Review - Akaneiro: Demon Hunters
New from American McGee's studio, Spicy Horse, is an action RPG which, on paper, has the makings of a great game. Akaneiro: Demon Hunters features a Japanese art-style, with a story loosely based on Red Riding Hood. It’s a mildly creative combination with high potential -- and Free-to-Play to top it off!
However, when I say that the story is “loosely based on Red Riding Hood” I really mean that people kind of look like Red Riding Hood, and bad guys are wolves. A more literal interpretation of the original story would do well to improve the game’s overall feel. Not only is the story thin, its presentation is lacking as well. The narrative is mostly portrayed through still shots and single paragraphs during load screens.
I went into Akaneiro as a skeptical optimist, and to my surprise, the first level alone started to tear down my skepticism. The game plays very well; the controls are simple, nicely laid-out and are generally up-to-par for this Diablo-esque genre. I was dispatching packs of evil wolves and using my classes starting skill to dice them up faster than a Slap Chop™ -- all while collecting Karma, the in-game currency, in the form of crystals dropped by slain enemies or found in pots, barrels and other destructible objects. All was well until I cleared the third, and final, zone of the first world. I beat the world boss and was sent back to town, ready to carry on with the tepid storyline.
What happened next was the proverbial nail in Akaneiro’s coffin. I purchased a new skill, an AoE knockback skill I figured would be effective for getting me out of tight situations, for about 90% of my wealth after finishing the first world. I tried to move on to the next world, but found that I needed about three times what I had just spent on my new skill to do so. This poor decision held the game back because, A) I then had to grind the first world about three times over just to move on with the game and B) I felt that this killed players’ incentive to ever spend Karma on anything else in the game, for its entirety. But I figured, “Hey at least I’ll get some more levels out of this grinding...” at which point, American McGee slapped me in the face with his stupid chili pepper pay-to-play/win format. I was CAPPED. Players cannot level past a certain point until they unlock the next zone! So from where I was, I had the realization that if I did not pour money into this game, about two-thirds of my gameplay would be without any story progression and a further half of that would be without character progression. If I decided to buy a new weapon or skill, those numbers would become even larger.
As I progressed and the game started getting “harder” I became even more disappointed. Akaneiro’s idea of ramping up the difficulty is to generally throw more bad guys at the player; for me, this hardly made a difference. Whether it’s two wolves, or 10 wolves; a wolf shooting green fire out his hand; a few evil trees or a group of zombie-looking goblins; I was able to simply run in circles and use my AoE knockback skill. This effortlessly dispatched of almost every single group of enemies in the game. The AI is so poor that it’s insulting to the general intelligence of all canines and aforementioned baddies. Bosses are rarely any better. For most, you can simply hit them twice and then sidestep their attack; rinse and repeat and you're able to kill almost every boss in the game.
Aside from the poorly executed mirco-transaction format, the sounds and sights of Akaneiro are much better than the gameplay, but far from being redeeming qualities. The Japanese art-style is good enough to make up for the lack of graphics power which comes with your average browser-based game, but not enough to sell itself as a unique art-style. The “stereo” typical soundtrack (see what I did there) mirrors the game’s art-style in a complementary, yet expected, fashion. The only times the score stood out to me were when it was trying its hardest to sound like Matt Uelmen.
In the end, if they would have spent more time on their AI and less time trying to incentivize real money purchases, Akaneiro: Demon Hunters might have been good. Though as it stands, I will be more than happy if I never have to play this game again. If you are looking for a good casual game I suggest trying out Snake or Checkers. If you are looking for a good Free-to-Play game, don’t come anywhere near Akaneiro.