Clichés, by their very nature, occur quite a lot in video games and other forms of entertainment. Most times, these clichés show a certain lack of originality or effort. With that said, there are plenty of clichés and common tropes that are simply so ingrained in modern media that they become impossible to avoid. Zenith is a game that manages to follow some of the most common tropes while simultaneously cracking jokes about many of the tropes that it manages to avoid. This sort of meta humor makes up all of the best parts throughout the game.
Players take control of Argus Windell, a mage turned potionist that manages to get himself wrapped up in a quest trying to keep the world from falling into an age of death and darkness. Acting as the game’s protagonist, Argus is extremely sarcastic (so much so he has a stat for it that sits somewhere above 900 at all times) and regularly comments on how strange certain events and aspects in other RPGs often are. One example is when Argus mentions how asinine an area is designed, stating that it is designed just so he has to explore all the connected areas first. This kind of commentary is what drew me to this game in the first place and was what kept me playing it when I began to get tired of actually playing the game.
Since Zenith spends so much time laughing at other games, it seems to forget that it is a game itself. What I mean is that Zenith features wonderfully funny writing while sporting less than stellar gameplay. While it was great fun seeing Claude, Titus, and Iris (clearly references to Cloud, Tidus, and Aerith from the Final Fantasy series) as these idiot adventurers for hire, it wasn’t as much fun actually adventuring around the overworld once it becomes available. Listening to Claude be all broody, Titus be stupid and whiney, and Iris constantly mention death throughout her conversations, I found myself laughing about all the references and parodies I understood. On the flip side, I found myself cursing as I stumbled around the overworld map, trying to figure out where I need to go.
Besides the overworld, the only other issue I had with the gameplay was how easy it was to fall into a rut and rely on the exact same tactics constantly. I found myself using the same weapons all the time as I work through various levels and areas. Not to say the gameplay was bad or uninteresting, it just became very easy to do the same thing in most situations. There was probably better ways to handle certain enemies, but if they can be killed by the tried and true, why not use it? This was probably the largest problem throughout all of Zenith.
Personally, I found my time in the game to be worth getting over the pitfall of easy to manipulate enemies. I rather enjoyed the look of the game or it’s ‘epic’ soundtrack that clearly drew heavy inspiration from more successful and better known games. While the art style is good and fine as is, it is how all the characters and items mesh with the background and surrounding areas that truly matters. To this end, I would say that Zenith could use a little improvement but isn’t too bad for an indie game. I may not have had the most fun while fighting bad guys and monsters, but it definitely wasn’t due to bad design or broken gameplay. Using any one of the different weapons, gems or scrolls could make or break any combat encounter as each has specific effects that are unique to each item. It might seem strange that I haven’t talked much about the gameplay, but there truly isn’t much besides killing baddies, bosses, talking to NPCs and exploring areas for treasure and jokes.
To put it simply, if you are the kind of person that finds meta humor, parodies, or other similar jokes, you’ll find plenty to laugh at here. Whether or not you’ll find the gameplay fun is hard to say as it can be really repetitive if you don’t go out of your way to use different weapons and spells. As I said before, the comedy can carry this game with ease if it is your kind of comedy, as it is of consistent quantity and quality.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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