I don’t mind a good puzzler and I’m rather keen on a bit of rogue-like action. That should mean that any game able to combine the two genres effectively will, at least in my book, be something worth taking in time and time again.
That should also therefore mean that Subaeria is right up my alley. See, it is billing itself as an intense action puzzler with rogue-like elements, and whilst that mixture is all well and good, any really addictive experience does need a bit more than just that to ensure that it is worth experiencing. This is where Subaeria falls flat.
Taking on the role of Styx, a young girl who is out for revenge after the death of her family, you’ll need to move your way through a rather delightful, randomly created, underwater world in which ‘Cleaners’ are king. These robots control each and every area of Subaeria, and in order to progress you’ll need to use your wits – and pray that luck is on your side – as you go about clearing a path for yourself. Why? Well, you’ll want to discover all of the mysteries of Subaeria and at least attempt to exact your revenge on Don Dorf, the evil overlord who is overseer of this land, and the one responsible for the death of your family.
Initially Subaeria comes across as good, with a lovely visual style that is of fairly high standards. Even though the constant presence of orange and blue tones throughout will eventually get the better of you, the opportunities to run through this world, clearing out each of the various rooms of all Cleaners so that further avenues open up is a decent draw. That is enhanced more when you notice that for you to be successful, both the environment and some rather nifty little tricks will need to be utilised.
Apps are the key to your success and these are installed to the trigger buttons for ease of use. This is the way that Styx is able to manipulate all bots, either so she can drive them in to death-fulfilling force fields, or by pitting multiple bots up against each other. Different coloured bots dislike one another and so if you can find a way of tempting them to come together, battle commences and your life is made a whole ton easier. Whether you decide to call on special powers that allow you to push and roll the bots into the various obstacles that fill each room, or just let them battle it out to the death, then you’re on to a winner and progression can be made. If not, then well they’ll chase you down forever more.
The very best App unlock is that of Master, letting you use the right stick to command any bot under your spell with ease. But the likes of a Decoy that creates a clone of Styx will see Cleaners attack on sight, whilst Target for instance sees all Cleaners become hostile to each other. There are a whole multitude of Apps to unlock throughout your time with Subaeria, each with pros and cons of their own and you’ll no doubt find a new favourite with each playthrough made. Personally though without the Master App appearing early on in any run, I’ve found the world of Subaeria to be a hard one.
Of course, with the rogue-like aspect that powers the entirety of Subaeria, chances are you may find yourself needing to harness the abilities of an unfavoured App, and so it doesn’t take long for you to realise that you just have to make do with what you have in each instance – even if at times this leaves you scratching your head forever more, with the temptation of death even an option in the hope that the next run will prove more fruitful. This is where the randomness comes across as a big old negative, leaving you in hope that you may just stumble upon something mega powerful before you go head to head with any multi-Cleaner filled area, or, worse still, any boss room you may find. The problem is, with Apps limited to what you find beforehand, and rooms locking down all exits until Cleaners are disposed off, you may well get locked in with little in terms of App power. That will leave you to try and work out a strategic way to come out of the whole situation alive, but until you’ve had the chance to grind away and pick up Boosts – permanent additions which help you out further still – you may just find any run through the halls of Subaeria a rock hard proposition.
If I’m honest, Subaeria on the whole is pretty tough. Not because the puzzles are tricky for if you have decent Apps, much of it is a breeze, and not because the controlling of robots is hit and miss either, but with levels that are full of details, overhangs and multiple obstacles to overcome, it is far too easy to find yourself totally stuck, unable to understand or compute exactly what is needed of you next. Of course, the more you play, the more you will die and the more you will be finding yourself running back over the same room types time and time again, and even though this can get a little tiresome (especially when you find numerous NPCs with hugely limited conversations), it is this grind which is absolutely vital to any form of progress. It really is a case of practice makes perfect.
But then luck makes perfect too in many of the situational arenas that hold the key to this tale of revenge, and there have been many times when I’ve been left to run blindly round a room in the hope that the Cleaners in place will eventually tire themselves out and fall to pieces. I’m not sure that’s exactly what the development team at iLLOGIKA had in mind with the random creation of some of the Subaerian rooms, but it’s exactly how things play out. And holding out on luck in order to complete a run isn’t fun in anyone’s books.
With rather simplistic audio additions, puzzles that never test the mind and a camera angle that borders on the horrid, it’s a shame that Subaeria has seen more love put into the detail of the visuals more than anything else. Mind you, the pace of the action is right up there where it should be and this allows Subaeria to become a relatively fun little pick up and play title, especially if you have 20 mins at the end of a tough gaming session to spare. Will you be found spending hours slaving over what has been included? No, but for the odd bit of participation every now and then, it just about does the job.
At the end of the day though, it’s quite possibly the rogue-like elements of Subaeria which brings the whole thing down, as should this design idea have been replaced by a proper narrative focused adventure, we may have been able to see a brighter future for young Styx and the world of Subaeria. As it is though, this is one middle of the road puzzler, that just so happens to be powered by the luck of the rogue-like draw.