Friday, 6 January 2012

A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda Game Design Review

A.R.E.S: Extinction Agenda is an platformer very much in the style of megaman. You control A.R.E.S. a robot and go around defeating robotic enemies on a space station gaining weapons as you defeat enemies and finish levels. First, let me say that it's a good fun game. However, there are I think several problems which I think the game designers need to think about.

Crafting system needs tweaking - I recall there were four items basic materials you needed to colect to craft items or upgrades. Items or upgrades require all four materials. unfortunately the enemy drop rate for this is very low as are the 'material drops' you find scattered throughout the levels. In fact the game advices you to replay past levels to collect more to make the game easier. I don't like this form of gameplay because it breaks the flow of the game actually goes against the design of platformers. Unlike games like action RPGs like Castlevania or Metroid, the
game has very few branching paths and secrets so there isn't a 'psychological reward' for returning. I think four materials is too many for a fairly straight forward game lke this. A single currency to collect would be sufficient and rather than relying solely on random drops, the currency should be earned through exploration or achievements.

Grenade & Zypher Cannon Balance - All the main weapons are fairly balanced requiring you to switch between them in order eliminate various enemy types. Grenades and EMP Weapons however are another story. The grenades function not only as powerful damage dealers but also give you the ability to boost in a different direction. They require several seconds to charging-up before use and cost materials to craft. All too often I found myself unable to charge-up the grenade before being hit by an enemy causing me to fire the grenade in the wrong direction. The boost ability of grenades unlocked later in the game allow the player to reach previously unreachable areas. This is suppose to encourage players to experiment more with the grenades yet because of the scarcity of materials I was hesitant to employ the grenades, saving my materials to craft medikits instead. Once you finish the game, you're given access to unlimited grenades making using them actually more fun and more in tune with the game. Overall the scarcity of materials combined with long delay before their deployment felt to me to be at odds with the purpose of the grenades.

As for Zypher cannon, this basically functions as a room clearing bomb destroying all enemies. The cannon was okay, but it seemed a bit redundant, I don't think I ever used it in the levels and only against the bosses. I feel the the cannon could have been more integral to the game play like all the main weapons or dashing ability was. Perhaps as a way to interrupt bosses in their special attacks or something as in one of the boss battles? I think the grenades and the cannon could have been combined instead rather than having a separate cannon button for clearing the room of enemies.

Locked rooms - Occasionally, the game will lock you in a room and force you defeat all the enemies in the room before rewarding you with materials. It's okay but these rooms are very small and all you really end up doing is sitting in one corner of the room blasting away. This happens at least once or twice every level and get more annoying than fun by the end of the game.

Short game and replayability could be improved - Game is pricey considering how short it is and the replayability. There are extra data and power cubes to collect but I feel the game could have used some extra challenge modes or side quests to really help. As mentioned above, I think these quests or challenges could be linked to upgrades and items rather than the random materials section.

Overall it's a fun game worth maybe about $5 to $8 US dollars as priced. The soundtrack fits the tone of the game really well and is now available to purchase which I have. I think if they fix the problems I mentioned I sure Episode 2 and hopefully Episode 3 will be even better. I'm looking forward to Episode 2 which unfortunately seems to be taking a very long time to finish!

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