28 May 2020
It’s been a while since I played a game that divided my opinion so much, but they’re often some of the best to review. Resolutiion’s strong opening hours were great fun, despite its insistence on giving no real information on how to play or what was actually going on. It turns out that I was playing as a character named Valor, who was apparently quite a nasty killing type. I say “was” because they are now made up almost entirely of augments and cybernetics, and have no idea who they really are/were.
Valor soon meets an AI construct named Alibii, who attempts to aid in reconstructing the ex-assassin’s memories. This is done through exploring the strange, half-dead world and murdering pretty much anything and everything.
The world in Resolutiion is certainly the most interesting thing about the entire game. Okay, that probably sounds like I’m saying the rest of the game is no good, but no, the world is genuinely full of mystery and its environmental storytelling left me wanting to know more about what happened to this beautiful place. Why is there a giant, beating heart in the middle of a dark forest? What are those colossal shadows passing by, outside the mines? Why the fascination with cats?
It’s testament to developer Monolith of Minds’ fantastic art style and general world design, that I really loved wandering the world it has created. There is an almost 8-bit look to the pixel art, reminding me of Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP, and it adds character to everything. Valor’s spindly frame oozes both fragility and menace, and this minimal approach lends a real brutal feel, when you finish off an opponent and blood arcs from their butchered body, the screen shaking with the ferocity of it all.
Resolutiion is an action-adventure, even a Metroidvania of sorts, and it’s quite refreshing that that’s all it is. In its top-down brand of adventuring and brutal combat, there isn’t even a faint whiff of Soulslike about it. If you die, you simply respawn at your last save point and try again. No lost experience to recover, no respawning enemies when you hit a save point. In fact, there is no levelling in the game at all, so if you get stuck on a boss or in a tough area, you can’t grind out a few levels and come back stronger, you simply have to learn and adapt.
This does bring up the problem of difficulty spikes and a few balancing issues, which unfortunately hold back the game from being as good as it could be. One boss, in particular, took me nearly twenty attempts, because it was incredibly random in nature and could attack from off-screen without warning, often feeling a little unfair in its design. After finally defeating it, I found myself a little lost and ended up stumbling upon what I thought was progression, but was actually just another boss fight. A brutal boss fight, at that. It seemed a little much.
This also highlights the problems Resolutiion has with direction. Its map is confusing and the level design, although impressive to look upon, often offers no visual cues to help you navigate the world. At one point, I found myself blocked at every new avenue, and it was only through blind luck that I found where I was supposed to go. Somewhat annoyingly, I was confronted by another vicious boss battle soon after. It felt like every time I finally progressed, I was blocked by another boss, increasing in difficulty several fold, each time.
This is why my opinion was so divided on this game. I absolutely adored exploring and attempting to gather the crumbs of narrative that were scattered around the world, but the slightly awkward combat and the constant difficulty spikes, combined with the lack of direction, kept dragging me out of the experience with a confounding jolt.
What did keep me coming back, however, was the stunning soundtrack. Atmospheric and catchy, it fits the fantastical sci-fi setting perfectly. The way the beat ramps up when combat kicks in, the way the sound distorts and warps when your health drops to dangerous levels, it really helps keep you in the game. Even when the game itself tries to push you away.
There is a lot to like about what Monolith of Minds has created. Its setting and characters are all full of mystery, sometimes just making you wonder why you’re interested in such terrible people, and the speedy combat feels pretty good, most of the time. The Metroidvania aspect sees you coming back to older areas once you’ve unlocked that new ability, though you may get lost a few times due to its poor map and confusing layout. It looks and sounds great, though one or two skips in framerate can be a little jarring. Thankfully, it never seemed to happen during combat.
All these points combine to make Resolutiion a divisive game, in my mind. It feels great to play sometimes, frustrating the next. Its difficulty spikes threaten to spoil the otherwise wonderful moments of exploration, yet I kept wanting to go back for more. So yes, Resolutiion is a flawed experience, but it’s also a game very much worthy of your time.
Some minor performance issues
A few balancing issues
Needs more direction
Resolutiion starts off strong, but a lack of direction and some harsh difficulty spikes make it a bit of a flawed gem.