Relic Hunters Legend – Four-Player Duck Hunt

What is up with ducks and their newfound desire to conquer the galaxy? Didn’t we feed them enough breadcrumbs or what? Whatever the reason may be, they aren’t happy and return as the main enemies in Relic Hunters Legend, the follow-up to the acclaimed indie game Relic Hunters Zero.

We were given the opportunity to play an early alpha build of Relic Hunters Legend and despite having most features and levels under development, it was enough to see where the game is going, which is Fast and Fun Shooter Land. No, that isn’t a real place, I just made that up to get the point across.

Relic Hunters Legend Co-op Jump Attack

Donald Duck Goes Rogue

Relic Hunters Legend is a four-player online co-op shooter created by a Brazilian studio called Rogue Snail. It represents an improvement to the first game in every level, starting with the graphics. Gone is the somewhat simplistic pixel art, replaced by a colorful cartoon style that conveys heaps of personality and emotion – mostly fierce determination – in such small characters.

There is no campaign right now, but a story mode with four acts is planned, with the first act coming during the beta. This act will offer four to five hours of time-traveling adventures with a mysterious character name Seven. In fact, the developers mention the fact that the game should take you 500 hours to complete everything. By that they really mean everything including unlocking and leveling characters, completing every dungeon and mission, and getting the best builds available.

To fully enjoy that, the shooting and looting should be as polished as they can be, right? You can rest assured that even at the current state, Relic Hunters Legend is a lot of fun. The small selection of characters, a couple of them without their unique skills, doesn’t get in the way of the fast and frantic gameplay one could expect from such a game. It’s like Killsquad on cute, fluffy steroids, with a lot of heavy-armored turtles and ducks wearing shades.

Relic Hunters Legend Co-op Boss Battle 2

The current build comes with four hunters: Ace, Jimmy, Pinkyy and Raff. For the sake of this alpha test, and apparently because I have discovered a weird liking for green computerized hair, I chose Pinkyy, the leader of the Relic Hunters. She is an extremely agile fighter and her shield is a godsend when it comes to protecting the team from the ceaseless bursts of enemy projectiles. She also has a dash and a jump ability that come in handy when her enemies are united in a small area.

As if it wasn’t enough for poor old Ace to be a donkey, he is currently missing some skills, but at least he can resort to his leap to hurt his enemies a bit. Raff, on the other hand, is missing… er, everything, so she isn’t the most appropriate choice when it comes to trying different tactics in the arena. Jimmy is described as the greatest shot in the galaxy and I believe it, with his grenade throwing skill surely playing a big part in his reputation. The roster is going to improve with the addition of Seven, Biu, Panzer and Red, most of them being familiar faces from Relic Hunters Zero.

Hunters level up in two ways: they gain experience levels by the regular means of progressing and shooting everything in sight, but they also have a gear level. This is inherently tied to your Hunter level, which means that you can only equip better gear if your current experience level allows you to do so. Then you have the option to enhance your gear via crafting materials that you find in your way or by recycling parts that you don’t need anymore. This alpha is limited to level 20 but the final game comes with a level cap of 100.

Relic Hunters Legend Co-op When Ducks Attack

There is so much under development for Relic Hunters Legend that I believe it will feel very different from the current build, when it enters beta by late 2019 or early 2020. A skill tree is in the works, which means that you’ll be able to improve abilities and unlock new skills, paving the way for more combat options. There is a rebel rank as well to track your account level based on your achievement completion rate.

A customization system is being developed for you to equip cosmetic items, change the colors of individual pieces to your liking, add a special effect here and there, and choose your favorite quips and emotes. This is where monetization will come barging in, although Rogue Snail promises to be completely fair and transparent in their regard. Judging by the frank way in that they advise caution to anyone who wants to purchase Relic Hunters Legend in its current state, they seem to be very serious about it.

Relic Hunters Legend Capture the Point

Ducks of War

There isn’t much in the way of content, but there are many hours of gameplay at your disposal if you like this kind of loot-driven shooter. This is a fun game with a friend, but it goes extreme when you have a full party of four players hunting ducks. There are a few intricacies that you must learn and let sink in, such as the lack of a jump button, which is something weird for a game that places such an emphasis on verticality.

You’ll be able to deal with slopes and gaps thanks to context-based leaps, something that feels natural and smooth after a few minutes. The AI relentlessly attacks and chases you, comfortably dealing with every obstacle that the tricky terrain throws its way. In fact, they can become a little bit unnerving with their constant climbing and descending, inadvertently avoiding our gunfire by sheer luck.

While you can freely aim your weapon, verticality once again gets in the way of your task. Relic Hunters Legend has a weird way of dealing with ramps and slopes, one that will require some getting used to. Your shots may end up hitting an enemy standing on top of a ramp, or simply fail to reach him. Different approaches to distance and location may result in a better outcome, but it’s not always evident how things are going to turn out. Switching between no assist and auto-aim modes doesn’t seem to significantly alter how the shooting works.

