Zenith (PC) Review

By Gabriel Jones 24.09.2016 1

Review for Zenith on PC

Thrills! Stats! Humour! These are the ingredients for an action-RPG extravaganza. Zenith is the tale of one man, one woman, and their date with destiny. Can Argus prevent a cataclysmic event from occurring? Who is Alana, and why is she traipsing around the world with a trio of spikey-haired clowns? Is there such a thing as having too many pop culture gags? All these questions and more will be answered in the ten or so hours it takes to complete the game.

In terms of visuals, Zenith is a commendable effort. While the budget constraints are clearly visible, there's a lot of ambition to be found in every location. Even the least noticeable details, like the inns that the main characters stay at, have a lot of neat touches. The character models aren't quite as well realised as the backdrops, but they look decent enough. The soundtrack also does a fine job of lending the quest some flavour.

The player takes control of Argus Windell. Since Argus is a wizard - an "Arcanologyst," to be specific - he can wield the power of the elements. Admittedly, it's not all that great. His spells never seem to graduate beyond "throwing fireballs" or "causing minor earthquakes." He also wields a few melee weapons, but he's not as strong as a barbarian, nor as cunning as an assassin. It's fair to say that Argus has mediocre abilities. They do the job, but without any of the pizazz.

Screenshot for Zenith on PC

In this realm of fantasy, adversity comes in many shapes and sizes. These foes look imposing enough, but their strategy rarely deviates from "pound Argus into hamburger." In a way, this creates a rather nice relationship. While Argus's abilities aren't anything special, the monsters are generally ineffective. There are a few bosses, but the only real threat comes from trying to go toe-to-talon with a crowd of monsters. The player can use a magic shield in a meagre attempt to mitigate damage, but the mechanics of what constitutes a melee hit aren't communicated very well. Simply put, the hero will take damage from attacks that look like they missed. This probably explains why healing potions are so cheap.

As is standard of the action RPG, the main character will come across various pieces of equipment. It's worth doing side-quests, and visiting optional portions of the game, all in the pursuit of the best stuff. However, some loot will affect the player's damage output, which is divided into the three elements. Some players might feel railroaded when the nicest equipment boosts the effects of spells they might not like. It's also possible to level up, which awards points for players to outfit the wizard's skill tree with. It's a quaint gesture, but there's not really any variety or incentive to specialise. There are enough points to acquire every skill, so there isn't any replay value in testing different "builds."

Screenshot for Zenith on PC

It's also important to point out that unlike similar games, Zenith puts more of an emphasis on the storyline. The plot is predictable and banal, but it's also competently laid out. Almost every scene has a purpose, and everything comes together quite nicely. The player isn't going to be left scratching their head, because something completely nonsensical happened. Then again, this is a comedic game, so the storytelling rules will bend every so often.

However, this is the lead up to this game's biggest failing: It's just not funny. Comedy is considerably difficult to figure out, because there're so many nuances to it. Everything from the timing to the audience has to be accounted for. When a joke fails, not only does the audience not laugh, the entire atmosphere becomes a void, and all of the life is immediately sucked away. It's a harsh scenario to consider, so it's baffling that this game botches nearly every attempt at a joke. Even when something funny happens, one of the characters will immediately follow up with a quip that ruins the moment.

Screenshot for Zenith on PC

The failing of Zenith as a comedy can be attributed to two factors. First off, all of the jokes are dated. Old jokes can be funny. A classic movie like Singin' In the Rain is a testament to that. However, jokes that involve video games tend to have a very short shelf life. "Hey! Listen!" ceased to get a chuckle out of anyone after the 64-bit days had ended. Oh, look! Somebody with an oversized sword and an attitude problem, and his name is Claude. Isn't that just the funniest thing? Everyone that writes these video game jokes always goes after the low hanging fruit. It's not amusing or endearing, it's just plain lazy. When a significant chunk of a game's humour is dependent on decades old memes, it's time to re-evaluate.

Secondly, the writer seems to have an obsession with the f-word. On its own, this word isn't bad. In fact, when used in the right circumstances, it can really bring the joke together. Between Argus, Alana, and the rest of the cast, they use the word too freaking much. Aside from the occasional in-battle quip, there isn't any voice acting. Without voices, it's not possible for the characters to put their own spin on that word, or any other expletive, for that matter. An f-bomb with no personality is hardly worth bothering with. If the cast didn't have some variant of "WTF?" to fall back on at every other moment, perhaps they would have been forced to find new words in order to express themselves. Maybe Argus would belt out a different catchphrase every time something absurd happened. I'm sure he'd have all sorts of hilarious sayings like, "Well, bless my barnacles!" or "The shock…it overwhelms me," or even, "This wasn't in the script." Instead, players are treated to the plainest, dullest, laziest usage of naughty words imaginable.

Screenshot for Zenith on PC

Cubed3 Rating

3/10
Rated 3 out of 10

Bad

All in all, Zenith's shallow combat and lack of replay value would have been easy to ignore if the game had delivered on its promise of humour. Instead, there are tons of jokes, but most of them miss the mark. After a long enough period of time, the bad jokes stack themselves to the ceiling, and then topple over. This creates what can only be described as an apocalyptic level of misery. Whatever interesting qualities Zenith had to offer are buried, and the player is left sitting in uncomfortable silence. Suddenly, ten hours feels like an eternity.

Developer

Infinigon

Publisher

BadLand Games

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  3/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Mr. Designer (guest) 17.12.2016#1

Rather entertaining game with terrible controls. What I like:
* Humour
* World building
* Story
* Fun references and jabs on some cliches in RPG genre
* F-bombs! ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ RPGs need those a lot!

What I don't like:
* Controls (used keyboard & mouse)

I'd say for the price - absolutely recommended! Full price fits it perfectly. You'll get a very entertaining 2-3 evenings after annoying time wasting at work.

-Justin

( Edited 17.12.2016 20:09 by Adam Riley )

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