Coming from Error 404 Game Studios is a new experience set in the eternal conflict between Heaven and Hell. Taking place in a kind of three-quarters top-down perspective, Obey Me sees you taking to the streets to bring some infernal justice. So, is this a game that should be played by everyone, or is it a case of “Get thee behind me, Satan”?
First off and it has to be noted that the overall presentation of Obey Me is very pleasing to the eye, being set in a kind of narrated graphic novel style. Every cutscene is static, played out in the classic style with a picture of the protagonist who is speaking displayed, alongside a subtitle showing what they are expressing. However, the cutscenes are fully voiced as well, which is unusual, and with some good voice acting on display it makes the game that little bit more interesting.
The story is sparse to begin, with Ammon, the big boss, ordering his P.A. Anna (demon bosses obviously have P.A.s) to deal with one of his minions who has been naughty. Of course, this pair aren’t going to get their hands dirty, and it’s here where we come in. Our characters are Vanessa Held, a fledgling Demon who works as a Soul Hunteress, and her Hellhound Monty. Just let that sink in a moment: a vicious demon dog, who looks like a possessed Doberman, complete with red eyes, called Monty. Oh, and Monty can talk, and some of the conversations between Monty and Vanessa are very amusing. In fact, the writing found throughout Obey Me is of a very good standard, and listening to the conversations is highly amusing.
So, with the scene set and the mission clear, Vanessa and Monty sally forth on their first mission. The world they find themselves in is a cross between Blade Runner and The Division, all bright neon signs and streets piled high with rubbish and debris. This seems to please Monty, as he is basically a stomach on legs with a dog’s appetite for rubbish – he will generally eat anything. This extends to the bosses of the levels, as when they are finally defeated Monty’s devouring of their corpse (or at least some of it, because the bosses are big) gives him new powers. As an example, the first boss rewards him the power to poison the enemies that he and Vanessa fight.
The actual levels themselves, while not massive, are a good size and have a number of secrets to find. These range from white crystals, which are used to unlock new powers, via red and blue crystals, which give you “mana” and health, right up to Alastair Crowley’s diary pages, which help to flesh out the backstory and larger universe of the game. However, as one of the criteria that your overall score for a level is based on is time, running through quickly will give you a better score. This was a bit of an issue for me, as I’m very much a completionist, and if there are collectables to find then I have to do my best to find them. Anyway, my minor OCD not withstanding, striking the balance between speed and exploration is a nice challenge.
Obey Me plays out as a 3D brawler, but one where a modicum of skill is required. As Vanessa gets stronger, she can unlock new attacks that take the form of combos, by spending the souls she collects. The combos are in set patterns, and flailing at the buttons with no kind of plan will see you not get very far. As an example, a useful combo that I like needs you to press A, A, B, A, and Vanessa will attack the enemy in front of her and then teleport out of range of any retaliation, attacking any enemies along the way. As you find extra weapons, like a giant hammer, Vanessa can switch weapons mid-combo by pressing the RB button, and these combos can be grin inducing to say the least. Monty also joins in, transforming from a Doberman to a flaming Hellhound covered in pustules, or whichever form you choose for him. Monty will attack enemies alongside Vanessa and, in a nice touch, if you have a second player sitting around they can take control of Monty and allow you to unleash a double dose of whup ass.
Monty and Vanessa can also fuse into one super strong form in extremis, which burns through the blue mana bar. When they are fused, not only does Vanessa gain health, which can be the difference between success and failure, particularly in the boss fights, but her attacks also become stronger. If you have three sections of the mana bar filled, you can hold the Y button down and cause a big explosion, which can stagger bosses and even inflict status effects, again making your life easier. The combat system in this game is surprisingly deep, with a variety of attacks and combos possible, and mixing and matching Vanessa’s abilities with Monty’s different forms can lead to some interesting results. Further to that, Vanessa can also throw knives if she has the need, which can help her out of a pinch. However, they aren’t awfully damaging, so are best used to interrupt a bad guy running up to attack, for example, opening them up for a combo.
Visually and things are massively appealing, with a real graphic novel kind of look to the game, both in the cutscenes and in the actual levels themselves. The enemies are a disgusting bunch, with some that puff up when hit before exploding, and others that spew poison gas all over, obscuring your view behind a nasty green haze. Even more monsters are small, but fast, while mini bosses appear to make life a little more difficult. The bosses in particular are an imaginative bunch, with some interesting mechanics. The first boss, for example, as you beat him and whittle his health down will disappear underground, before reappearing as a pit. So far so good, I thought, seeing a swarm of enemies entering the arena. However, they didn’t try to attack and instead just ran into the pit. “Weird”, I thought, before I noticed that each enemy that fell in healed the boss a little. Then the level turned into a mad scramble, trying to kill the enemies before they hit the pit. This is just one tactic of one boss, and it’s safe to say that they get harder from there on out.
So, Obey Me looks good, plays well and has decent voice acting. Is there any downside? Well, yes, but not too much to be fair. It is sometimes hard to see what is happening when Vanessa is getting swamped by enemies, and her teleport move doesn’t always seem to work as it should. Usually, however, if you die or get a good kicking you can see it is your own fault. Trying to just get a couple more hits out of a combo can leave you overextended and easy prey, so being aware of what’s around you and where you are in your combo is a skill you will need to cultivate in order to maximise the score you gain – not only at the end of each encounter or fight but at the end of each level.
All in all, Obey Me on Xbox One is a lot of fun to play. It’s challenging, fast and furious, and thankfully comes with an appealing story and graphical style. There are issues with the camera, but nothing game breaking, and with lots of fun to be had pushing back demons, what more recommendation do you need?