Wrath: Aeon of Ruin – PS4 Review 2

It’s not every day I have to write something that feels like a public service announcement. Wrath: Aeon of Ruin is game developed by Slipgate Ironworks and KillPixel. It came out on PC in February after a long and protracted early access phase and has now found it’s way to Playstation 4. I suggest that, if you have to buy it, do not touch this version.

Wrath: Aeon of Ruin is a game based around a heavily modified version of the Quake engine. For the console release, this has been ported over to Unity and the results are unpredictable, to say the least. As you might have guessed, this is a retro first-person shooter. It features some hallmarks of the genre like hunting for keys and an array of useful weaponry and some very fast gunfights. When it works, it can be a fluid, visceral experience.

But there’s the catch. I can’t remember the last time I played a game that was this unstable. The problems start small. I’ve had enemies die and then be locked in their run animations. That’s goofy and excusable. Unfortunately, mid-way through the second hub world, the game’s broken beyond repair. In the previous world, I’ve had scripting fail to trigger but a reload has usually managed to fix it. This time, I’ve not been so lucky. In an effort to see more of the game, I went into another level. This level will not load. Or, if it has, the game hasn’t moved on from the loading screen. I can trigger the pause menu whilst the loading screen is present but can’t seem to move it on.

Over a week after release, the trophy stats show nobody has beaten this game. Someone has been lucky enough to progress into the third world but, as for yet, the finish line hasn’t been crossed. I’ve been talking to others and it does seem to be other issues I’ve simply not ran into. One patch has dropped since release so a relatively common colour correction issue might be off the table. Maybe I’m just incredibly unlucky. As a digital product, I can’t just exchange this for a new copy. Hell, I’ve tried it on a Playstation 4 and Playstation 5. Both consoles have experienced crashes back to the dashboard but they feel rare enough not to be a problem. I do find the older hardware performs worse when trying to maintain a framerate. Larger firefights seem to put the black box under some pressure.

Now, I don’t want to read too much into the trophy clearance rates. This is a substantial game that some players might be crawling through. Each world has five levels you need to complete to unlock the boss of the world. Beating that boss unlocks the next episode. These levels are impressive in their scale. They’re expansive in a way that really separates it from the obvious inspiration. It can be quite daunting and the lack of a map did lead me to get lost a few times. Thankfully, there’s enough in the level design to breed some familiarity.

I got used to the game’s tricks. I knew to expect a wave of enemies if I was in an empty arena with a rune temptingly placed or if a switch needed to be pulled. In the usual corridors, encounters have just a few enemies to pick apart. Even so, I did feel the ammo count has a tad low. The nailgun especially chews through fangs like nobody’s business. It did lead me to use the rest of the arsenal far more frequently. It’s a well-rounded set of guns that all serve a purpose. The railgun is wonderful at dispatching big brutes but the pause between reloading puts me on edge. The shotgun and pistol work well to deal with the lower ranks. I didn’t feel the need to neglect any of them and that is one of the game’s greatest strengths.  Each of them has an alternate fire which can be devastating.

It does also try new things. The large and empty hub worlds lead into wide-open levels that give off a good sense of place. They do retain typical venues like castles and spooky forests but there’s a variety and each episode seems to focus around a motif. The second world seems focused on ancient hieroglyphics and a stronger need to platform.  You also have a strong line-up of artefacts you can utilise to provide extra cover, regain health and add other effects.  I want to see more of this but the technical issues have prevented me from doing so.

Furthermore, there’s just a problem with pacing in Wrath: Aeon of Ruin. Saving is handled in a couple of ways. Autosaves trigger when starting a level so you won’t see another one until the level is complete. Levels are long, despite the speedy traversal. Simply put, combat bogged me down so much. Avoiding fights can be done but there’s usually enough projectiles in play that I’d rather deal with the problem head on. You do gain these things called soul tethers. These act as portable quick saves you can place down. I found them relatively plentiful but it did lead to me trying to hoard them for difficult encounters. If resource management isn’t your style, infinite saving can be turned on in the options. Finally, each level has a couple of shrines you can hit for a full heal a place to restart from. These can only be used once which don’t always make them ideal places to resume from.

Visually, it’s got plenty of colour amidst the dark corners. Whilst the geometry is very gothic and of the era it’s trying to pastiche, it works. Enemies break apart in satisfying splashes and the music, whilst mostly condemned to the background, has a haunting quality. Enemies have distinct sounds and the feedback you get from guns is quite powerful.

It’s a real shame because the gunplay is satisfying and there’s an oppressive atmosphere that makes victory feel earned. Whilst it is a throwback, there’s a real effort to bring something new to the table. Unfortunately, it’s all undone by technical issues that might make the game completely unable to be finished. That’s a terrifying prospect for a game you might spend £25 and only see a third of. I would love to see patches resolve these issues but, for now, I have to call it quits.

Wrath: Aeon of Ruin
4 Overall
+ Really satisfying gunplay with a strong arsenal.
+ Solid, oppressive atmosphere.
+ Interesting, expansive level design that encourages exploration.
+ Soul tethers deliver an tense risk and reward to progression.
- Technically unstable and a broken port.
- The lack of a map can make navigation frustrating.
- The ammo pool is a touch small.
I simply cannot trust Wrath: Aeon of Ruin, at present. For as tense as combat can feel, it can't match the fear of a game seconds from breaking. At the time of writing nobody has finished this game. My save is broken to the point where there are two levels I can't even finish due to scripting errors. If you have to check it out, PC seems to be where the support and community is. Out on Playstation consoles, it's toast.

About Mike

Mike gets all the racing games because he understands that stuff even though he doesn't drive.

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