Relic Hunters Legend Shield Skill

Relic Hunters Legend only has one location to explore for now, but you can rest assured that others are coming. The Galyno Desert is the first region, but at least six regions of similar size are planned. This area is divided into three eras, which equate to normal, hard and epic difficulty levels. Only normal and hard modes are available and not for every mission, with many “under construction” signs showing that this is very much a game in early alpha state. Even the Secret Market, which will act as the game’s social hub isn’t accessible, so there are a lot of expected dead ends in Relic Hunters Legend’s current build.

The same goes for game modes, with only a couple available. Skirmish is your standard mode where you drop from your ship and start shooting Ducans left and right, only to end up facing a boss in a small arena. Scavenge is the other game mode where it’s all about capturing random points in the map for a short time, resisting the relentless waves of enemies that try to push you out of the circle. Other game modes are planned, including Payload (escorting a slow-moving train), Defense (protecting a gate) or Distraction (survive for eight minutes while causing the most trouble), among others. There are four-player dungeons with unique mechanics, but it was under construction as well.

However, that is enough talking about technical details; onward to fun! Relic Hunters Legend is a lighthearted, gripping, no strings attached experience where your only goal is to shoot and loot. Beneath its deceivingly simple core gameplay mechanics beats a strong and charismatic heart, one that initially compels you with its looks and soon grabs you by sheer addictiveness. It’s a game where you are unwillingly forced to inspect every little detail, from the grimaces that the heroes make with every skill or move to the way that the empty bullet shells fall to the ground when you reload your weapon. You can’t help but smile at these almost invisible touches.

Relic Hunters Legend Co-op Boss Battle

Relic Hunters Legend still needs a lot of work and in its current state it isn’t anywhere near a proper beta build; I wasn’t even able to create a match with a friend. Luckily, I stumbled  across a few random players here and there, allowing me to appreciate the game for what it intends to be. It’s free-to-play, so it’s not like you’ll have to ask for a refund if you weren’t entertained when it launches.

Good games don’t need hundreds of hours of content for you to realize that they are worthy of your time. This is one such example and you can bet that it will be a huge success among the fans of the first game, as well as sheer enthusiasts of top-down co-op shooters. Unless a duck or two find a way to time travel and sabotage the grand scheme of things, Relic Hunters Legend is on the right track.

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Rocket Arena – Everybody Was Rocket Jumping

Rocket Arena is the latest game from Nexon and its inspirations are obvious. A first glimpse at the name brought back fond memories of long nights rocket jumping in Quake, quickly traveling across the map, leaping with unmatched poise and getting back into the fight in the blink of an eye.

But Quake isn’t the only source of inspiration for this hero shooter. Rocket Arena has a visual style that seems to channel both Blizzard’s Overwatch and Hi-Rez Studios’ Paladins. The comparisons are inevitable, but Rocket Arena has a confident style and visual substance that makes it difficult to dislike.

I couldn’t help but smile when I first saw the Rocket Arena characters. What a cheerful and colorful bunch that Final Strike Games designed for its 3v3 arena first-person shooter. It’s like they jumped out of the best Saturday morning cartoons for a quick and unpretentious brawl. A quick “Smash” brawl.

Rocket Arena Preview Amphora Rocketball Crater's Edge

All the Bros Were Smashing

In Rocket Arena, your goal isn’t to drain your opponent’s health bar. After all, everyone is using non-lethal rockets, if such a thing is even plausible. Instead of a health bar you have a Blast Meter and when you take significant hits you are “Megablasted” out of the arena, only to slowly float back down again and reenter the fight. Evidently, this makes you lose precious seconds and your team is weakened during this process.

It’s a mechanic that seems lifted from Super Smash Bros. or Brawlhalla. At this stage I can’t say for sure if it fits the gameplay, as the closed beta feels somewhat unbalanced and in need of further testing. I’d be hard-pressed to choose between this and a traditional health bar, as I don’t think that the Blast Meter adds anything worthwhile to the matches, feeling like a glorified respawn period that gets on your nerves as your hero slowly floats back into a random location.

The rocket jumping aspect needs more work, as it feels unfitting. For a game that is pretty much selling itself on this gimmick, there is a long way to go before it feels satisfactory and worthy of comparison to the mighty Quake series. The main problem with it is the strange physics system or lack thereof, with no proper correlation between the angle of your shot and the way that you are thrusted in the air. Most of the times you’ll simply be propelled upwards, even when you are aiming at a wall, something that should give you a boost and shoot you backwards across the map.

Rocket Arena Preview Izell The Wilds

It’s also odd that other players seem unaffected by the rocket impacts. As Quake has so deftly proved, skilled players can easily come up with amazing strategies that add layer after layer of strategy to a seemingly simple gameplay premise, so long as they are provided with the right tools. This would ramp up the gameplay of Rocket Arena, but right now it lacks that spark that would improve its competitive potential.

