May 29, 2020
Deck13, Mayflower Entertainment, WhisperGames
Monolith of Minds
A surprising amount of game development is “polish”. The core mechanics and art is a lot of work, have no doubt. But it’s fixing the UI, making the animations smooth, figuring out how to teach the basics, fixing bugs and the like that takes a lot of time and energy. It’s an exercise in sanding down even the slimmest of edges. In the grand scheme of things, it may feel like time wasted. After all, user experience, like much of design, is invisible when it’s good. People will only really stand up and take notice when it fails. In the case of Resolutiion, the game lacks in user-friendliness, which makes for a rough experience for the player.
Resolutiion is a fast-paced action/adventure title that has you exploring a “fractured future”. The isometric game is visually striking and kicks off immediately without easing the player into the world.
“…a bad user experience is rarely about a singular issue.”
Resolutiion’s lack of a proper introduction meant it didn’t start with its best foot forward. From the main menu, the game just starts. No fancy establishing shots, no cutscene, you’re just some kid on a soccer pitch. Want to learn the controls? Well there’s a whole controls section of the settings, hop to it! Doing so reveals that the game is designed with controller firmly in mind.
Resolutiion does have keyboard controls, though they are… odd. The right hand controls movement with the arrow keys. The left hand controls actions like using and switching items with “X”, “C” and “V”. However, you use attack more regularly, which is bound to the “Y”. Seems fitting, as upon seeing this default configuration, I exclaimed “Why?!”.
You can have controls that don’t follow standard convention, you can also have no tutorial, but you cannot have both. Simply put, if the pause wasn’t mapped to escape, I would be learning controls by pressing every key. I’m all for not holding the player’s hand, but I don’t think I could call that acceptable. As it stands it’s an annoyance. This is a case of me having a bad user experience, but a bad user experience is rarely about a singular issue. These were merely the first signs of more frustration to come. As such, these first issues are part of a greater problem with this game.
I am grilling Resolutiion, but I can assure you that I still love the core of this game. As you progress you acquire upgrades, most of which factor into combat. The first upgrade becomes your first ranged weapon, a shotgun. To use this, you have to essentially plant your character to a spot, and use the movement controls to aim your fire. So it creates this dynamic of planning ahead, finding the perfect time to shoot from relative safety. Conversely, the next upgrade gives you the ability to run around quickly, which can function as a dodge substitute. The real challenge is that most of these abilities pull from a replenishing energy bar. So dodge too much, and you will have to wait to use the gun, and vice versa. It’s a smart system, which forces quick decision making, strategy, and improvisation to get through the many boss fights on offer. However as I progressed through the story, I really would just feel exasperated.
The first hiccup came upon my first death. When you die you get respawned at your last save point. I’m also glad the game didn’t make me have to kill the enemies again. But be careful what you wish for because soon trudging through the corpses of my fallen prey felt like a commute. This was also exasperated by savepoints that can be missed. They might be tucked away in an unseen corner or alcove. Don’t step on it, and that means you’ll have to commute for a few minutes. Oh, but that’s assuming that you don’t get lost along the way.
I can’t say I’ve played a game where the term “labyrinthine” felt more applicable. The game is a maze of samey environments, with not-so-obvious doorways into their adjacent passages. It is far too easy to walk around for a few minutes, before noticing you are going the wrong way. It does nothing but exacerbate the commute.
The other labyrinthine element of the game is the frustrating number of dead ends. Resolutiion follows the Metroidvania style of adventure gaming. The upgrades to your abilities factor into aiding your traversal. At a certain point the world opens up, but this presented problems. I would hike out to new edges of the map only to eventually realise I was under-equipped to access areas I needed to.
In one instance the game presents 3 distinct locations, approachable in any order. They were not, however, 3 distinct locations, accessible in any order. In order to access point C, you need the power up at point B, behind obstacles insurmountable without upgrades at point A. So get ready to put a lot of time and energy into getting to new locations before pulling a U-turn back out of it. Truth be told, there may be more guides than I give credit for. My first misadventure resulted in me not talking to the quest giver. But then again, I think I’m justified in not picking up on this. After all, I’m playing as a killing machine with no listed button to interact with other characters. Though I suppose that is the only way to communicate what may be passing as a plot.
“I apologise if I’m talking in vague language. But if you don’t like this description, I can assure you the game doesn’t do it much better.”
Resolutiion doesn’t really seem to have a story as much as it alludes to the concept of one. At the start of the game, you’re a child, and then you abruptly stop that and start killing people, I guess? In classic Cyberpunk fashion, you are tasked with retrieving your memories, for some reason. It seems to paint a general picture of how you were as a kid. I apologise if I’m talking in vague language. But if you don’t like this description, I can assure you the game doesn’t do it much better. In the grand scheme of things, it seems that it is more vacuous so the gameplay can take centre stage. I suppose my main issue is it seems to present itself as being some big existential thought experiment.
I love philosophical games and storylines but I’d be lying if I said that Resolutiion’s attempt felt a bit laboured. A lot of the dialogue has this ridiculous hollow intellectual sound to it. You can talk to forest animals, and they’ll talk some meaningless fluff. Here’s an example courtesy of Jan a deer-like creature:
“Infinite growth is never possible in a closed system. Civil unrest, war, and death are inevitable. The end of an empire is the beginning of another. Religion, tradition, and promise rise from a scorched earth”.
These are really wise words, they are timeless, and yet like a horoscope seems to perfectly line up with the world as it currently exists. It’s scary and yet hopeful for the rebuild further down the line. Having said that, there is one issue. It has absolutely nothing to do with the damn game. It’s just intellectual musings completely disconnected. Hell the game seems somewhat self-aware with the final bit of Jan’s eloquent postulating:
“Check out my fancy horns!”
Maybe the jokes on me for buying into this nonsense. As it stands, the game just looks ridiculous in its arrogant assertion that it has some kind of deep meaningful underpinning. I have seen this game to its conclusion, and it is truly underwhelming. The steam page confirms Resolutiion features “multiple endings” so I probably got a bad one. Simply put I can’t think of an ending that would somehow wrap up the non-story presented. Perhaps that is the Soulslike influence.
- Solid Combat Gameplay
- Feels unintuitive
- Hard to navigate
- Story is lacklustre
The best word I can apply to my personal journey with Resolutiion is “time-consuming”. Not long, not slow, but simply time consuming. Whilst the game is a great ride at its core, it is smothered in long commutes, and unintuitive level design. That leads to a game that feels like an hour long experience torturously dragged out for no reason.