Defenders of Ekron (PlayStation 4) Review

By Josh Di Falco 19.06.2018

Review for Defenders of Ekron on PlayStation 4

While shoot 'em ups, or shmups, were a relic of the past, it is a genre that is still heavily looked after in the modern generation of games. There has never been more twin-stick shmups to sift through, and In Vitro Games' Defenders of Ekron is the latest to join the war. This is a science-fiction tale that follows a young cadet called Eneas. Although he had trained his whole life to finally control his own mech, an Anakim, something goes wrong and Eneas is forced to join an experimental group charged with preventing civil war from a rogue group called the Renegades. With arenas to do 360-degree battles in and upgrades for the mech to improve performance, this has all the potential to be a great experience.

Visually, Defenders of Ekron is pretty, as the various stages and locations are colourful and vibrant backdrops to the ugliness of aircraft warfare. From outdoor desert missions, to battling enemy mechs over a lush, green forest, the visual palette is a delight. The mechs themselves, called Anakims, also look cool, and how they differ to each other is a good reflection on the pilots themselves. Lasers brighten up any stage, while the bullets feel like something out of Star Wars, as the crescendo of colour filling the screen perfectly complements the mechanics.

Controlling the Anakim is a breeze, and easy to figure out. It's simple and intuitive controls makes racing around the screen a fun experience. As the game progresses, new abilities are added to the Anakim, changing the strategies of each subsequent battle. Using an RPG-like format, the Anakim can be upgraded in five different parts, whether it's increasing health or the ammo bar, or increasing movement speed. These upgrades make the game fundamentally easier, as the enemy ships seems a bit unbalanced compared to the upgrade rate of Eneas' craft.

Screenshot for Defenders of Ekron on PlayStation 4

Cut-scenes play out with minimal Anakim-related animations, while drawn character portraits accompanied by text-only dialogue moves the plot forward between every mission. While there is nothing overly wrong with this type of approach, due to the games of previous generations also having no voiceover, it is unnerving when grammatical errors and typos appear in the text. These errors don't break the experience, however; the glitches and bugs do that all by themselves.

Missions are deployed from the 'Home Base.' This is where the upgrades to the mech are made, using energy orbs collected in missions. Also, mech-simulations serve as a great distraction from the main game, with three-star challenge rooms that boast huge rewards for those who seek to master the challenges. While the rewards for completing these rooms and getting the gold star allow for a speedier upgrade of the mech, it can also prove a breaking point for those who lack the patience that Defenders of Ekron requires.

Screenshot for Defenders of Ekron on PlayStation 4

The main issue is an "auto-save" feature that is meant to save the game between missions, and even during missions. Not remembering to save shouldn't be a punishment, as this game establishes that it will control all the saves to protect story progression from the very frequent in-game crashes. Unfortunately, the auto-save feature fails at this, too. For one, it only auto-saves at the 'Home Base' upon completion of a mission, but it does not protect progress made in the in-base Challenge room. During this review, two hours had been spent completing nine straight challenge rooms, with gold stars for all, only for a coding glitch to cause a crash. Upon reloading, the horror of realisation was the game had not saved any of that progression. Of course, manual saves can be made, and it must be relied on heavily to progress through.

Unfortunately, manual saves can only be done at the Base. During the mission, saves are then left to the mercy of the auto-save. One such mission had a game-breaking bug that glitched out the camera, so that the screen was stuck in the "wall" of the stage. With the main character off-screen, he was unable to be controlled, with no response from any controller inputs, even though the action played out around him and the background music played like nothing was wrong. Making matters worse, the auto-save had initiated after the specific glitch had played out, meaning any reloads failed to fix the issue.

Screenshot for Defenders of Ekron on PlayStation 4

Thankfully, a manual save meant hours of progress wasn't lost, but for those who prefer to rely on auto-saves will find themselves having to reset the entire game should they encounter this kind of glitch. What further adds to this scary thought is that during a four-hour play session during the review, there were three in-game crashes or bugs that required having to reset the game to continue playing. Even those who are really patient will be put to the test with having to replay stages over and over, due to the frequent crashes that impede the experience.

Many hours will go to waste due to this crippling issue, and there will be no hard feelings for those not patient enough to play out the game to the end. This is a shame, as the exploratory nature of the vertical and side-scrolling nature of the arenas are a fun part of the game. Enter doorways to venture into new areas, while using the map to chart out destinations.

Screenshot for Defenders of Ekron on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Defenders of Ekron is a Metroidvania-esque mech game, which sounds like a certain recipe for success. While the action is fun when everything is working well, the game-breaking bugs destroy whatever enjoyment this title had going for it, and they are too great to be ignored or overlooked.

Developer

In Vitro Games

Publisher

In Vitro Games

Genre

Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

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   

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