Without meaning to sound unfair to an early preview build of a game, Testament: The Order of High Human didn’t make the best first impression on me. For a start, the title feels like it should pluralise “Human”, and every time I say it, it feels wrong. But beyond this, the gameplay itself is something a mixed bag.
From a frantic opening where you must flee from a powerful enemy up to the eventual boss fight that ended the preview, I struggled to settle into any kind of rhythm. Partly this is down to the voice acting, which feels just a little bit laboured. The main character speaks English, but it’s fairly clear that it’s not the actor’s first language. This in itself isn’t a major issues, but it can sometimes feel like the words just aren’t flowing naturally, especially when there’s so much clunky exposition early on. Sometimes the main character, Aran, will just outright tell you things under the pretence of an inner monologue, and it’s jarring at best.
What little backstory I could glean from the opening suggests that Aran was double-crossed by his brother Arva. As the King of the High Humans, Aran’s fall has affected the world of Tessara, leading to an invasion by the forces of darkness. As Aran, you must wield sowrds, bows, and magical spells to defeat the minions of chaos and save the realm.
Almost refreshingly, Testament: The Order of High Human isn’t a roguelite or Soulslike. It’s a first-person action-RPG that draws immediate parallels to Skyrim, although that’s probably not a mirror it should be holding up. While the few environments in the preview are certainly very good-looking and highly detailed, the gameplay itself is incredibly uneven.
Aran soon arms himself with a sword and bow, and the latter is by far the more useful. Aiming is precise and ranged damage is suitably high, so sticking an arrow through the head of what are clearly trolls but are referred to as “halflings” does what it says on the tin. Sadly, Aran is less proficient with a sword, and melee combat feels like your batting at flies rather than attacking bloodthirsty “halflings”.
The primary issue here is that despite ostensibly being of considerable marshal prowess, Aran swings his sword like it’s got a two-seater sofa nailed to it. There’s very little grace to the movement, and the impact is severely lacking. You can perform basic combos on enemies, but you can’t block incoming attacks, and so the only way to avoid damage is to constantly hit and run like you’re doing the Hokey Cokey. You do have a dodge, but it’s on cooldown, which makes absolutely no sense when so much of the combat involves sword-fighting.
As a result, any time you have to fight more than one enemy (which is often), combat becomes a hellish chore of attrition, slapping an enemy across the mush and then back-pedalling like a politician caught leaving a brothel. If the option was there to just shoot everything, I’d have done that, but your supply of arrows is far too stingy.
It’s a shame, too, because there are flashes of cool stuff in Testament: The Order of High Human. For a start, the magic has serious potential. There was only one spell available in the preview, but it worked well in tandem with the sword to weaken approaching enemies so they only needed one or two half-hearted lunges before they rag-dolled into the dirt. The boss encounter, too, is decent, helped by the fact that the hit and run tactic works far better on him than it does in any fight with more than a single enemy. You can also wall run, which feels fluid and easy, linking together a few areas with first-person parkour that is surprisingly strong. These areas aren’t common, but are always fun to navigate.
I’d like to sat that Testament has potential, but with only a few weeks until its release date, I wonder if there’s enough time to fix everything. The promise of Metroidvania-style progression certainly has my attention, but I’m just not looking forward to having to endure the melee combat for the entire runtime. As an RPG, there’s a possibility for a build that focuses entirely on ranged combat, which might make it more palatable. I’m certainly not completely turned off. It’s a good-looking game with a handful of very decent ideas that could make it stand out in the genre, as long as Fairyship Games can tighten up the combat and dialogue.
Testament: The Order of High Human is due to hit Steam on July 13th.