I suppose when people start drawing parallels to The Legend of Zelda when describing a new game, that can only be a good thing. Decay of Logos has indeed attracted such comparisons, certainly on the surface anyway. It’s a third-person action/adventure RPG with an emphasis on “minimal hand-holding”. In other words, you’re on your own. And it’s time to grit your teeth and saddle up, because I can assure you it’s a bumpy ride.
Decay of Logos is a straight up adventure game (that’s the only mode on offer here). You play as Ada, a young adventurer who befriends a mysterious Elk, setting out on a quest to find who destroyed her homestead, which is razed to the ground at the very beginning of the game. As you play you’ll discover that a prince obsessed with alchemy has corrupted the very land you once called home. There are occasional voice acted characters you can engage with that flesh out the story, but Ada is more the silent type. It’s the atmospheric sound effects, minimal background music and pleasing cel shaded visuals that result in a mysterious and haunting tone to the adventure you embark on.
As mentioned earlier, you’re thrown straight into the game, there’s no conventional tutorial to be seen. There are rune stones scattered about which offer you tips and signpost the controls, but that’s about it. It’s up to you to figure out how to survive, and choose your battles carefully. It’s all designed to reinforce the central theme. You’re a young, vulnerable adventurer thrust into a vast, dangerous world. Just to be clear, Decay of Logos sets a very unforgiving difficulty which will not be suited to everyone.
You start with a basic sword and no armour, which leaves you very vulnerable indeed. In fact, one well aimed attack and you’ll be killed in one strike. You’ll quickly discover that as chunky as your health bar looks, it can be drained very quickly. If you die, you’ll respawn at the last checkpoint, or shrine, that you have activated. You can also revisit a shrine to restore health and save your progress. As you travel your stats will decrease, but there are areas of sanctuary where you can sleep to recharge them. Even after healing at a shrine, if your stats are low you’ll move as if you are injured, meaning you can’t sprint. The good news is that you effectively retain your progress if you die even though enemies will respawn; so there’s some mercy after all. It’s important to collect and maintain armour, and weapons, in order to protect yourself throughout the game. As you battle you will “level-up”, as will your enemies when you enter each new area, to ensure things stay challenging.
In terms of combat, you have two types of attack; a standard and then a stronger option. Each time you use these, jump or even sprint, you’ll run down your stamina bar which is used up annoyingly quickly. Once empty you won’t have the strength to attack and will need to wait a short while for it to recharge. You can also block/parry and dodge attacks which come your way. The combat is pretty basic, and can feel clunky at times which is not ideal when one attack stands between you and death. I found myself using only my standard attack as I was so wary of dying; this way I could get several quick blows in, run away and then return when my stamina had refilled. I dared not to use my more powerful, slower attack, as I would be struck down before I could execute it.
You can also find ranged weapons which mix things up a bit, but they are very weak compared to the more direct approach. Sadly, this means the combat system is reduced to a repetitive hack and slash routine, driven by the fear of getting killed, which can happen all too easily.
Your first enemy encounter will be with what looks like a demented Hoppip, with the addition of some rather fearsome teeth. As you have run-ins with the other creatures roaming the land, you’ll discover that they’re all pretty much trying to kill you, sometimes poisoning or paralyzing you to boot. Many can finish you with just one strike, and sometimes it can feel unfair. It’s only when you start to armour up (as you find it), you’ll be able to withstand an increased amount of damage. Make sure to swap your armour and weapons regularly, as they will wear down the more you use them and eventually break. You’ll want to try not to attract multiple enemies at once either, as that’s when you’ll really run into difficulties trying to use the clunky combat system to fend them off.
The “view” button opens your inventory, as well as holding useful information such as your current character stats. You can also read “echoes” here that you collect as you explore the landscape, giving a bit more background to the game world.
As well as this, you can carry additional items inside the saddle on your Elk, which you can transfer from what you are carrying yourself.
Before you can mount your trusty steed, you’ll need to find some lullaberries which grow in random places all over the land. Feeding these to your Elk will calm it, meaning you can saddle up. You can also cuddle your companion until your heart’s content if you wish. Cute. Unfortunately trying to ride in a straight line is unnecessarily difficult. Your Elk will weave about everywhere, getting more stressed out as you ride. In all honesty, it’s sometimes quicker to just sprint on foot. The official game description states you’ll need your companion to “solve environmental puzzles”, however as far as I could see that just meant having it stand on a pressure switch. Hardly a brain teaser.
You’ll come across Arx’s and Sanctums as you explore, which are effectively dungeon areas that contain secrets hidden within. The areas are fairly large, with a handful of secrets to be found, but can feel empty with not an awful lot to do. Sure, you’re in a corrupted world with dangerous creatures roaming the land, but even if it’s supposed to feel empty and bleak, it shouldn’t play like that. Despite this, each area has a slightly different feel, or theme if you like, which is replicated on the main title menu as you progress. That’s a nice touch.
Unfortunately, there are still some fundamental issues with the game despite its day one patch. Namely, it has frozen on me as I was deep into a dungeon and then also crashed at a rest point before my progress was saved. As well as this, throughout playing the framerate is regularly choppy, which is a real shame. After a while, no matter how stylish and charming Decay of Logos attempts to be, it turns into an empty and very slow going affair. Fold in its very unforgiving nature to all of this and it becomes a very difficult game to play in multiple ways.
Decay of Logos on Xbox One has charm and meets all the basic action/adventure RPG criteria, but offers little else. Unfortunately its ambition is let down by an average execution. The Legend of Zelda, this ain’t.