- Developer: Thomas Moon Kang
- Publisher: Humble Bundle
- Release Date: 26/03/2020
- Price: $19.99 / £17.99
- Review Code provided by Humble Bundle
Battles and Networks
I don’t know if you have been following the games I review. If you have you might know that I kind of REALLY like the Mega Man series. The games are great and diverse and also very fun to play. So far, I’ve covered Mega Man X (to a small degree) and Mega Man Zero/ZX. Now it’s time for me to talk about one of the other variants of the blue bomber that is forgotten these days: Mega Man Battle Network. You might be asking, “What? This is a review for ‘One Step From Eden’. A new pixel art based spell shooting tactical action RPG! What are you going on about?” The answer is, “This is literally a better version of everything that Battle Network had to offer.”
So for now, let’s go in to see what this game has to offer and why I have to say that it is one of my favorites out there right now.
Better Than The Sum of Its Parts
One Step From Eden is VERY similar conceptually to the Battle Network series of games. I have no qualms with saying this mainly because the developers themselves have described it as such. The header to their Dev blog says, “A Battle Network inspired Deck building game,” at the top.
For those of you not in the know, or with no experience with the Battle Network, let me explain how it all works. You play as your character on a grid three tiles high and six tiles wide. The grid is split into two sections: your turf and the enemy’s turf (each side gets a 3×3 section). You have a basic attack, but you can also equip “chips” that act as single use special attacks which you can use to defeat the enemy. Beat up bad guys, save the day, rinse, repeat. It was a solid gameplay mechanic and it was good enough to spawn a bunch of sequels. It was a great series! I loved every game I played, but then, something happened. It fell into obscurity (or at least out of the limelight). Capcom went on to make other series that did fine and it seemed that Megaman.EXE, the protagonist, was lost to the mists of time save a few references in Smash Bros Ultimate.
So, for the time being, what was a superfan of the series supposed to do? The answer was simple: “If they won’t make another Battle Network game, then I guess I’ll have to do it myself!”
Battle to Eden
Enter One Step From Eden. A practical love letter to the franchise on which it was based with dozens of quality-of-life improvements, procedurally generated paths, enemy selection, unlockables and enormous replayablility. You venture through the game as one of 9 characters (Saffron is the first character you have unlocked) as you head off to the elusive “Eden” the game alludes to. Each character has a different skill set that will help them in their quest. For instance Saffron, the headlining character, has an ability that gives her a resurrection should she fall once in battle. Other characters have increased shields or unique battle patterns as you control them. It’s fairly standard stuff in the realm of rogue-likes, but the unique gameplay is fun and keeps things fresh. Personally, I have only had the pleasure of having the one character so far, but that will change with added playtime. Couple each character’s quirks and abilities with two-hundred-plus unique attacks and combos and I can tell you for sure that this game is a genuine good time.
The changes are simple, but powerful from the Battle Network games:
- The grid has increased from 3×6 to 4×8, giving you a lot more room to work with and to dodge oncoming attacks
- Attacks are telegraphed by the grid squares flashing for a brief second so you can have just that much more time to dodge (you’re still going to get hit a LOT)
- There are different kids of objectives for each encounter to add diversity
- An experience system gives you power artifacts when you level up
These are just a few of the things that this team have added to make this game special and unique and I cannot express how much fun it is. Sure, the learning curve can be a bit of a hurdle for people who are either new to the battle mechanic or rusty with their old skills, but I can tell you that every round I play gets me a little bit better than the previous one.
Spell Slingin’ Encounters of the Crazy Kind
There is no shortage of things going on during a regular encounter in One Step From Eden. Encounters can range from something as simple as a single enemy with minimal attacks on screen to three or four enemies constantly bombarding you every second of your misbegotten existence. Things can get CRAZY fast and hard before you know it. This is also a perfect time for me to talk about encounters and what kinds there are and the benefits of each.
You see, as you progress through the game, you have the choice of which kind of encounters you get to complete. There are seven kinds of encounters:
- Distress calls
- Treasure chests
With each kind of encounter, there are different rewards for completing them. If you go to a treasure chest you are rewarded with a more powerful spell and some money for the shops, but you get hardly any experience. If you pick a miniboss you fight a tough monster, potentially lose some health, but end up snagging a truckload of experience so you level up faster. Shops give you no experience, but a chance to purchase upgrades for spells you have as well as giving you a chance to make mysterious pacts that add new challenges to the run you’re currently on in exchange for goods and services. There’s enough diversity and strategy to make each choice that you make mean that much more. I think it was pulled off quite nicely.
