Thursday, 25 April 2013

Review: God Mode (PC)

Fighting necromancers in firelands
Necromancers can be annoying if left unchecked because they'll just
keep resurrecting enemies
Horde mode features in a video game can be good for a quick bit of fun. Fire it up, and the game will toss legions of enemies at the player to blast to bits. Hell, bring some friends along if you want. It makes for a nice little distraction. There are games, however, where this is all that they have. They eschew any single player campaign, and just go all in, existing purely as a horde mode game. The challenge with this sort of game is trying to remain interesting while having such a narrow focus. God Mode has gone this route with mixed results. There is some mindless fun to be had in this game, but it's held back by a number of bugs, a lack of variety, and some questionable design decisions.

Fighting a cyclops
Fighting a giant cyclops
The game has gone with an ancient Greek theme with lots of stone columns, minotaurs, cyclopses, and the like. The environments have a nice level of detail and look quite nice, as do the enemy and character models. However, there isn't enough variety. After a time it gets a tad dull fighting yet more of the same legions of skeletons, wraiths, mutants, and such. Also, all of the levels have a fairly limited color scheme, with lots of lava and / or stone all over the place with not much else, making it feel like players are running through very similar looking places constantly. Even the characters that one can play as are limited in scope. There are a bunch of unlockable customization options, but at its core there are still only five character types to choose from, and I'm still not all that keen on what they look like or how they can be customized. It's also a bit surprising that there are no female characters to play as. God Mode would really benefit from tossing in more enemy types, environments, and characters for players to choose from because with the limited stock in use right now, it can get a bit boring looking at the same thing constantly.

While not having enough character models and environments can be annoying, bugs in a game are infuriating, and God Mode has its fair share of these. I've been fortunate enough to not be struck by the particularly bad ones that others have been hit by, like the game not even loading. The bugs I've experienced have occurred while in an online session with others. In a couple of instances I came to a level where enemies were constantly stuck in place, then zipping off somewhere else really fast. I'm assuming it was lag, but everyone in the session was getting hit by it. Another time, none of the enemies were appearing for me, but everyone else could see and interact with them just fine. These bugs weren't the end of the world, but it was annoying having to leave each session and try to find another group because the game wasn't working properly. As it stands, the developers are aware of the problems, and say that they will fix them, but for now there are still quite a few bugs littering the game.

Shooting some undead monsters
Gladiator types like charging players, and pummeling them
And if bugs weren't bad enough, there's also some really odd design choices in God Mode. The one that bugs me the most is that it has always-on mic communication with hardly any way to turn it off. So, you're stuck hearing everything that your teammates' mics pick up during a session, and they can constantly hear your mic too. The only way to turn this off is in the lobby before a match, and this is only in a custom match that you must initiate yourself.

This leads us to another odd quirk about the game, that being you have to invite people to a custom session, and can only choose from people on your Steam friends list. If none of your friends have the game, then you won't have anyone to invite, will have to try your luck in the game's Quick Match mode, and see how well its match making works. It's not very good either, as it takes quite a while to round up an additional three players to join you. I've also noticed here that while the game was able to max out your group to four people consistently in the days after God Mode came out, recently it has been having more trouble with this whenever I try to do a quick match, and often I'll get plunged into a match with only one other person. This can make things complicated when playing on higher difficulty settings. Moreover, the game doesn't actively try to fill empty player slots while a session is in progress. If you start with less than the four player maximum, or if players leave mid-session, no attempts are made to fill the slots. Whoever is still playing will just have to make due until they are finished the playthrough.

There is also a progression system in God Mode, and it's very hard to justify the thing's presence. Players have to keep earning experience points and gold in order to unlock and upgrade new weapons, as well as new costumes for characters. Unlocking the costumes I have no problem with, but the weapons aspect grates on me. It's not as though it's difficult to grind out the experience and gold to get them, in fact it's easy, but why does it have to be this way in the first place? There are so many better ways of implementing a weapons system that are actually interesting. Slowly unlocking the weapons over time is just tedious. If I want that, I'll play one of the umpteen free to play MMOs out there and grind to my heart's content. It just feels like a missed opportunity going with a traditional progression system for unlocking weapons.

Test of Faith completing
Tests of Faith add a random element to each area
On the plus side, a lot of the weapons are fun to use. I'm partial to the pump action shotgun, and the crossbow is pretty neat. There's also a snazzy contraption that launches twirling blades that is fun to use. Upgrading weapons also makes a big difference in how well a weapon works. After fully upgrading the sub machine gun, one of the first guns players get in God Mode, the thing is actually really strong. Later guns are even more interesting as they become more powerful.

The running around and shooting stuff aspect of the game is reasonably entertaining, as the game likes to throw quite a few enemies at players, and there's a good mix of melee and ranged baddies. There are also certain enemies that need to be prioritized when they take the field, so some thought needs to go in to what to do when. After a while, though, it just gets tiresome fighting yet more skeletons, mutants, and minotaurs. At least some of the bosses are fun. Dark Mage in particular proved an entertaining fight.

There is one specific feature in the game that I actually do like, and that is the Tests of Faith. These just act as a modifier for each new area that players fight in. They could be beneficial like having unlimited ammo or occasional invulnerability, negative like dealing with stronger enemies, or just plain random with enemies exploding on death, bombs falling from the sky, and the like. These sorts of things helped keep the game a little more interesting.

Running toward the next checkpoint
More columns
At the end of the day, though, there are simply better games to spend one's time with than God Mode. Sure it's ten bucks, but for the same amount one could just wait for something like Left 4 Dead or Killing Floor to go on sale, and have a much more enjoyable experience. While the game looks nice, and I do like the Tests of Faith, it's impossible to look past it bugs, poor design choices, and general lack of variety.

- Jeff Nash

Pros:
- Nice enemy and character models
- Environments look pretty
- Tests of Faith add a little bit extra to each area

Cons:
- Lots of bugs
- Not enough variety in enemy / character models, or environments
- Always-on microphones
- Match making system isn't very good
- Progression system for unlocking weapons is tedious

Score: 6.0 / 10

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