When I first fired up Xenoraid, my first thoughts were that it’s a modern-day twist on Space Invaders. I played the first few missions with this thought in mind, however the game is quick to show you it’s so much more.
It’s easy to see similarities between this and Space Invaders. You control a ship and tasked with moving around the fixed screen and killing all enemies that enter the play area. The controls are simple your main focus is staying alive and killing anything that moves. However this is where the similarities end, the twist here is both you and the enemies can move freely around the screen. You are not restricted to moving across one axis. On top of this you need to manage your four ships that you can switch in and out at any time during the mission. Each of the four slots can have different types of ships in it for you to experiment with and find your favorite or most effective type of ship. The best strategy is to switch ships as your health gets low. As the game reminds you it costs more to buy a new ship then it does to repair it, but I am getting slightly ahead of myself. I will discuss this in more detail later. There is an impressive range of enemy types, each attacking in different ways. Some even have shields and a health bar to make the missions harder. The enemies also come thick and fast, you will often find yourself surrounded in every direction and needing to use a mix of weapons and dodging skills to survive. It’s not just enemies you need to watch out for, the game throws asteroids at you on top of the litany of enemies. In the harder missions, you really need to be paying attention and time your movement’s right to survive.
The game itself is surprisingly hard. The first few missions on the first planet are barely a challenge, but by the time you move on to the second planet, your skills will really be put to the test. It’s slightly jarring how quickly the difficulty ramps up but I actually kind of liked that. The game had me entertained the most when I was taking on the harder missions. I was having the most amount of fun when the screen was filled with enemies and asteroids and I was firing quick shots in-between avoiding everything on the screen. It’s not just the missions themselves that make the game hard. While the game does feature checkpoints, they are roughly every three missions. This means if you die on the last mission in the checkpoint bracket, you have to go back and re-complete the two missions that came before it. This will drive you insane. No avoiding it. Now in my particular case, I enjoyed that. I thought it was a cool idea that adds to the game. When playing a mission, I really started to think if it was worth taking the risk of flying through a narrow gap to kill the enemy. Sure it could pay off, but if it doesn’t, I would be one step closer to the possibility of being put back a certain amount of missions. However it is very easy to see how this could annoy a large amount of players. To a degree it may even put people off playing the game, especially if they are the type of gamer that’s quick to lose their temper. To me, it seems obvious that the developers should have put in the option to have a checkpoint after every mission. That way you can appease both types of gamers.
As mentioned earlier, you can repair and replace any damaged or destroyed ships. Before each mission, you can either upgrade your individual ships, such as armor and weapons as well as replace any destroyed ships or repair them. You also have the option to buy upgrades that are applied to all ships. You pay for these with a currency you get from completing missions and for destroying harder enemies. The game is generous with its currency, which is a smart move. Unless you are very good at the game, you will be repairing at least one ship after every mission. You are going to need to spend your currency wisely. Xenoraid also features a survival mode. Unfortunately it has the usual survival mode template. I used to love survival modes, and to an extent I still do, but unfortunately more and more games tack on a survival mode to their game for the sake of it. I don’t particularly feel this game necessarily needs it either. It’s not to say it’s bad, it’s just the same thing you will find in many other games.
That’s just the first of a few issues I have with the game. Xenoraid has, in my opinion, boring environments. The art style is fine, nothing special but nothing bad, but the environments themselves just feel so static. It’s not just that one location feels like this, they all do. I understand having a fixed play area means you are limited to what you can do, but it’s not an excuse for the blandness featured here. I don’t meant to sound harsh, but it really is a let-down, I was hoping for more. The injection of colors on the Asteroids tries to help make it feel more dynamic, but it fails to actually do so. Each mission is essentially a re-skin of the one before it. Xenoraid also features a co-op mode, both in the main campaign and the survival mode. Unfortunately, like many smaller scale games, its local co-op only. Unfortunately due to this, and the fact I am playing it before release, I can’t comment if the game feels better when played with others. I have no idea if it’s easier to play with someone else or the difficulty scales based on how many people you are playing with. Sorry.
This review may be closing out on a sour note, but by no means is this game anything short of good. It’s fun, surprisingly lengthy and provides challenging gameplay. I enjoyed my time with Xenoraid, it never felt like a chore to play. Unfortunately, its environment art and cookie cutter survival mode means I will most likely never replay it. In my opinion, the game never provides me a reason to. However, for many people, they will find the first play through enjoyable, and be fine with never returning to it. Just don’t expect much longevity or visual flare.
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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