Something that I didn’t expect was how great the boss fights are. Each of the other 8 playable characters are bosses you encounter at the end of each area. Every fight is unique in ways that I certainly was surprised by. Thankfully, the boss fights start out pretty kind and ramp up in difficulty with each progressive area you complete. There’s even some witty banter when each fight starts and ends as well as a special line if the boss defeats you! I love it. But what I love more is the decision you can make after it’s all said and done.
When you defeat a boss, they stagger and slump to a defeated pose. You can do what I did the first time and hit them again and kill them. This gives you a good chunk of experience and you go along your merry way. A second choice you can make is leaving them alone and continuing to head forward. Each time you do this, the defeated boss will heal you and themselves for 400 HP (nearly a third of your starting maximum health!) and then vanish after saying something like “I won’t forget this” or “Thank you” or something along those lines. As you progress in the game from here, those bosses you spared will sometimes appear in stages and either fight alongside you, heal you, or even build weapons to assist you!
Measuring Up The Competition
I’m no master at the whole Rouge-like genre of games, but I feel like I can hold my own. I’ve both Entered and Exited the Gungeon, I loved EarthNight, almost reached the bottom of Downwell, and fought tons of waves of baddies in Wizard of Legend. I can safely say that One Step From Eden is super solid and deserves to be among the ranks of the great ones. This game is quality and I have to do a great deal of self motivating to put it down. Is it built specially for fans of the Battle Network series? Yeah, of course. Could anybody looking for a great game with a fun mechanic and addicting gameplay love this game? I guarantee it. This game is fabulous and anybody who goes out of their way to pick it up is going to have a good time. I know I sure did. Are there some gripes? Yeah. A few. Namely I still have no idea how to unlock any more of the other 8 characters (I think it’s beating the boss in your fourth area, but I’ve never managed to get that far and survive.
One of the more satisfying aspects of this game is figuring out a pattern for a boss or an enemy and mastering that fight. This game actually includes one of my favorite boss battles in any game I’ve ever played: The fight against Violetta, a woman who fights with the power of music. I was so frustrated that I was getting repeatedly murdered by her while I did virtually no damage. The way that she works is that occasionally one of her attacks is to play music to charge up an attack. As she plays her violin, spaces marked with music notes appear on your side of the grid. I thought these were attacks so I avoided them every time. After a few seconds of charging, she unleashes an unblockable attack that just shreds your health. She killed me seven or eight times before I really understood what was going on.
Those music note spaces were “dance steps” that I had to match. Every time I matched a step I was rewarded with significant bursts of shield energy to absorb those massive unblockable attacks. After that, it was just a matter of hitting her enough to win. It was moments like that where I was able to figure out a complicated gimmick that really told me “You’re gonna play this game a LOT”.
Nuts and Bolts
One Step From Eden handles well. I would actually recommend using the directional buttons over the analog stick if I’m being honest. The D-buttons give a much better amount of control as you are moving around the grid. I certainly recommend that to give you a better experience playing it. The music is lovely and it’s crafted well. Each character has pixelated animations that are so lovingly crafted and full of wonderful charm. The attacks are flashy and satisfying and there are so many wonderful references to other games and pop culture in them. I loved seeing what I would unlock next to see if it’s another joke or reference. You can clearly see that the developers put a lot of love and care into this whole experience. It really shows.
There’s only a few things that I gripe about. This game could greatly benefit from a small tutorial section to give you some small understanding on how certain functions of some cards work. Even after about 5 hours of hacking away at it I was still a little bit confused on the whole concept of the Flow effect that some cards have. So a brief “how to” would be great. Also, as I mentioned before, I have no idea how to unlock the other characters in the game. A little blurb somewhere would be nice. Other than that, I love everything about this game. It’s wonderful and I will be playing it for a LONG time.
- One Step From Eden looks great
- Plays SO well
- Awesome combos and cool attacks make it constantly interesting
- Lack of card ability tutorial can leave you a little confused
- Bosses get very hard, very fast
One Step From Eden is a solid homage to the game it was based off of and the amount of love, care, and hard work put into this is made evident in just how dang fun it is to play.