Adore Review: Creature Comforts
As much as I’ve enjoyed the Pokémon series over the years and many of the countless creature-catching titles it has inspired, I’ve always felt like it’s a genre that is overly dependent on turn-based combat, developers seemingly hesitant to stray too far from its roots. When Adore landed in my inbox, I was instantly intrigued by the ARPG spin on the creature-catching genre it looked to be running with. The ARPG genre is one of my favorites, so to see combat that looked to be as inspired by something like Diablo as it was Pokémon, I couldn’t wait to dive right in.
While the marriage of ARPG and creature collecting may not be the match made in heaven that I had hoped for due to repetitive gameplay loops, especially in the early game, it definitely feels novel and provides enough of a twist on a familiar framework that it’s definitely worth experiencing.
Gods At War
Adore’s monster-taming action is framed by a very light plot that follows very familiar tropes but is perfectly serviceable in serving as a backdrop for the action to take place. Set in the world of Gaterdrik, a setting dominated by the two dragon gods, Draknaar and Ixer, who want nothing more than to eliminate one another, evil triumphs over good, and Ixer slays Draknaar – or so it appears at first. Draknaar may have been defeated, but a piece of his soul lives on, becoming lodged inside the playable character Lukha. Lukha is a young Adorer, this world’s take on the monster tamer, and with his newfound draconic power nestled inside him, he decides that he’s going to finish the fight against Ixer.
Gotta Catch Em All
As mentioned, the narrative isn’t anything to write home about, but it serves its purpose. That purpose of course is to give Lukha an excuse to venture repeatedly out into the wilds of Gaterdrik so that he can start amassing a small army of combative critters to use in his fight against evil.
The vast majority of this preparation for the ultimate showdown will be spent on two tasks, catching monsters and then using them to battle other monsters. It’s a familiar loop for anyone who has had any type of exposure to the genre before, but Adore does manage to carve out its own identity.
Combat takes place entirely in real-time, as do the actual catching mechanics themselves. Looking at the latter first, the catching element requires you to stand in front of a monster while you hold the left bumper to fill up a gauge. Fill that meter, and the monster is yours, with the catch completing quicker the more damage you’ve inflicted on a creature prior to the catch attempt. It’s not the most involved mechanic on paper, admittedly, but in the thick of battle, it can create some truly tense moments as you get peppered with enemy attacks, all while trying to stay within the catch zone so as to prevent the meter from decreasing and rendering your efforts pointless.
It’s worth noting, however, that if you dive right into the path of a monster and initiate the catching process without first engaging in combat, you’re in for a bad time. Thankfully combat is really enjoyable if a touch simple at the outset. As you catch monsters, you’ll naturally be able to deploy them in combat, with the player having up to four creatures available to them at any given time. While combat does play out in real time, you never actually assume direct control of your units. Instead, and this is where I feel the comparison to Diablo is most fitting, each monster is mapped to a face button on the controller and feels more like an ability. Deploy a monster, and they’ll target an enemy with their single attack or ability, which in practice makes it almost feel like you’re unleashing spells rather than an army of angry beasties.
It can initially feel a bit mindless, especially in the early stages where most enemies will drop to any type of attack in a second or two. Each of the four creatures you have mapped has a small cooldown attached to it before you can use it again, and I spent the first couple of hours just mindless spamming the face buttons on my Switch, with little regard for tactics or anything of the sort. Progress a bit further, however, and Adore’s depth soon reveals itself.
Tougher enemies require a more considered approach, and you’ll start looking at the actual granular detail of your roster. Certain monsters, for example, can apply vulnerability, so are best deployed first in an attempt to weaken the battlefield. You’ll soon also realize that as you deploy one monster, those that aren’t deployed gain stamina from each attack your deployed critter unleashes. A full stamina meter means the next time you unleash a companion on an enemy, they’ll unleash their special ability, and so Adore almost takes on a rhythm game form as you progress from relentlessly spamming your creatures, to a more methodical mindset that sees you timing your attacks and deployments so as to ensure that you are building towards special moves at all times. It’s incredibly fluid and rewarding once you fall into a pattern of moving and deploying at just the right time, and Adore is a great example of why the genre need not rely so heavily on turn-based mechanics.
Further complexity gets added once you get into the weeds of the synergy mechanics, which see you applying passive buffs to your roster as long as they’re provided with an item that matches the monster type of other monsters on your roster. These synergies are absolutely essential as you progress further and further into Adore, and really force you to think carefully about your team composition should you want to get the most out of it.
A Touch Repetitive
So combat is fun and has a lot of hidden depth should you want to dig into it. I think the biggest problem Adore has, though, is that I’m not sure many will stick around to experience the late game due to just how repetitive Adore feels from moment to moment.
Rather than setting you loose on a big world to explore, Adore’s action takes place in bite-sized chunks. You’ll pick up a quest from the main hub that you’ll then need to go and complete in the designated biome. Each quest typically involves you clearing a few rooms of monsters, and picking up resources and upgrades for Lukah, all before heading back to town to level up Lukah and your team. It plays more like a rogue-like, a comparison further emphasized by the temporary upgrades you acquire across a run, and the loss of materials on death that you’ll need to grind out again should you meet your demise. It’s an okay gameplay loop, but the biomes and the few rooms you’ll clear on each quest are all functionally identical for the most part and seriously lack visual and aural identity. While the game does look serviceable, the art style, including a lot of the creature designs, is painfully bland, as is the audio which insists on hammering you over the head with one of several background tracks each time you venture out. Honestly, I think I’ll be on my deathbed and still have the biome two tune stuck in my head.
The repetition doesn’t come close to ruining the experience of playing Adore, but I can’t help but wish that the developers had leaned more into the ARPG elements, ditched the rogue-like tendencies, and given us a more free-flowing world to explore with more variety in the quest design.
Catching Something New
At the end of the day, though, that’s not the vision the developers had for Adore and that’s fine, as what they have produced is a damn fine spin on the monster taming genre all the same. Look past the repetition, and you’ll find that early simplicity was a complete red herring, as the complexities of team synergy, hidden passives, and the real-time combat suck you in. The core of what’s here is excellent, and while the narrow scope of the moment-to-moment gameplay loops may feel a little limiting, they allow the excellent core combat and surprising depth to shine through. If, like me, you were a little tired of the genre rehashing the same formula for what feels like forever, then Adore, while not without its flaws, will likely feel like a total breath of fresh air.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available On: Switch (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC; Publisher: QUByte Interactive; Developer: Cadabra Games; Released: August 3, 2023; Players: 1; MSRP: $19.99; ESRB: E for Everyone 10+
Full Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.