Rocket Arena has an interesting take on verticality and the ability to take the fights airborne. The maps are small but aptly designed, but to explore their full potential you will need a fully functioning rocket jump mechanic. You also have a double and triple jump which regrettably turn the game into a clay pigeon shooting gallery of sorts, as you try your best to hit those annoying jumping players from afar. Rocket Arena would surely gain from a more restrained jump feature and a focus on ground-based gameplay, as the matches are almost entirely spent airborne and may end up getting on your nerves.

I don’t mean to sound too jaded or overly critical of Rocket Arena as I understand that it is still in active development and welcoming player feedback. It is an occasionally fun game and it’s obvious that a lot of work went into making it look great and play decently, but I wish some of the issues above were fixed if it wants to stand a chance against other hero shooters. This is the time to do it, to balance the characters properly – a couple of them feel utterly overpowered – and adjust those physics. This could make or break the game.

Rocket Arena Preview Jayto Icefall Keep

Easy Like Saturday Morning

It’s not entirely fair to label Rocket Arena’s visuals as childish; this game is only as childish as a Toy Story movie can be, a Disney movie or some of the best Saturday morning cartoons. The flamboyant and jubilant art style isn’t there to be enjoyed solely by kids, as a keen adult eye will promptly notice the talented design and attention to detail that permeates Rocket Arena.

There are currently six characters available in Rocket Arena, and they are a wide-ranging bunch, both in looks and abilities. Amphora is a cute fighter with an underwater penchant that would make Aquaman proud; Blastbeard is a larger-than-life pirate that carries a massive cannon; Kayi is the Disney princess Elsa in everything but name and looks, sporting ice powers and hailing from the snowy Icefall Keep; Izell is a fearless jungle warrior; Plink is a creative kid and wannabee Inspector Gadget; finally, Jayto is the brash returning champion and acts as the poster boy for the game. Each character comes with their own loadout, with specific strengths and an ultimate ability, and soon you will begin to find a favorite or two among them.

In a nice touch, each contender comes from their own region, corresponding to one map per character, at least so far. It’s easy to see that Kayi comes from the lovely snow-covered Icefall Keep, a kingdom that wouldn’t be out of place in Frozen. Blastbeard has his own pirate-themed Crater’s Edge map, with lovely waterfalls and a shine to the whole thing that turns it into one of my favorite maps visually speaking. Izell naturally comes from Gemstone Jungle, a place filled with ancient temples and a distinct Mayan vibe. I won’t go through the remaining three maps, but each one of them has an inherent style that perfectly suits the respective character – well, maybe except for Plink, who seems at odds with a dino excavation site set in a desert.

Rocket Arena Preview Plink Mega Rocket Crystal Reef

Despite their small size, these maps are expertly designed and have enough elements as to feel unique and entertaining. As I’ve mentioned before, verticality plays an important role, for better and for worse, so you must get used to it if you want to succeed.

You level up each character independently, unlocking rewards such as alternative outfits, trails and artifacts, which provide buffs to certain characters. Extra damage while on the ground for Plink, gaining full health after knocking out an opponent for Amphora, or gaining a short speed bust after a rocket jump for Izell, among others.

As for game modes, there are three PvP modes available and one cooperative mode that pits players against waves of AI-controlled Rocketbots. Knockout is your basic team deathmatch, except that no one actually “dies” in this game, instead being thrusted into the skies and out of the arena. Each player has three badges, nine in total for each team, and when a team is out of badges, the match is lost. Megarocket is about territory control, with rockets falling from the sky and teams having to hold possession for a few seconds until a point is conquered. Rocketball tries to bring a sports twist to Rocket Arena, and you can toss the ball or carry it with you, something that is utterly not advised unless you have a well-oiled team by your side. Currently it feels somewhat frustrating – possibly a matter of easy to learn and hard to master, as I’ve witnessed some players flawlessly scoring goal after goal.

Rocket Arena Preview Amphora Gemstone Jungle

A Promising Start but Not Quite Ready for Lift-Off

My time with Rocket Arena so far has been both fun and frustrating in equal measure. I can clearly see the potential of a game that may give the misleading impression of being aimed at children, but don’t dismiss it on that basis alone; Fortnite isn’t exclusively targeted at adults either and yet it is played by different age groups. It is a long way off from the likes of Quake or Overwatch, with the physics in need of a serious redesign. The characters also feel slightly unbalanced, with occasions where you are blasted out of the arena in a couple of seconds because you looked at someone in a funny way… or because Izell, for example, seems overpowered.

Rocket Arena has an announcer to lend the matches a feeling of spectacle and he mostly delivers. The problem with this is the usual repetitiveness that quickly sinks in, as he seems content in announcing the important events such as goals or badges taken, without any extra flair or funny one-liners.

Despite its flaws and shortcomings, I had fun with Rocket Arena when I switched off my brain and kept my expectations under check. I couldn’t possibly hope for it to play anything like its inspirations at this stage, but it’s impossible to dislike its accomplished art style, cool characters and interesting maps. If all of the issues are suitably addressed, Rocket Arena could end up being a blast. A Megablast, in fact.

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