Reviewed by Thomas
- Developer: Tiny Trinket Games
- Publisher: Tiny Trinket Games
- Release Date: 24/06/2019
- Price: $12.99 / £11.69
- Review code provided by Tiny Trinket Games
Video games are a great outlet to help people relax. That, however, isn’t the only reason to enjoy the gaming medium. Sometimes we yearn for a challenge. A game that can push us as a gamer and reward us with a sense of accomplishment that we have conquered a digital difficulty. There’s no shortage of games built strictly for a challenge. In fact, a sub-genre classifies some titles as Souls-like games. Though Azuran Tales: TRIALS doesn’t label itself as such, it does boast a brutal platformer with RPG elements. So what does it take to be a brutal game? Does Azuran Tales live up to its claim?
Murder By Death
Azuran Tales: TRIALS is a challenging platformer on the surface. However, beneath the gameplay is a wonderfully crafted story. Taking a different approach to storytelling in the video game world, this narrative is presented more like a novel. The writing style is less like a screenplay and more what you would find in the pages of a book. I thought it was a unique take, and the presentation paid off. I enjoyed reading the lore of Azuran and how Magrath, the villain came to be.
You play as Merius, an undead cleric. You have been given the blessing (or curse) from the God of the Dead, Drukandra. Merius battles across multiple levels to restore the amulet of Valur at the behest of Drukandra. Only then can he return to his family.
The challenges Merius faces are not only fiendish enemies. There are traps around every corner and labyrinths to navigate. Not only is Azuran Tales a side-scrolling platformer, it leans heavily on the TRIALS portion of its name. With a timer and death count fixed to each level, it is geared for competitive time attacks and minimal deaths. In Azuran Tales, death will transport you back to a spawn point and take half of your valuables. Altars are periodically spaced that let you store your loot in case of impending death. Here you can level up as well.
The core gameplay consists of rolling and attacking. There are limited spells to use but your conviction (mana pool) drains automatically and at such a rapid rate they were hardly worth using. Rolling makes your avatar invincible so most of the time is spent rolling to the opposite side of your opponent to get a few strikes in. The combat itself is rather clunky. When you swing your mace, if you press the attack button too fast, you’ll interrupt yourself resulting in a lot of misses. I found the combat rather repetitive and boring. There is little strategy to it and each enemy is approached in more or less the same manner.
Traps and puzzles are an added nuisance to corner you in small spaces during combat. This makes rolling behind the enemy slightly more difficult. If you’re not careful you can roll into a trap or off a ledge. Whether intentional or by poor design however, you can walk through the enemy so their back is to you. Though the enemies look different and have a few varying move sets, they all felt the same when fighting them, and that includes the majority of the bosses.
Death on the Nile
The graphics are passable when the Nintendo Switch is docked. You can see more details in your avatar and the surrounding area. Once you switch to portable mode the images look quite blocky and are much harder to see. In addition, a lot of the level layouts have foreground images which take up too much of the screen, making it difficult to see what’s going on. To me, this isn’t a challenge in the game rather a bad level design. The sound effects are well done and there is an eerie soundtrack to accompany Merius as he faces denizens in various locales.
Death Becomes Her
From a technical aspect, I ran into a lot of issues with Azuran Tales: TRIALS. The most glaring of which is the responsiveness of the AI. More often than not, the bosses would get stuck in a loop with a certain move set. Rather than the game being difficult because you had to develop new tactics and adjust, it made certain parts nearly impossible. One boss would run back and forth non stop. None of your moves or spells would stop it unless you died. After nearly 100 attempts, I finally got the boss to glitch in a corner and was able to win the battle. I had to defeat it before the charging move activated. Similarly, a second boss cast an invincible shield that never goes away. Even after dying and respawning, the shield was still engaged. None of my abilities could disrupt the move. The only way to beat this boss was to start from the very beginning and hope you can win the battle before he casts the shield again. This became very dull and unnecessary. Before I knew it, I had spent hours on a level that should be cleared in five minutes.
The game wasn’t tough because it was programmed to be tough. It was brutal because of issues like this. There were also instances of invisible traps, causing you to randomly die. I fell through the floor on occasion and also went through a wall. Technical glitches and bugs don’t make a game challenging, they make it depressing.
The saving grace for Azuran Tales: TRIALS is the wonderfully woven lore and the world it creates. The game play and design are far from polished. Playing a level over and over again until I beat it was hardly rewarding. There was no satisfaction that I improved my skills as a gamer. Rather, the feeling of patience was earned at being persistent until a broken mechanic worked in my favor.
- Deep Story
- Clunky Combat
- Blocky Graphics