Do you have that friend who will compromise the enjoyment of the group to please his own ego? You know, the ‘crazy’ friend who not only has to do everything a little differently, they need you to know that they are special and unique and out there and WILL YOU ONLY ORDER A NORMAL COFFEE, CLIVE?
Ahem, sorry. Anyway, the point is, Aeon must die! is openly and aggressively different, but in a way that unfortunately highlights its shortcomings rather than elevating the procedures to something new. It is very difficult to impress, but it seems a bit, as children say, to shrink.
The story is dull and boring with incessant scenes of banal dialogue. You play as a creature of a race known as Starspawn, possessed by the spirit of the evil Emperor Aeon. Or something like that. The story of the game is so uninteresting that we finally started skipping scenes, hitting the ‘B’ button as soon as one appeared. Frankly, we challenge you to do the opposite. Also, this is a fighting game, not a visual novel.
Visually, we’ll throw it a bone by reluctantly admitting that harsh blacks and the generally dark palette work well with the new OLED Switch. However, outside of this boon that glorious new hardware brings, it’s a bit of a state of affairs. It would be rude not to praise things that deserve to be praised, like fancy menus, but no one buys a video game for that.
In the game, the characters look blurry and indistinct; oddly enough, this is by design rather than a glitch, apparently. The character designs feel generically “edgy,” all harsh angles, fiery energy, and SCREAMS, but it’s all swagger. There is nothing to invest in, nothing with real humanity. And with possession issues at stake, you would think they would make the effort to do so.
Performance wise, the game is in the unusual position of performing really well, but what’s more terribly. See, it works perfectly on both handheld and dock, but it’s “perfect” for Aeon Must Die! It’s … patchy at best. It has been animated at a relatively low frame rate, so every movement feels heavy and unpleasant. It is as if it is lagging behind its actual inputs, as if it is broadcasting it; watch instead of play. It’s best described as feeling disconnected, which is far from ideal in such a demanding game.
Most of the game, well the entirety, is the fight, but this is not a belt shift like Streets of Rage 4. More is a shame, because the single lane system here is downright repetitive and that’s without even going into it. how identical battles tend to feel. There are definitely a lot of moves and throws, but none feel good to execute. The same overweight sensation of movement also creeps into combat, and every punch or kick feels sluggish. Of course it has its combos, its specials, but our drive to use them really was insufficient considering the replay and downright confusing systems in place.
In combat, you have regular attacks and heated flame-based attacks. The latter causes a bar to rise which, when full, puts you in a state of overheating which makes you more powerful and at the same time makes you susceptible to a one-hit kill. On the contrary, it can enter an opposite state that weakens it while what’s more resulting in a one-hit kill situation. So you’ll find yourself juggling heated and unheated attacks in a way that feels slower than tactical. When you come across enemies that can only be damaged by one or the other, things should get better, but they just don’t because “involved” doesn’t necessarily mean “fun.” The makings of a good game are here, but all the stops, dodges, throws and unlocking moves and extra skills are nothing when the core fight is so uninteresting and feels so slow to play.
Taking a balanced look at Aeon Must Die !, we really struggled to see exactly what someone could get out of it. It’s repetitive, incessantly uninteresting, and frustrating on a fundamental level. We have certainly played worse games and deserves credit on some level simply for having so many ideas, but none of them are good, or, at least, none of them are executed with the required level of skill that would make them work. It’s a shame, because with more refinement, tighter, and a willingness to throw out what doesn’t work, we feel like Aeon Must Die! it could be quite special. As it stands, there is no level at which we can enthusiastically recommend it.