Thursday, December 7, 2017

Review: Slain - Back From Hell



Independent games have really opened up all sorts of avenues for people who enjoy “old school” games of all kinds. Many times the throwbacks aren’t just visual, they incorporate a degree of difficulty much more reminiscent of classic NES era games, though with modern flourishes. Slain: Back From Hell is a great example of this in action combining a classic, yet generally gorgeous, 16-bit-ish style with challenging and sometimes punishing gameplay that will demand you work for every bit of progress you get.


Brought back from your peaceful slumber of death the gods have work for you to do, namely to make your way through a series of dungeons and kill everything in your path… and it’s going to be a bloody time all the way! The most notable aspect of Slain is the mix of oozing blood and and creepiness everywhere paired with an absolutely intense heavy metal musical backdrop. This all definitely compliments the action on the screen which is generally brutal with you cutting your way through skeletons, demons, and all sorts of monstrosities.

What is absolutely vital to survival in the game is mastering your timed block and counter as your stock attack combo generally makes you vulnerable and simply doesn’t do enough damage to be your only means of success. The timing can be very tricky and you’ll pretty well need to get a feel for when to block for each specific type of enemy you’ll face since they all have their own means of attack. For the many projectiles lobbed at you the timing to swing your sword to knock them back is also crucial but this also has a bit of nuance in terms of getting the timing just right. If you hadn’t guessed by now the game has a pretty punishing difficulty and the most effective way you will have to survive is consistent precision.


The thing that will make or break the experience for most people will be the absolutely punishing overall difficulty. Levels can be conquered but it will be a step by step affair marked with some difficult scenarios, oftentimes cheap insta-death traps, and checkpoints that sometimes seem just a major altercation too far apart. The moveset also feels lacking, something more to break up the proceedings would have been nice to stave off monotony and to perhaps make combat more dynamic.

If you’re a fan of challenging games Slain: Back From Hell is happy to sate your thirst for aggravation, loud music, and pretty copious gore. Progress is always a challenge but there are a few passages specifically where you patience will be tested and you’ll have to gut it out with probably a little luck to make it through. That said, completing some of the levels is enormously satisfying and there are some great surprises along the way to reward your investment and effort if you’re daring.


Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • Gorgeously gory in an over-the-top 16-bit style
  • The soundtrack is absolutely insane and is well-matched to the action on-screen
  • Over the course of the game it continues to change some things up to keep the challenge level high

Cons:
  • Only for fans of aggravation and old school challenge
  • Some checkpoint spans are more cruel than others and instadeath traps in bad spots can be extremely annoying
  • Combat, on the whole, is a bit on the repetitive side


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