmers of brilliance and success the game achieves are mixed heavily with genericism and frustration.
Our adventure follows the quest of Ikki, a warrior of Iripur tasked with the recovery of the Fang of Alliance, which has been stolen by the evil Morodir. This gift from their goddess, Vyakko, maintained a peaceful balance with nature for the Iripur, which is now in collapse due to its disappearance. Morodir has taken the fang to his castle and Ikki will need to recover three orbs, scattered across the kingdom, to open the path to him and reclaim the lost fang.
Regarding its story and narration, Hunter’s Legacy opts for a minimalist approach. The opening cinematic and a few tidbits of dialogue sprinkled throughout the game are all that provide Ikki her reasons for undertaking this quest. While I’ll not fault the developers for this approach, given its prevalence in this genre, the story is as sparse and straightforward as it gets. And the results are forgettable, hardly inspiring any emotional connections or desire to see such a quest through. What is provided serves its purpose to give us that base backstory, yet it is void of any emotion that would drive us to fight on or depth that would take players beyond a feeling of plain indifference.
The complementing dialogue and interactions, however, are mostly generic and forgettable with the occasional hint for play progression. There was perhaps an attempt at something deeper regarding narrative, but I can’t help feeling that said attempt was half-hearted, and the overall feel I got was one which is severely lacking in effort. I’d even go so far as to say the elimination of extraneous dialogue may have been a better choice.
Having said all of that, and as much as I appreciate them, the standout aspect of this genre is not so much rich storylines or deep characters, but rather its gameplay. Hunter’s Legacy is a classic Metroid-style game, in that progress and powering up is based on platforming, exploration, and acquisition. The base mechanics of gameplay, including combat, character interactions, and controls, are solid and provide a foundation full of potential. Ikki’s abilities, though painfully few, are also implemented well, in that they work to help Ikki progress through those typical level design barriers often seen in this genre. Unfortunately, those are the only noteworthy pros gameplay possesses.
Meanwhile, playing this game is a flat-out obnoxious experience. The game’s difficulty is cheap, favoring annoying mechanics and practices rather than anything that may add genuine challenge. While level designs and environmental hazards are satisfactory, the big culprits are enemy placement, number, and behavior, as all will work to frustrate you rather than challenge your skills or repay your persistence. Overcoming the difficulty is completely unrewarding too, in the sense that I never felt like I achieved anything as I progressed. Instead, I became stressed as I wondered what was to come. Also, rather than of any kind of build or steady increase in difficulty, the game is unforgiving from the get go, making the whole trek a stressful endeavor. As a play experience, it’s jarring and tiresome and I never felt like I was able to establish or enjoy a proper play flow. It was more akin to a series of starts and stops through bouts of obnoxiousness, until I finally reached a boss fight or the conclusion of an area.
As for specifics, disruptions in play flow will come in the forms of being overwhelmed by enemy numbers or, all too often, becoming trapped between attacking enemies or knocked into hazards that will drain your health before you have any opportunity to counter or escape. Many enemies also have the ability to move through walls, as well as a terribly bad habit of camping within them or within platforms, making them completely untouchable as they attack from range or camp as you attempt a jump or climb. As for the bosses, those battles, while intriguing, are highly susceptible to chance. More times than not, dumb luck seemed to be the determining factor over skill or observation for success, and I ended up favoring brute force over any real strategy as result.
And with the pains and sheer unpleasantness of these practices, other aspects of gameplay also suffer. The platforming on its own is actually fairly strong and has moments of cleverness, yet there’s zero opportunity to enjoy it, as there’s always an enemy or cheap means of breaking flow lurking at nearly every step. Exploration is also discouraged to the point that and I had zero desire to search for the few upgrade materials made available, the only means of buying upgrades to health and power. The lack of additional skills or variations to them didn’t help either. Having a useless map further discouraged exploration, as I had hoped for a Metroid-esque or Metroidvania style map, yet instead we only get a world map with warp points. On another note, those few upgrades available are fairly worthless, hardly evening things out against tougher enemies. Frustration and lack of proper rewards, it’s for those same reasons that I felt it just wasn’t worth it to backtrack either. I simply thought to myself, “Nope, no thanks.”
The only memorable takeaway, and the gameplay’s most egregious flaw, is how little actual fun I had playing. Games are meant to be enjoyed, and I feel this fact seems to have been lost in lieu of adding a degree of challenge that tests patience instead of skill without any concrete sense of award or achievement. That’s not to say there wasn’t any fun to be had, yet unfortunately frustration, obnoxiousness, and an overall unenjoyable playthrough are my most remarkable takeaways.
Gameplay aside, I did say that Hunter’s Legacy possesses a few glimmers of success and I believe the game’s aesthetics are the brightest of them. Visually, this game is gorgeous, with its drawn 2D style. From the characters, to the backgrounds and level designs, the artistic direction is impressive and easily my favorite aspect of the game. Ikki looks like the badass she is meant to be and the world around her is charmingly natural and vivid. I am also impressed with the boss designs, putting the creators’ imaginations on full display. They looked every bit as ferocious and intimidating as they did imaginative. And lastly, the animations of Ikki’s and enemy movements, as well as the movements throughout the environment, such as the wind blowing, were all fluid. As for the audio, Hunter’s Legacy features a fitting soundtrack that pairs nicely with its visuals. Although I won’t be humming any of the tunes outside of the game, the entire soundtrack most definitely adds to the overall charm the visuals instill. The aesthetics are amazing, and it’s my hope that we haven’t seen the last from these artists and composers.
Simply put, Hunter’s Legacy comes up terribly short where it needs it the most. As beautiful as the game looks and sounds, the flaws of gameplay cannot be hidden. Again, it possesses the gameplay foundation of something great, yet the marring by cheap practices that add annoyance over genuine challenge devastate the overall experience. The limited opportunities and reasons for exploration, paired with the drudging feel of progress, make this game an average effort at best. Taking only about five hours to complete, unless you’re a diehard fan of action platformers with plenty of patience and 7 USD to spare, this will be a pass for most. Despite the egregious flaws, there is enough to demonstrate that this development team has potential. I’m not quite ready to write them off just yet, but I do hope they learn from this for their next foray into this genre.
Review copy provided by developer