The Otterman Empire attempts to offer a Splatoon-like experience for Xbox One, and that in itself is an exciting prospect. But does it live up to this or is that promise just too fishy?
The Otterman Empire starts out with a small tutorial. It opens with “in a galaxy really, really, really far away” and goes on to explain the basic plot. An evil scientist named Tiko has declared war on the Otterman Empire and you must fight back against him to save the day.
This is basically all you are given in regards to the story, and from there it plays basic audio and shows text on screen to emphasise why you are doing what you’re doing. Then you are released to the tutorial area. Here you are taught the basics such as general movement and combat. You can jump with A, roll by double tapping jump and hover with a jetpack by holding A down. Added to this are basic shooting mechanics and a hide mechanic like that found in Splatoon. At the tap of the X button, you can hide in water, restoring your jetpack and bullets.
This is an incredibly frustrating experience. The dodge and jetpack moves are unruly and imprecise, often deterring you from using them. Splatoon doesn’t have this sense of verticality and lacks a strong jump, but then it doesn’t need one. The practicality of ink adds something that The Otterman Empire doesn’t have – smooth movement. While there is a height and speed achieved here that does not happen in the game that has obviously inspired it, there is no real need for it. The added speed when in ink and its deceptiveness makes it a key way to travel in Splatoon. Otterman’s jetpacks are instead tedious and frustrating, only really being useful to travel or traverse jumps. The ability to hide in water is made worse by Otterman’s directional system. Enemy players, once seen, are pointed out constantly through walls and heights. This means the hide and seek game prevalent through the use of ink in Splatoon is entirely gone here as your location is pointed out.
All this is before mentioning the clear lack of balance and abundance of glitches. One character became the go-to for local multiplayer mode due to their overpowered guns and special abilities, and unfortunately no others even came close; anyone using that character would easily win most games. This is a shame as there is a level of charm to the character designs that is spoiled by no real thought having been put into the way they work together. As well as this, there is a general glitchy feel to character movement. Multiple times, characters would die, only to be alive and well a second later in the same spot. And at one point in time, numerous arrows appeared to indicate a player in arbitrary spots that the character was not in. This was made worse by the way gunfights resolve. Oftentimes, fights would take seconds to reveal the winner as death animations are clunky and inaccurate. This makes fights feel random and they ruin any real fun there is to be had here.
The versus mode comes with 8 maps and 8 modes at launch, all working to various effects. None of them feel particularly refreshing or new, instead offering the standard fare for multiplayer titles – king of the hill, defending a point, or moving an item into an area. These could work just fine if the combat didn’t feel just so clunky. Things such as the target range mode feel random, as the aiming systems are slow and inaccurate. It is almost comparable to Fortnite’s bloom system in parts, where shots that are on target occasionally miss, and those that are off target have a chance of hitting. This ruins the majority of the competition these games usually bring out.
When that competition isn’t there, you could always move to the single player mode. However, the story is non-existent and you are left to work your way through levels, completing what are essentially random objectives in order to move on to the next. Each level can earn you three stars through combat and completing objectives, and there are 63 to earn in total, yet the single player gives little to no incentive to continue past the first few levels. Further, the cutscenes are generally pretty poor and the story will not interest you. It serves as preparation for the multiplayer (of which there is no online mode at launch) but if your friends are anything like mine, they will not want to play past the first few games anyways.
The Otterman Empire on Xbox One does not offer a particularly good experience. It draws inspiration from Splatoon, a shooter that could do with an Xbox equivalent, and ruins most of the good faith you might afford it. The general gameplay is clunky, unresponsive, glitchy, and just downright infuriating. The entire game feels like a 2000’s Xbox 360 shovelware title and not in a nostalgic way. Much like the Ottoman Empire itself, the end product is incohesive and falls apart at the seams. Its ambition is certainly nice to see, but that appears to be its ultimate downfall.