Zenith: Swords and Profanity
It’s a standard fantasy RPG day as Zenith opens: the sky is clear, the new fallen snow is fresh atop the mountains, and an Elf is getting ready to take your head off while barbershop singing spiders watch.
Zenith is the story of a former magician and Arcanolygist, Argus Windell. He is, as he will tell you many times during the game, too old for this shit. Adventuring was a young man’s game and a long ways back for him. Or so he hoped. After he unlocked the magical power of a long lost scepter best forgotten, he settled down, started his own potion shop (with disastrous results), and started fighting more present demons – like his constantly recurring hangover.
But, when he finds a band of strangely familiar-looking, stereotypical heroes and a girl with blue hair poking around his buried past, he sets out on a profanity laced journey that puts him right back into the thick of a magical apocalypse only he can prevent.
From a gameplay standpoint, Zenith should feel familiar. It’s vaguely isometric, there’s an inventory system and a skill tree, a world map, and there’s combat that leans equally on button mashing while dodging and blocking. But, that’s not what they were really trying to focus on, I think. What the folks making the game really seem to want is to focus on was storytelling and a kind of nostalgia inducing humor that works at gaming history’s expense. The technical aspects of the game aren’t the centerpiece – and that’s okay. It’s not going to win huge marks on gameplay.
They’ve taken the South Park path – it’s not the sizzle of the graphics. It’s not anything innovative in terms of gameplay. It’s the content of the gags and a hearkening back to the games we used to play. The nostalgia humor really is what will win you over.
For instance, I’m pretty sure that anyone in their thirties will remember these guys:
Zenith is all about using the Final Fantasy franchise’s characters, themes, and presentation as both inspiration and as a convenient target to skewer again and again. The whole game looks like Final Fantasy VII minus a turn based system, but at the same time it wants to take their mythos and skew it a lot left of center and with a lot more expletives.
And it doesn’t stop there. You’ll find plenty of other gags too, like from the fantasy of yore:
And a certain, more recent, winter obsessed fantasy epic:
And that’s only a sampling. The came has raucously funny content, and completes its goals of making people laugh and pine for the games of our past while also making light off of those same classic titles.
The Sum Up
Zenith is highly enjoyable strictly based on the story and humor alone. The gameplay itself is not particularly innovative, but it’s largely accessible, easy to grasp, and has enough balance between offense and defense to keep you thinking. It has a feel somewhere between Gauntlet, Final Fantasy VII, and Hunter: the Reckoning, with about the same level of player engagement. The title should appeal to the thirty-something crowd, but may lack some of the oomph for anyone younger.
FINAL VERDICT: 3.5/5
Available on: PlayStation 4(Reviewed), Xbox One , PC; Publisher: Badland Games. ; Developer: Infinigon ; Players: 1 ; Released: September 7, 2016 ; MSRP: $14.99