It’s not the done thing to mock the translation of a game, as not everyone has English as their first language, and we’d do a worse job if – for example – we were making a game in Japanese. But the translation of Obsurity is so absurdly, willfully bad, that we genuinely don’t know if the title of the game is a typo. It genuinely could be. 

“I killed a monster with a really big head it easily fits a horses herd”

“Let me guess has someone stolen your sweet roll”

“The guards capitain should know where did the inquisitor go”

It’s worth mentioning, simply because it’s indicative of a wider problem. Obsurity (stop autocorrecting it, Microsoft!) cuts a lot of corners, and is shoddier than a game on the Xbox Store should be. This is a buggy, repetitive, mistranslated and occasionally offensive game, and while it has some redeeming qualities, we’d definitely advise against parting cash with it.

obsurity review 1

Obscurity is a brand of game that we’re seeing increasingly on the Xbox. It’s an answer to the question of ‘what if Dark Souls was a Diablo hack-and-slash?’, and we’re getting them at the rate of roughly one per fortnight. It’s not necessarily a bad thing – it’s led to some fantastic games like Death’s Door and Eldest Souls – but it means that Obsurity has a lot of work to do to stand out. And having a bonkers translation won’t be enough to do it.

You play a young girl called Atari, who has been possessed/absorbed/partnered by a demon/vampire/knight called Santinel. It could be any of these options, as Obsurity – thanks to the mistranslation, no doubt – is hard to unravel. And it doesn’t get any clearer by the fudged ending. What is clear is that the land of Ahn’koval has been covered in an eternal darkness called the Obsurity, and you’ve both taken it upon yourselves to clear it. 

You can switch between Atari and Santinel with a touch of the B button, but – and, again, we come back to the shoddiness – there is no reason to be Atari. You can’t attack, and you certainly can’t defend as her. If you switch to Atari, you’re a sitting duck. This would be odd but inoffensive if the game didn’t switch you to Atari willy-nilly. You auto-change to her when you talk, pull switches and read scrolls in the environment. If you don’t notice that you’ve changed, you’re wide open to attack. You begin to wonder what the point was: why have two characters in the first place? Why not be a vampiric knight (or whatever we are) throughout?

obsurity review 2

Santinel has a single attack and no block or defend. The attack is an X-mapped swipe of a sword, which can be directed with the right analogue stick. This makes Obsurity a hybrid of twin-stick shooter and hack-and-slash, as you’re moving in one direction but attacking in another. It works to a degree, and we didn’t necessarily miss the lack of block or roll. But it does mean that the optimal play is often to retreat and attack, or jab Santinel out of the way just as an attack lands. When coupled with the devastating consequences of a hit (you have very little health and few cheap ways to recover it), it means you are playing on a constant back foot. It’s like running away from wasps and swatting as you go.

It gives Obsurity an oppressive, hardcore feel, and it’s probably the game’s best point. You will never feel like a berserker or ninja warrior, sure, and coming off the back of Hades, it feels like a sudden ice cube challenge. But wading through dark spirits with the most limited of move sets often works. You’re doing everything you can to make the smallest headway in a level.

If only the enemies were more varied, then the slog would be a good thing rather than bad. There are four levels here, and each one adds roughly one new creature to fight, and it’s nowhere near enough. The hundredth wasp, caterpillar-thing, vampire and ghost soon gets wearing. And you can’t replace a difficulty-ramp with more and more enemies in a small space.

obsurity review 3

The levels could do with some spritzing too. There’s a pattern to them, as you move from the core level to an alternate dimension through a portal (which doesn’t bother to switch up the enemies), then back to more level, a ritual marker that triggers waves of baddies, then yet more level and then a boss. On one hand it’s great to have your objective changing so often mid-level, but did it have to be in the same pattern every time? And did we have to reheat the same enemies? We were desperately on the hunt for something new.

But the biggest killer is the bugs. Obsurity loves to wedge you into the environment, unable to move. Apparently, the walls here are made of Bostik. For a game that’s so simple, it needed plenty more playtesting. We got stuck on opening menus, pause screens and text-based journals, as if they all wanted to join the fun. We’ve not played a game where we’ve spent such a large proportion restarting from the Home Screen.

And while we’re on the complaining streak, excuse us for having a go at the difficulty settings. Calling your easy setting ‘For Little Girls’ isn’t going to endear you to us. That kind of thing can stay back in the ‘80s.

As a Souls-like goes, this is so stripped back that you question whether it can be a Souls-like anymore. At its best, Obsurity is a hardcore hack-and-slash where you spend more time retreating than progressing, which is better than it sounds. But at its worst, and it is all too often in that area, it’s a buggy, unwieldy and incomprehensible brawler that needs tightening up on pretty much every joint.

You can buy Obsurity for £4.19 from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

It’s not the done thing to mock the translation of a game, as not everyone has English as their first language, and we’d do a worse job if - for example - we were making a game in Japanese. But the translation of Obsurity is so absurdly, willfully bad, that we genuinely don’t know if the title of the game is a typo. It genuinely could be.  “I killed a monster with a really big head it easily fits a horses herd” “Let me guess has someone stolen your sweet roll” “The guards capitain should know where did the inquisitor…

Pros:

  • Atmospheric and tense
  • Can be rewarding as you make slow progress

Cons:

  • All narrative and written text is a garbled mess
  • No variety to enemies
  • Little variety to levels
  • Strewn with bugs

Info:

  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Xitilon
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
  • Version reviewed -Xbox One on Xbox Series X
  • Release date - 28 Sept 2021
  • Launch price from - £4.19
TXH Score

2/5

Pros:

  • Atmospheric and tense
  • Can be rewarding as you make slow progress

Cons:

  • All narrative and written text is a garbled mess
  • No variety to enemies
  • Little variety to levels
  • Strewn with bugs

Info:

  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Xitilon
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
  • Version reviewed -Xbox One on Xbox Series X
  • Release date - 28 Sept 2021
  • Launch price from - £4.19

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