Alpha demos are pretty impossible to write about in any significant manner that properly reflects to gamers what they can expect from the title. The placeholder assets, the unfinished code, the shoddy animations, the stilted voice work, the unfinished facial rigging, the empty worlds, and the cordoned off sections means that you’re not really getting any proper representation for what the final game will be like. Nevertheless, Tiny Shark Interactive sent out press demos for the alpha build of their upcoming Unreal Engine 4 3D RPG, Exzore: The Rising… and I played a couple of minutes of it.
The game puts players in the role of Exzore army leader, Damien Clive. During the course of the game Clive gets betrayed and goes on a journey of redemption and retribution. The Exzore unit is supposed to be a highly skilled and very dangerous group assigned to protect the kingdom… think of them as the N7 Specters from Mass Effect.
In the demo, however – which is barely 15 minutes long – players only experience a very small taste of the game world, NPC interactions, questing, and combat.
The Unreal Engine 4-powered title is in very, very early development. Did I mention that already? If not, I should repeat… it’s in very early development.
You don’t get much in the way of options other than a brief overview for the controls – allowing for either gamepad or keyboard and mouse gameplay – and a very basic set of options for the graphics, featuring ‘Low’, ‘Medium’ and ‘High’ settings.
Again, these options are all negligible anyway given the state of the game; it’s not finished and the options clearly don’t reflect the overall quality of what the finished product could be.
Once you actually get into the game, you have a couple of controls at your disposal, including an attack button, a block button, an interact button, the ability to switch between special abilities, a gadget button, a sprint button, and the left and right shoulder buttons to use a special.
At the start of the demo we get a very small taste of using the wrist gadget to grapple a plank and pull it across some rocks to use as a bridge. Of course, given that it was a demo and the game is in a very early state of development, the wrist launcher required standing in a specific spot at a specific distance to really make use of it, but the possibilities could be very inventive if it’s polished up nice and neat and allows players to experiment with it beyond quest items.
Just beyond the bridge there’s an NPC with your first quest – he wants you to go into a cave, clear out some bandits and rescue his son. It sounds simple enough and it offers up an opportunity to get a look at the game’s combat.
The game relies on hitbox and target-based attacks. Clive will automatically face an enemy based on tapping the analog stick in their direction. This makes it easy to rapidly unleash attacks on multiple opponents simply by aiming at them. The animations, of course, still need work, but the combat was at least very responsive, especially between attacking and blocking.
Simply holding down the block button allows you to block all incoming attacks. I imagine in a more finished version of the game we’ll see a stamina meter or timing mechanic in place so you can’t cheese through the combat by simply holding down the block button at all times and then periodically peppering enemies with strikes until they die.
There were also a few special maneuvers that could be utilized as well. You could do a jumping strike, and a lunging strike, both of which took a lot of life from the enemies. However, I did manage to find a glitch where I was attacked during the jumping strike, which led to Clive getting stuck in a slow-motion loop where he wouldn’t stop moving slowly and the slow-motion effects were still around him, even though the enemies could still move normally. The loop effect could be fixed by performing one of the special attacks again and successfully having the animation play through.
The combat is standard-fare hack-and-slash. It shows promise but it’s way too early to tell exactly how intuitive or polished it might be for the final product.
The one thing that I was most intrigued by – beyond the basic quest that players could choose to go on – was the crafting mechanic. This feature allowed players to tinker around with different sword combinations by mixing and matching hilts, blades and crosses. This could be one of the highlights of the game depending on how well it all plays out and how effective the different weapon choices are when you utilize them in combat.
The fact that each part changed and altered a status effect on the weapon, all while visually giving gamers feedback on how the finished sword would look with the different parts, made me a bit giddy thinking about the various weapon combinations creative players could come up with. There’s a lot of possibilities in setting up quests centered around finding some rare parts to craft some unique custom weapons, and that could be one of the game’s shining elements.
Beyond that there wasn’t much else to the demo. Shaders, lighting effects, animations, set dressing, and environmental details were all basic and not finished, so it’s tough to say how well the game will look graphically when it’s all said and done.
The fact that the quests allowed you to follow through with certain paths ,or choose not follow through, could be interesting. It reminded me a little bit of The Witcher in that regard.
Overall Exzore is the kind of game that will live or die based on the how well the finished product comes together. As a concept it’s a medieval fantasy RPG with some promise. Whether or not Tiny Shark fulfills that promise with a quality product is dependent on how well things go with the crowdfunding and development.