Arc of the Covenant or a Continuum of Tedium?
Every so often you encounter a game and you wonder: who on earth is this for? Arc: Continuum is one of those games. Currently on kickstarter – Arc: Continuum has had a special press demo released so we can get a sneak peak at what’s ahead. What the demo reveals is a time-bending third person shooter which coyly teases you that it might be a physics puzzler, but doesn’t really deliver on the goods; leaving my lust for conundrum-solving utterly unsated. However, the shooting is so lacking in any clear innovation or fun, my primal desire to murder virtual no-good-niks was equally unsatisfied. Arc Continuum feels like a game that doesn’t know what audience it’s aiming at (which is funny because the aiming in the demo is pretty awful too).
You play as a dude with an awful fauxhawk who is apparently on the run from some faceless alien invader type dudes. However, there’s no custscenes or story scenes to explain what’s going on, or why you’re traversing some weird space temple with floating platforms everywhere. If I can just channel my inner Jerry Seinfeld for a moment: what’s the deal with these floating platforms? When did we get to the point where we casually accept games can have nigh-on every flat-surfaced land-mass eternally levitating in convenient rows and staircase-like formations – with no explanation whatsoever?
That’s a bordering-on-irrelevant observation, I know, but it helps beef up my word-count a little so I don’t have to resort to going into any detail about Arc’s dated graphics and ultra-linear level design (phew, hope Francis doesn’t notice).
Combat is very stiff and clunky. Despite this being a third person shooter in 2016, there’s no way to shift behind cover. You have to crouch down and walk behind it like it’s 1999! Hit detection was absoloutely appalling. Countless times I was aiming dead-on target only for bullets to ping off invisible barriers, with the scenery’s bullet-blocking zones expanded far behind their visual limits. Assuming these understandable pre-kickstarter niggles all come out in the wash though, what about those much-ballyhooed time powers?
A couple of the time powers were actually surprisingly cool. The slow-down ability lets you create a quantum relativity zone, where your opposite numbers can only move gradually – Chariots of Fire style – as they lumber toward you. Likewise, I enjoyed the hilariously overpowered time bubble power, where you can suck a group of your opponents into a swirling vortex – killing them instantly. Though these powers are fleetingly entertaining – they don’t exactly cohere into any sort of well-balanced combat experience. They’re kind of like the powers of a bored God; flinging thunderbolts and firebolts down at terrified mortals – amusing for a moment, but quickly tiresome.
There’s a little bit of standard-issue, boilerplate platforming on offer to gently null your senses. Using your dash power, fauxhawk dude can zip across platforms – fast-forwarding through the shimmering timescape. Really though, this run-and-jump window dressing doesn’t change the fact you’re not doing anything more complex than using time dilation mechanics (which Max Payne did so well sixteen odd years ago) to kill some generic assault-rifle-weilding troopers. The demo’s combat doesn’t give anything more than the lightest, fleeting whiff that it might potentially be fun at some point – and I’m not sure who would kickstart that.
The demo ended ingloriously. I got up to a forcefielded door, behind which was the button to unlock another door that barred my progress. After a while I just decided my rapidly diminishing youth was far too precious a commodity to waste hopefully fast-forward dashing into walls (though the “splat” sound it makes is sort of amusing) and I gave up. It turned out when I watched a video later – the solution was to aim your dash upwards to teleport to higher ground. Alas, this crucial mechanic required for progression is never adequately explained and I was allowed to get to this dead-end without being any the wiser!
If only I could fast-forward time to see if Arc: Continuum turns out to be a much greater game than its rather bland demo suggests – or if it’s merely a game looking for an audience that doesn’t exist. If you’ve read all this and think: “Jonathan, you really are a miserable, jaded old git! Arc: Continuum seems like a flawed diamond that’s just in need of a good polish!” then you can help the game achieve its full potential by donating to its Kickstarter here.