This was a game I had very high hopes for and while it didn't let down all of those hopes, most of them have been squashed. I was hoping to play it solo and then go back with friends and play it all over again on co-op, that is something I will not be doing now. I completed every story act as well as every act in each of the three post-game dungeons, to complete the entire game's offering of content from start to finish it took me just under ten hours. I was also playing on an X Box Series X and did experience a few but not many of the bugs other people say the game is plagued with. With that said, strap in it's going to be one hell of a bumpy ride.
Let's start with this game's bread and butter, the combat. As I said in my first impressions review which you can read here, I played Bruenor the tankiest character of the bunch, equipped with a one-handed axe and a shield, this character is perfect for me as I usually do pick the tank-type character, so I'm more attuned to this style of gameplay compared to say the rogue type character in this game. Seeing as the game is a hack and slash the combat does get repetitive rather quickly but the game does do a good enough job at shaking things up a bit with new unlockable skills and attacks as you level up. The combination attacks felt smooth and fluid never feeling clunky or heavy at any moment, blocking was perfect and the parry system I would argue is better than Dark Souls. So as far as the players combat I didn't find much of anything to complain about, besides sometimes when doing a jumping heavy attack you can float on top of the enemies head, I actually ended up using this tactically and would turn to get behind the enemy to score a critical hit. However, while the player combat is fine the enemy combat is god awful at times, I think a fair assessment would be 50% of the time the game was fine, and 50% of the time I'm still not sure what happened. Enemies would be invisible which I actually ended up thinking was a built-in mechanic of the game, turns out it's not. The worst offender in this game was the Verbeegs and their god forsaken chain attack, the attack itself is nothing crazy, they throw out a hook and pull you in if you get caught in it. The Verbeegs almost always have a dialogue queue that they are throwing the hook so you know to dodge, well sometimes the hook was on the other side of the planet and it would grab me and yoink me into their big bellies. I counted how many times specifically this one issue happened to me, it happened 13 times. Now it's not a big deal because you just roll away and avoid any damage but it really took me out of the moment several times. Overall the combat was decent, I'm not going to shit on it like IGN did but I'm also not going to lie and praise it.
Something this game did very well was the levels and environments. Each level was usually in a tight cave or enclosed area to some degree yet I never once noticed it. The use of the portals system was perfection, you could run through a mob-infested cave then teleport to the complete other side of it to continue pushing forward but while doing so seeing the vast and beautiful environments they created. There were several moments where I stopped and peered into the backdrop of the game, the graphics are nothing to write home about but also looked like they should for 2021. The only exception to the graphics being less than stellar would be the character models and some of the moving objects in-game such as banners and fires. One thing that did look amazing was the cutscenes, especially the intro cutscene to Verbeegs Jamboree, you can watch it here. The music and overall audio for this game were spot on, besides the voice acting, more on that later. The music felt like the developers took The Witcher and Lord Of The Rings soundtrack, combined them and this is what we got. The ability to change the color/skin of certain armor and weapon pieces made me feel a bit more attached to my character, a cool feature to note is depending on which gear set helmet I would use it would change my facial hair design and color.
I want to discuss the many "mechanics" of the game because there are a lot of them. Throughout my ten hours, I experienced enemies that could apply bleed, poison, freeze, hexes, blinds, fire, shock, silences, necrotic damage, and confusion (which is the hardest one of all to deal with as it completely reverses your controls). There are so many in fact the game has a built-in guide to explain what the icons represent and what they do in the pause menu. These may be small things in most games, but it is so important in this game because there are not a lot of enemies so the fact that enemies can become elite, which gives them more health and an added factor such as one of the ones I listed above, really adds to the diversity of enemy types you can run into.
Now for the shortest part of this review, the "story". Without going into spoilers of which there is only one because the game doesn't really have a story, we the heroes are keeping a powerful crystal from falling into the wrong hands... That's really it, there's more story from my character's dialogue at the start of each mission than there is in the entire game. Also, the final fight felt extremely disappointing and not satisfying at all.
Here comes the bad stuff, if you thought there was enough bad sprinkled in above just hold on and get ready because there is a lot to sift through. The final fight of almost every act is horrendous with the only exception being The Chef. In the final fight where we get to finally save the crystal all you do is stand behind the boss as he respawns six times till he just doesn't respawn anymore. The dungeons in this game are by far the worst thing in it, it's just more of the same, except this time the enemies have about 50 times more health. The Kelvin dungeon was horribly boring and just long fights with the same enemies I've fought for 8 hours who by the way gain no new skills or attacks. Hagedorn was probably the most iconic enemy type, but again had a boring fight that you could cheese by jumping back and forth between two platforms. After those two horribly boring and slow dungeons you finally get to fight Icewind the dragon, now you may be thinking ah yeah a dragon that's gotta be good right? Hell no, this fight was so bad I felt like I was playing Quest 64 back in '98. Her hitboxes are about 2x the actual size of the model, she can hit you from a mile away, its a 4 phase fight. Guess what changes each phase, if you said nothing you would be correct! It's just do damage until you fire a ballista rinse and repeat until it dies. I'm still not sure what was worse though, the actual fight with the dragon or the god-awful voice acting paired to it. Not only did I want to rush to beat the game because the dungeons beat me down, but her voice was starting to drive me insane, I wanted to pull a Van Gogh and slice my damn ears off. Another and possibly the most frustrating of issues is if you attempt to use your charge attack, which for me on X Box is hold Y and then you try and roll which is B, it completely cancels your charge attack and restarts the cooldown. I even went so far as to test if this was a one-time thing or a bug, nope you can actually completely cancel your strongest attack and restart the cooldown by using the only mobility option in the game, whoever decided that was a good idea should have their work possesions in a box and be booted out the damn door. Another blunder to this game which I thought was actually a cool feature until I used it was the armor sets and resistances/buffs that go with them. My first attempt on Icewind went terribly so I slapped on seven out of the eight available gear slots for my Cold Resist gear, which should have given me a 50% frost damage reduction, yet when I fought her again I was taking the same exact amount of damage. I'm not sure if it's just a bug with that set or all of them, either way, that was extremely disappointing. The final negative I want to slide in here is a small one and probably would go unnoticed if you played co-op, but the fact that I can't skip what feels like a 10-minute long tally screen drove me nuts, I would kill the final boss instantly put my controller down and go right on Instagram for the next few minutes until I could play again.
After my ten hours in this game, I feel safe saying I would recommend it only if you go in knowing it has some pretty big faults. I can't say I enjoyed it 100% of the time but I also didn't hate it the entire time. With the game being on game pass right from its launch it's a pretty safe bet to download and try out. I will, however, strongly recommend you play this with friends and not solo, if I had played this with friends I expect I would've had a much better time. For me, this game lands right down the middle, when it's bad it's really bad but when it's good it's really good.
If you played this game scroll down to the comments and let me know what you thought of it.