Sunday, 15 July 2012

Kymera Keeper (Video Game Review)

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: This is a Pokémon clone. You’re hunting down and capturing mini-monsters, fighting in turn based combat and wondering a myriad of different locations. What makes this worth playing is that it’s a fun Pokémon clone with a very different visual style. With the monsters ranging from some overly cute looking bee-monsters to an abominable snowman which looks like it walked straight out of Castle Crashers. It’s also online.
As you might expect, the story is effectively a guideline for you to follow from place to place. While there is an attempt to handwave away the existence of death dispensing pocket moonsters and a story surrounding an ancient McGuffin stolen from its resting place it’s nothing all that memorable. Though is admittedly better than what you usually get out of something on Facebook and it’s more a backdrop to the gameplay than something to draw new players.
Speaking of the gameplay, rather than being free roaming Kymera Keeper has you moving between set locations on each map, allowing you to quickly move to exactly where you want to be. Like flying in the Pokemon games though, you have to have travelled to the location the long way at least once, meaning you can’t skip half the areas and run right to the end. This allows for more efficient methods of grinding and finding the critter you want, without dozens of random encounters sapping your creatures’ HP along the way. This might sound easy initially but it is balanced out by the limitations placed upon healing your kymera.
To help try to create a sort of balance amongst older players and newer ones, healing in town costs money. The more times you need to heal and revive your kymera, the more money you are forced to spend each time. While there is a slot allowing you to heal for free, it takes a full hour to recharge and if you want to heal more regularly you’ll need to fork over cash. The costs for this continually rise and never fall back to their original levels; as such you need to put some thought into what you are doing. Do you keep fighting and gaining exp but risk driving prices too high for what you can currently take from defeated enemies, or pace yourself but progress much slower? It’s an ingeniously simple solution to this problem.
On the subject of grinding and developing it is worth mentioning that levelling is surprisingly easy and feels far smoother than in Pokémon.  Rather than repeatedly getting reamed for small amounts of exp. at higher levels the difficulty steadily rises but never seems to truly become overwhelming to the point where you’re spending hours trying to get very little progress. What really helps with this is that the developers Red Seraphim seemed to also be trying to take the elemental weaknesses and strengths aspects of these games and change them slightly. You can end up with kymera which have a vast number of weaknesses against a variety of different types in this and seems to be more dependent upon the individual creature than what elemental class they belong to. This is often offset by what each one might be capable of, especially on higher levels as some kymera which might be weak to just about anything could end up being capable of very powerful attacks when levelled up correctly balancing out their flaws.
The battle animations themselves don’t stand out that well. It feels like an odd criticism to make of the game but each of the animations feel oddly lacking either appearing heavily pixilated or very stiff, even if you’re going in with low expectations. Only a few of the monsters even seem to have moving images shifting between two different stances, often being stuck in the same frozen pose during battle. The reason for this is likely budget constraints, but seeing your own miniature monster’s unmoving .JPG lurch forwards and fire streams of sparks never fails to seem awkward. The combat itself is well handled and you can easily overlook the flawed visuals if you focus upon the statistics and how well designed the turn based mechanics are.
Speaking of the combat, it’s worth mentioning that Kymera Keeper’s combat sequences aren’t completely lifted from the Pokémon games. There are also a few aspects which are taken from Final Fantasy. Each kymera has what is effectively a limit break, a bar for a special attack which is charged up with each engagement and can be used to inflict heavy damage under the right circumstances. I’d talk a bit about how that relates to strategy and how you have to pick and choose your battles, but anyone reading this who has ever spent five minutes looking at a Final Fantasy game will likely already understand how this stuff works.

Besides the combat and artistic style there is one other thing well worth praising.
The soundtrack, compared to the others of its genre, and the themes featured in the game are of quite a high quality. While not always fitting of each situation and area, there are a lot of standout tunes and the music for the game's opening title screen is especially memorable. Sounding sweeping and epic in its own right, but without sounding at odds with its look.

If there’s one really big complaint to make it’s that it’s buggy, once in a while you’ll start playing and encounter loading problems or other small irritating glitches. Sometimes, though not too often, ones which are so problematic they can stop you from playing the game at all or refresh the screen. Though this is somewhat forgivable as the game is in beta and problems are still being ironed out.
Really, Kymera Keeper is okay. What it really has going for it is its presentation, ability to link up through android and its combat system. It’s not all that remarkable and it has its shortcomings, but it never really feels like it’s doing anything especially wrong. If you’re a fan of turn based strategy games, Pokémon or want an online multiplayer game which is capable of moving at your own pace; you should check this one out. It’s vastly more enjoyable than some Facebook based games I can think of, and doesn’t require you to install EA spyware Origin to play.
The game can be found here, here and the artist behind the game's unique look can be found here.
Kymera Keeper and all related characters and media are owned by Red Seraphim.

No comments:

Post a Comment