I have a bit of form with the Animus series of games, created by Tenbirds, mostly as I found myself really enjoying the last game they released, Animus – Stand Alone, and it’s kind of “Darks Souls in episodic form” gameplay, instead of being lost in a massive open world and needing to find a bonfire to save. But now the guys at the development studio have been burning the midnight oil to bring us the next instalment, Animus: Revenant. Does it carry on the good work from the game before it, or is it all a little bit different? Strap on your heaviest armour, we’re going in.
Straight away, gamers who are familiar with the ways of Souls-type game storytelling will be right at home here. We spawn into a world that looks on the edge of disaster, seemingly having had all the life sucked out of it and leaving the vista almost monochrome. We are a bloke in a suitably massive suit of armour, tooled up either with a shield and hammer, or a honking great two handed axe; we can switch between them at will. We have a couple of people to talk to, which helps to flesh out what we are doing, and the seemingly mandatory messages on the floor that give clues about how to play the game. Other than that, hand holding ceases, and the rest is up to you. So far, so Souls, right?
Well, hold your horses there. What isn’t like Souls at all is the way that Animus: Revenant is portrayed, being played from a third person, almost at a three quarters isometric point of view, and with the viewpoint fixed. That’s right, you cannot move the camera in this game, and when enemies can and will attack from off screen, this is a big issue.
One of the beauties of Souls type games is the ability to move the camera to give you the best possible view of what is happening, and with rocks and scenery in the way, this isn’t possible here. I’ve been smashed by a regular enemy from off screen as they launched a jumping attack when I couldn’t see them, I’ve had bosses throw their weapons at me when I backed off to try and heal, killing me outright, and just this one design decision alone has caused more frustration when trying to make progress than any other. I cannot stress enough how wrong it feels not being able to pan the camera to see the enemies ahead; it spoils the whole feel of Animus: Revenant.
Still, as long as the rest of the Souls combat tropes are okay, we’ll be alright, yeah? Well, yes and no. I’ve never been much of a one for parrying attacks in these types of games, and much prefer to get the hell out of the way, deciding that avoiding big lumps of pointy metal feels a lot safer. Well, in Revenant both tactics are equally problematic. In Souls games, parrying is done by blocking at a precise moment, achieved with a single button press. In Animus: Revenant, it is not only two buttons (LB and A, in case you were wondering), but A is also an attack button, so a slightly mistimed press of a button will see you try to attack instead of parry. When you consider bosses hit like a truck, this can only end one way.
Unfortunately, the dodge move seems to have a serious nerf as well, as instead of rolling clear, like in every other game ever, dodging here sees you move approximately a foot to the side, or backwards; usually just enough to leave you in range of the boss’s attacks. And while we are on the subject, those attacks have some of the most outrageous tracking on them I’ve ever seen. You can see the boss winding up an attack, you dodge to the side, thinking to get a couple of swipes in, the boss will pivot in mid air and give you a good slapping with their mighty weapons. Again, it’s somewhat frustrating that the bosses don’t follow the rules that apply to us…
Still, we might be able to salvage a decent score if the game is a looker, right? Well, no, in a word. There is nothing wrong with the way Animus: Revenant comes across visually, and the design of our character, the enemies and the bosses are pretty good. The animation is not bad either, and the sound is suitably crunching and impactful, swishing weapons and hard impacts all present and correct. The actual feel of the game is pretty on point as well, with a real weight to the character movement and attacks. You can really feel the effort that we are having to make in order to not only move in this massive suit of armour, but swing around a large weapon as well, so there’s a plus point there. However, the bad things about the way the game has been designed certainly outweigh the good.
In conclusion and I’m going to have to use the most damning word I know in the context of a review: I have been left disappointed by Animus: Revenant. The promise of what Animus – Last Stand first delivered has been let down by a lack of polish and a new game style that just doesn’t work. The fixed camera is the biggest issue, but control problems and a dodge that moves you six inches are the final nail in the coffin. If you are a serious masochist, you may enjoy what Animus: Revenant brings to the table, but for the rest of us, there are a lot better Souls-styled games out there, and I’d recommend any of those above this.
Head to the Xbox Store for your Animus: Revenant fix