Saturday, February 4, 2012

Brand (XBLIG): "A Game With A Mythology All It's Own"

There are many mythologies in the world of gaming. You'll find epic games that revolve around various science fiction universes, and games that are based on fantasy realms. As a gamer I've seen many of these mythologies come, and go throughout the years. Some of them have even lasted through many different genres of consoles. It's always nice to see new realities/mythologies being born from the imaginations of gaming developers. Being able to experience these mythology based games provides an escape from everyday life for many video game enthusiasts such as myself. I often feel as if I'm a part of the world's, and mythologies that game developers create and enjoy the artistic trip that ensues. Recently I got the opportunity to play, and review an indie game that had it's own "Brand" of mythology. Nine Dots Studio, the developer behind the indie game "Brand" has brought their own mythology of sorts to the XBLIG library in an entirely new way. The game revolves around a quest to make a sword that's worthy for a king by completing side quests that involve ancient creatures called Troglodytes.

Brand is definitely a game with it's own mythology, but that mythological history is mainly depicted through some impressive art, and informative intermissions. The plot of the game involves a hero who has been sent on a quest to make the ultimate sword that's worthy of his king. Immediately when you begin the game you are given a simple sword that you must augment through three different swordsmiths (Blacksmith, Chemist, Mage). Each of the three swordsmiths will send you on various mission based errands in three different areas (Necropolis, Castle, Mine) in order to gather materials, and kill certain creatures (Troglodytes, Chewters ...) so that your sword can be enhanced. There are a variety of sword enhancements that can be gained/used including refining, sharpening, strengthening, elemental attributes, alchemist abilities, and magical powers.

The graphics in "Brand" are somewhat oldschool with a Playstation type of appearance. The level layouts have a semi-3D look to them, and the core gameplay is based on 2D gameplay mechanics. The character design in "Brand" is pretty impressive for the most part. The mythological creatures involved have their own unique look that stay true to the game's mythology. The only downside I found to the characters were that there was only a handful of different creatures. The enemies/creatures that were harder to defeat in the game are basically color palette swaps with a few detail alterations. Aside for that the game is pretty solid, especially when it comes down to architectural details. There were also some fairly notworthy special effects in the game concerning the sword, and it's augmentations (Flames, Darkness, Sparkles ...).

The controls in "Brand" are easy to pick up on. As the sword wielder you have a heavy, and light slash. The light slash is performed by pressing the (X) button while the heavy slash is executed by pressing the (Y) button. Both types of slashes can be done while jumping in the air. Learning how to attack more efficiently will help you survive longer. Jumping in the game is simply done by pressing the (A) button. Aside from slashes, and jump buttons the sword wielder also has a dash attack that can be performed by pressing the (B) button. The dash attack can also be used during mid-air jumps like the slashes. Using this ability is the key to make it past certain enemies, and hard to reach areas. Another feature that is very important in surviving the game's fairly hard difficulty is the ability to block. The block maneuver can be performed by holding down the (Right Trigger). For movement you can use either the (Left Thumbstick), or the (D. Pad). If you ever need to figure out the controls while playing the game there is a controller layout diagram available that explains everything quite well.

In conclusion I thought "Brand" was fairly impressive. The graphics were old school, but I liked how the game looked overall. It had it's own unique, and artistic theme/mythology that really brought the quest to make a worthy sword for the king to life. As a platformer "Brand" was presented fairly well. The controls were responsive for the most part, but the gameplay itself was awkward at moments. The fact that your character would be turned around abruptly when hit by enemies unnecessarily complicated things. I also found that sometimes I'd be bounced all over the place when accidentally landing on top of enemies/creatures. The loading times were also an issue for me. Every time you started a new level/quest there was a loading screen that took a little too long to progress. It actually got kind of annoying at times. Aside from those complaints the game seemed alright to me. The fact that the developer allowed the player to use their Xbox LIVE avatar instead of the pre-made sword wielder/character was a pretty cool addition. I think that "Brand" is one of those games that some gamers will like, and others will hate. If you don't mind long loading times, and a little awkwardness when it comes to controls then this game would be a good game to get. If you hate those sort things then I'd skip it.

*NOTE*: "Brand" will be available for 80 msp until March 3. After that it will be sold for 240 msp!!!

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