We're not all of us perfect. We all make mistakes, right? I did last week when I didn't vet my choice for Rise and Shiny and picked Akaneiro: Demon Hunters, a single-player game with optional co-op, a game that is not only not finished but still on Kickstarter. I'm not sure how I did it, but I think it had something to do with an email I received that talked about how good the game was. In my desperation to find something new and original to play, I grabbed this one and ran with it. American McGee's studio, Spicy Horse Games, is behind the project, so that's another reason to get excited.
Luckily, the game has many great features and could, one day, feature an MMO-like option. It's also a good choice for those who enjoy games like Drakensang Online or Diablo. But there are some less exciting aspects to the game too, so you know I'll be covering those.
Akaneiro: Demon Hunters is a game that is set in ancient Eastern settings and has a story inspired by Red Riding Hood. (Yes, wonderfully odd, I know.) Now, I'm one of those people who goes to the art museum and truly admires artworks from China or Japan but is normally more impressed by massive, European landscapes or modern abstract stuff. But lately and for some reason that I cannot explain, Asian art styles -- especially those good old ancient ones -- are so impressive and inviting. There's something even calming and mesmerizing about many of the paintings on silk or tiny carvings of ivory. When you stop and think about it, what those artists achieved all of those years ago is amazing.
"There's life in the movements of the characters on the screen and real appeal in the combat even though it's from the dungeon-grinder school that I'm normally very fatigued by."
Akaneiro: Demon Hunters pulls from that style while putting a fresh coat of gloss on it. This game is slick, wonderfully illustrated, and beautifully drawn. I'm a bit of an old-school artist myself, I spent most of my childhood and (unfortunately) 90% of my high-school years drawing. I like games that at least look like they were drawn, games that look like they were sketched out on a pad and painted. Of course these days we have fancy-schmancy programs that allow even non-artists to work up a pretty impressive piece, so I could be wrong in my interpretation when I say that Akaneiro: Demon Hunters looks hand-drawn. I use that term a lot, but I don't mean only literally drawn and painted with charcoal or oil, but here's hoping. There's life in the movements of the characters on the screen and real appeal in the combat even though it's from the dungeon-grinder school that I'm normally very fatigued by.
The controls are fluid, something that I appreciate as well. I have wrists that have been beaten by years of drums, art, and gaming, so I cannot really enjoy action-based games as much as I'd like. Akaneiro: Demon Hunter's controls work well and even with all of the click-click-clicking going on, the game provides simple combos and special abilities that do not snap my arm. Yes, clicking to destroy monsters and then gathering massive amounts of loot is the name of this game, as well as the name of many, many other "Diablo-clones" that we've seen in recent years. Some players swear by the formula and love the fact that it's often left alone, wrapped only in a different skin once in a while. Is Akaneiro: Demon Hunters just another one of these clones? Well, basically. Having said that, I have to keep in mind that many players have not yet enjoyed an action-based dungeon crawler yet and so might stumble upon this one first. If so, I can feel good that at least they'll be playing a much more original take on the genre, one filled with amazing art, killer bosses, and tons of loot.
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There will be multiplayer options soon if everything goes to plan. The development team has reached its Kickstarter goal, a much-deserved achievement, but according to the developers who frequent the world chat in-game, the game is nowhere near completed. A player can play with an NPC version of a friend right now, and that friend's character will gain Karma shards, an in-game monetary unit that is used for pretty much everything from upgrading skills to buying equipment. I can only imagine how much cooler the game will be when players can form real-time groups with each other to go smashing through the beautiful scenery, but we'll see.
"I understand that the appeal of the genre is just that -- grinding after gear and tweaking stats to perfection -- but that's never been appealing to me."
I'm no fan of throwing tons of loot at a player so that he or she can run back to town, pick out the piece that is slightly better than the one currently equipped, and go out and do it again and again. I understand that the appeal of the genre is just that -- grinding after gear and tweaking stats to perfection -- but that's never been appealing to me. Is grinding and killing monsters for hours ever that much fun? Sure, with a group of friends and a case of beer, but Akaneiro: Demon Hunters doesn't allow for that yet. It does have an interesting storyline and fantastic boss-monsters to kill. It's a challenging game occasionally, but overall I found myself burning through content like a celebrity at a sci-fi convention's autograph line. Can that be a concern for the developers? Possibly, but lack of content is a concern for any developer. You can go back and play through dungeons again on harder settings, so that lends itself to repeated play, but I tend to play through a mission or two at a time and will return for more later.
Luckily, there are a lot of reasons to stop and smell the flowers in Akaneiro: Demon Hunters. The art design is still the biggest appeal of the game. Even the website is more appealing than most of the ones I see indies put out. The Kickstarter page mentions an Android beta, something I could see truly working out for this game. It's begging for a port to something more portable, and while I was streaming it live, the chat room kept asking for a console version.
Akaneiro: Demon Hunters' combat is about what you might expect from a dungeon-crawling, loot-collecting, monster-killing adventure, but it also throws in such marvelous art, music, and sounds that I can see it being picked up and distributed in many more major venues. It's free-to-play with optional Karma purchases right now, but I'm planning on contributing to the Kickstarter as well. I rarely do that, but I like to reward a team that seems to know that even an indie game must have charm and some bit of polish. Oh, and kickass combat as well. That always helps. The fact that the developers have included a browser-based version alongside a downloadable one is so good. I wish more developers had the ability to do this!
Next week I am switching gears and once again rolling the dice on Dragon's Call, a strange browser-based MMO that looks to be a combination of text-based game, turn-based combat, and open character development. We'll see how it goes by streaming it live on Monday, the 18th of February, at 5:00 p.m. EST, right here on our livestream channel!
Each week on Rise and Shiny, Beau chooses a different free-to-play, indie, or browser-based game and jumps in head-first. It might be amazing or it might be a dud, but either way, he'll deliver his new-player impressions to you. Drop him an email, comment, or tweet!