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Songbringer Review

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Gameplay:

This game is hard. It is hard and not always for good reasons, like a constantly appearing control bug where I will just continue to move in some direction. I do not know what causes this, so I cannot avoid it, but at least it can be fixed by moving in that direction again, resetting the input. Actually the control setup itself is in poor shape, and it was like this when I launched the game.

When Songbringer first opened, it started cycling through images of different controllers, and refused to accept any keyboard inputs. I had to connect a controller before I could advance to the menu. The game does work with the keyboard, but it simply refused to at launch, so I grabbed my Steam Controller and plugged it in. This got me through that screen, but was not working in the game. You see there is a developer-recommended Steam Controller profile, and it does not work. It appears to try to send the inputs to the game with specific names for them, and this does not work for some reason. I could not even correctly remap them in the game, which itself is annoying, and had to go back to a generic gamepad template for the controller before I could get it working.

The reason the remapping is annoying is because it goes through the entire list of inputs available on a controller, and has you press and hold the physical input for it to be assigned. You cannot go back and you cannot change a specific input if there is a mistake, and there were several. Even though the game wants you to hold the input for a time, until I disabled the overlap zones of the joystick, it would speed through and assign multiple in-game directions to a single physical direction.

Anyway, once I got that taken care of, I could finally get into the game and start playing, and for the most part it is fun, but two of the game's key features have become a source of frustration for me. To be fair, my having to work through and review multiple games very rapidly might be adding to this, but the triggers for my frustration are still there, even if my time-pressed situation is exaggerating the emotion.

 

 

The game is non-linear and procedurally generated, which means there can be a lot of replayability, but it also means you can very easily get lost and make critical mistakes. It also means you may be forced to leave 'early' dungeons for 'later' ones, because these later ones are easier to complete or might contain the item you actually need to complete the early one. With eight dungeons, it can be easy to forget which dungeons are completed and which ones have not been.

This issue has resulted in my having to abandon boss fights because I could not kill them, only to return later after beating another and having gained the health piece it dropped. At least this happened in the first game I started (seed REVIEW) but in the second (seed OVERCC) I had to leave because I could not complete dungeons until I found and visited others, collecting the loot they offered. Most importantly I needed the Teleport Cube so I could return to Songbringer and combine items I had found, applying special elements to my equipment. This is necessary because certain elements are needed to destroy certain objects, and no, you are not necessarily told which do what. Some enemies also require you have certain elemental damage to kill them, and again this is not communicated to you. I only discovered the latter by accident, which is not how I want to discover necessary for clearing out a specific threat. Also, because this crafting cannot be undone, if you make a mistake, it will take a new game to correct.

Other enemies are also an issue too, such as these fast snake enemies that are wielding knives because they are very fast, do a decent amount of damage, and also take a lot of damage. There really does not seem to be any strategy with them, except run if you can and pray if you cannot. The bosses too can be like this, where the strategy is just to press against and mash the attack button (or use a turbo function, which I was as it is so easily achieved with the Steam Controller API, and more comfortable than actually mashing). This is disappointing as it means there is no special strategy to discover or use that often, it is just attack, attack, attack. In some cases you can throw in dodging, but not always because the boss attacks are not necessarily telegraphed, no matter how powerful they are. Also you may need to add waiting to the strategy, as some bosses also leave the map for a time, obviously removing your ability to damage them.

 

 

There are a few more particularly frustrating aspects to these boss fights, all three concerning health. One is that you can pick up health drops when you are at full health, so by accident you can lose something you will need later. Two is the rarity of the single item that can restore health. Sometimes it is in one of the game's shops, but their inventories appear to be random, so you are lucky to find one, so if you need more health than that, you need to find a way to increase your maximum health (it is kind of disappointing that it can be easier to find and fight a different boss than it is to find and purchase a specific item). Of course you might not be able to increase your maximum health, because it is possible to unknowingly make a mistake that will prevent your ability to access parts of the game. The third issue is that there is no boss health indicator. For the tougher bosses this is annoying, because you do not know if it killed you when it was near death, or if it killed you with only a scratch. Just how ineffective are your attacks is a question you do not get an answer to.

These issues combined, especially with the controller issue, is why I have not finished the game yet. When I am progressing and feeling like I am progressing, it is fun, but when it feels like I am hitting a brick wall in front of a concrete wall, there is no fun to it, so I stop. This is actually why I started the second game, so I could avoid the mistakes I made in the first, but I dislike needing to take this approach. Plus, a second playthrough is not necessarily more fun than first.

In that first game, that I think I am at or near the final boss (it is impossible to guess because the story is unclear), I have put in in some 8 hours and 46 minutes, and in the second I have put 4 hours, 58 minutes.

I can definitely see the game being fun for some, and could even be more fun for me, but I cannot keep hitting my head against it currently. I need to move on and hopefully I can return to it later because it has the potential for a lot of fun, but pushing through it is not fun for me currently, and maybe at least the controller issue will be fixed as well.

 




  1. Songbringer Review - Introduction
  2. Songbringer Review - Graphics
  3. Songbringer Review - Story
  4. Songbringer Review - Gameplay
  5. Songbringer Review - Additonal Gameplay Screenshots
  6. Songbringer Review - Conclusion
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