Developed by Wolf Brew Games, Slain: Back From Hell is the revamped version of their original PC release last year. Then known only as Slain, it received very subpar reviews due to glitches and other design flaws. Since then, the company has listened to gamer input and worked to right the various wrongs. The fruits of their labor paid off with Slain: Back From Hell recently arriving on consoles.
The game opens with Bathoryn, the main character, being awoken from a peaceful slumber and told he is needed to rid the land of evil. Initially hesitant, he decides to take on the burden and thus begins his epic quest to restore peace across the six realms. The artwork in the game is phenomenal. The whole vibe from start to finish is very gothic and dark. The environments tend to be in ruin and evoke the feeling of despair. To reiterate, it looks absolutely gorgeous. The detail and dedication to the overall theme is very impressive. It is all done with 16-bit style graphics and you would be hard pressed to find a better looking game in this style.
The animations are also incredibly detailed and done with painstaking care. The way the wind blows through Bathoryn’s hair and blood drips from various surfaces certainly adds that extra touch. You will feel like you are in a living, breathing world. The animations are smooth and the particle effects are just a wonder to behold. When slaying an enemy and seeing the blood spray out into the air and across the ground you feel a sense of utter glee that is both disturbing and delightful at the same time. Vanquishing your foes has rarely felt so satisfying.
Speaking of enemies, there is a very nice array of creatures you will encounter. There are skeletons, wolves, ghosts, and giant insects just to name a few. Each of the six realms/stages has an end boss that you must defeat to continue. As you progress through a stage there a various checkpoints you can reach that serve as respawn points in the event of your death. These checkpoints are a blessing because this game is brutally difficult. The stages are littered with gruesome traps will kill you instantly if you’re not paying attention. At times I felt like a complete dunce because I would get so caught up in fighting the enemies I would occasionally die by the same traps over and over again. Honestly, it’s much easier for that to happen than you think.
Another thing about this game that separates it from the pack is the combat. You can attack with your sword, fire magic fireballs, dodge, block, parry, and aerial attack. Your main attack can also be charged to do extra damage. For a 16-bit side-scrolling action platformer, there is more depth to the combat than you might expect. You have to utilize blocking and parrying quite often and one error is liable to get you killed. At times the game can feel slightly cheap when bombarding you with numerous enemies and you are trying to juggle how best to dispatch of each one. It is incredibly satisfying, however, when you emerge victorious from these situations. As you progress throughout the game, you also unlock a couple of elemental weapons that you must decide when is the right time to use them. Some enemies take more damage from fire but less from ice, so this adds a whole other dimension to the combat.
Like the rest of the game, the soundtrack is heavily inspired from gothic and heavy metal music. Composed by Celtic Frost alum Curt Victor Bryant, it is pure head-banging brilliance. Truthfully, the soundtrack complements the game perfectly and is such a pleasure to listen to. The riffs are so heavy and catchy, it really helps drive you forward and unleash your bloodlust upon the creatures of the dark. Slain: Back From Hell may have originally been riddled with shortcomings, but through blood, sweat, and tears the developers have released a masterpiece. The gods of metal command you to purchase this game immediately…or be slain.
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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