Avenging Angel Dakota Corley September 17, 2015 Previews Being my first experience with Steam’s Early Access program, I didn’t have a very good idea of what I was getting into with Avenging Angel. Jumping headfirst into the game, I knew there would be problems but wasn’t really aware of their extent. That said, the amount of time I spent exploring the game’s world is a testament to just how cool it can be – when it’s not frustratingly obtuse or outright broken. Naturally, since the game is in Early Access, it’s hard to make concrete judgments about it. However, there is one thing I can say about it for sure – I have some very serious doubts about the trustworthiness of its developers and whether or not the thing’s even gonna be finished. A cursory look at the dev’s website suggests the game was meant for release towards the end of last year, however it didn’t even make it onto Early Access until June of this year. Furthermore, I initially held off on writing about the game in anticipation of an important update slated for the last week of August. As of this writing, no such update has been made, nor has the developer commented on its status. According to the game’s Steam page, there are supposed to be bi-monthly updates on the game’s progress but a quick check reveals this isn’t the case. In fact, as far as I can tell the last two or three updates that were announced haven’t been released or even commented on. UPDATE: On September 3rd, Avenging Angel developer Dark Amber Softworks took to the Steam forums to apologize for the delay on the current patch and comment a bit on why it was pushed back. They’ve wisely accepted all blame for it and haven’t done anything really shady – no thread deletions or anything like that. Still, the damage has been done here. Even if Dark Amber chose to become more active on the game’s Steam forum, they wouldn’t have much to respond to. Angel’s setting is a steampunk version of our own world, taking place roughly ten thousand years from now. After our civilization has fallen, it was (mostly) rebuilt and defined by its use of steam power because of the lack of other resources. Herein lies one of the game’s most noticeable flaws – it says mostly everything runs on steam, but there’s clearly plenty of electricity going around. Lightbulbs, robots, and even wireless internet exist somehow or another. The most glaring of these disjointed elements are computers – there’s clearly some effort being made here, but when you slap a CRT monitor onto a typewriter you’ve really lost me. In a similar vein, Angel’s naming conventions are really lazy – some are so bad I actually laughed out loud at the lack of effort. For example, instead of ethernet connections, those nice little things that make the internet happen, the game has aethernet connections. Even worse is “Goggle Glass,” an interesting but non-functional gadget whose purpose, currently, is little more than a chance for the developers to say, “LOL guyz remember Glass?” Assuming the game doesn’t bug out on you and cause you to fall endlessly through space as happened to me a couple times, Angel starts off on an airship on the way to . . . a place. There’s really no context to be found here, even when your airship pilot explains you’ve got a mission to do in a place called Thunderhead Point. Sure, you know where you’re going and you get plenty of clues as to what’s going on, but the game spends so much of its energy on world building that it fails to mention who you are, what you’re doing, and why you’re the person to do it. Once you make it off the airship you spawn in front of a lighthouse. If you look around enough, you might find some alchemy ingredients. Further in the lighthouse, you’ll find an access point to the tower. That and the ingredients you might’ve found beforehand are useless. This isn’t limited to just the intro sequence. Scattered all across the island, you’ll find objects you might want to use and places you might want to go either have no purpose or can’t be accessed anyway. Of all the game’s flaws, this one bothered me the most. Angel’s world is begging to be explored, and I spent a lot of time doing so only to have my hopes dashed. Avenging Angel also has a really bad problem guiding its player. I personally enjoy it when a game doesn’t tell me what to do and gives me the means to figure it out, but Angel doesn’t do that particularly well. More than a couple times I just didn’t bother to figure out what I needed to do and gave up. More than once I even thought I’d finished all the game’s available content, only to find out later that there was more. But the game never communicated this to me, and I still haven’t figured out how to move on. Frankly, I don’t care. Angel’s obtuse puzzlery drove me away more than once. Gameplay is pretty standard here – Angel is a first-person shooter with fair-sized environments to play around in. Almost all your enemies are robots, but when fighting them I felt no sense of threat. Most are too slow to catch up to you and those that can are easily avoided. During a couple fights I was genuinely terrified, although I attribute that to being caught off guard by surprise attacks from unexpected enemies. That was great, but it didn’t happen enough and I felt like that was what the game was really going for. Being all alone on a deserted island full of angry robots is an inherently scary prospect, but the game doesn’t do anything with it. Angel’s visuals are probably the most enjoyable part of the game at this phase. Environments alternate between large forests, creepy cave systems, and some rather industrial looking areas. As a whole they’re pretty good, but they’re marred by some quality issues. Part of the problem is that there’s just too much brown. Your clothes are a shade of brown, the leaves are brown, robots are all brown, and most all of the metals textures are brown. This is made doubly bad when the stuff that isn’t brown (or brass) textured is covered with low-res tiles. The brass part isn’t the worst, though – that seems to me more like a misguided choice in the art style than a budget problem. The really bad parts are limited to god-awful player animations, some grotesque water effects, the occasional missing texture, and chugging framerates due to terrible optimization. That said, Angel really nails its steampunk aesthetic aside from the apparent lack of steam and barring the aforementioned issues the game feels visually complete. Sound design in Angel is also pretty good. Enemies make appropriate clunky robot sounds and aside from the battle track, the music is great. If there is an exploration track, I’ve certainly not heard it, though I’ve heard mention of it bugging out in the Steam forums. Now, with all that said, this could be a simple case of an inexperienced team setting its sights too high. I can easily imagine the difficulty in developing a full game while also checking every Steam discussion, tweet, and e-mail for a team of three people. Indeed, I see a classic case of overscoping here: this game has TONS of features and some of them, like alchemy and crafting, seem a bit out of place. However it really doesn’t matter if they fit or not because they’re horribly implemented and almost none are finished. For fuck’s sake, even the Steam achievements in this game don’t work properly! The real problem is that we just don’t know enough about what’s going on and that’s definitely gonna sour some people on Avenging Angel, including myself to a degree. Since the game is in Early Access everything is subject to change. Although, as I mentioned before I have concerns about how the Early Access program is being treated here. Overall, Avenging Angel is really, really interesting to me as a concept. But the real question is whether or not it’s the “worth your money” kind of interesting. Short answer: no, not really. Not now anyway.