There’s something about a good roguelite that can set you off in the right mood for hours on end. I can’t even stop talking about Hades, even months after its release, mainly because of the impact it’s left on me. It’s really something.
Yet, done the wrong way, a roguelite is hard to shake loose. You find yourself interested in certain elements with it, and yet…it’s frustrating to know the developers came close to something good and couldn’t quite get there. Sadly, this is the case with Zengeon, a Chinese-developed game based on a neat idea with some decent hack and slash that, sadly, just doesn’t live up to its potential.
Back To School
The game puts you in the role of one of many students tasked with the mission of bringing down demons. Now, considering the story was based on a neat wrinkle of mythology, it could’ve really dug deep here and created a worthwhile adventure, even one that’s not nearly on the level as Hades. But it feels like it took the easy way out when it comes to storytelling. As such, it just doesn’t have the follow-along mythos to go along with its action. It’s like an episodic series that forgot to tell you the significance of its story.
That’s too bad because the kids themselves are pretty cool and the differences within their abilities in the heat of combat are worth exploring. They all come with special attacks that you can unleash on the horde, though, as expected with a roguelite, some take a little while to charge. But they’re executed pretty decently…save for one glaring problem.
One big problem with Zengeon is that the gameplay feels like it’s about a half of a second off. Not that you can’t unleash attacks well enough, because you can, but it lacks the pinpoint timing that makes Hades work so damn well. That said, the game does have technical issues that pop up, namely with the visuals stuttering a little bit. As you might expect, that doesn’t help the gameplay much.
Speaking of the visuals, there are times when they can hit the mark, particularly with character design in both the heroes and the enemies. They’re fascinatingly designed as if to lend to a bigger story that (sigh) fails to deliver. Again, it’s frustrating.
And while the game benefits from procedurally generated levels, it gets too chaotic at times, especially if you’re playing alongside others. The game can slow down quite a bit, and it’s too hard to see what’s happening. With just a little more processing oomph and thought into the design, this wouldn’t be such a glaring issue. As such, I’m afraid it is.
If you do decide to give this game a go with a buddy – and don’t mind the issues that arise from it – then there is some decent action here. Along with the game’s main demon-killing mode, there’s also a secondary Horde-style mode called Guard Mode, in which you fend off against waves of enemies. It’s not entirely original, and, yep, the visual issues are present here as well. With that said, there is some modest fun, provided you can accept the limitations that come with it. That’s a lot to take in, though.
Magically Blown Opportunity
In the face of what other successful roguelite games have done (again, Hades clearly leads the pack), Zengeon could’ve been so much more. It’s not a complete train wreck, as there are some things it does in an okay manner, but okay isn’t going to cut it when so much more could’ve been done with story, visuals, and gameplay. This is a game clearly in need of tightening up; and until a patch comes along, your best bet is to stick with Supergiant’s gods in the meantime.