Akaneiro: Demon Hunters – East Meets West
By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF), OnRPG Journalist
Akaneiro: Demon Hunters is an up-and-coming A-RPG set 100 years into Japans past, when myth and legend were still strong and demons roamed the Earth. The game is brought to us by Spicy Horse Games, a China-based indie game development studio lead by American McGee, creator of past titles such as American McGee's Alice and Alice: Madness Returns. The game features a very unique art style with traditional A-RPG elements shared with such games as Diablo 3 and Path of Exile. The premise alone is enough to make me excited about the title, the fact that it can be played in the browser is just icing on the cake.
Browser-support – You can play it in your browser or download the client.
Future Tablet support – According to the developers, tablet support is currently being worked on.
Lots of monsters to kill – Never ending hordes of enemies that drop precious loot.
Mix class skills – If you roll a Prowess hunter but need some healing abilities, you can buy the fortitude healing ability. There are no restrictions.
Wonderful Art – It has some beautiful art inspired by Japanese ink painting.
What will really make this game stand apart from its competitors is its current browser, and future tablet support. Other than that, it has your typical A-RPG features, with some of its own spins put on the genre. The mixing of class skills was nice as it introduced a bit of character planning which is always fun, and I've got to say I really enjoyed the art style used for the game. All-in-all, I am pleased with the features, and planned features, available for Akaneiro: Demon Hunters. Please keep in mind, however, that even though I am excited for future features and I may mention them, I am not scoring the game with those in mind – I only score on what is currently in the game.
Akaneiro: Demon Hunters does not have much customization, but then again, most A-RPGs don’t. Your character creation will be a speedy process of choosing a gender, a class and a name. Most of your customization will come from choosing what gear your character wears and how you build your skills later on in the game. It is possible to learn skills from other classes to create your own truly unique character that fights the way you like to fight. I found this to be great, as I enjoy planning out my characters a lot, and Akaneiro presented this in such a way that it wasn't an overwhelming experience like a lot of games do. *cough*PathofExile*cough* Not to say being overwhelmed with choices is a bad thing, and to be honest I would have liked a few more choices when it came to character planning.
The art style used in Akaneiro: Demon Hunters is incredible. It presents a beautiful world that fits very deeply with the theme of the game. Personally, the graphics are probably the single biggest factor for what makes the game so fun for me. This part of the game really helped set it apart from the other A-RPGs that are coming out lately. I've got nothing but good things to say about the graphics of Akaneiro.
A majority of the games these days seem to have what I would consider toxic communities. These are communities where the majority of members are trolls and assholes. Luckily, indie developers such as Spicy Horse seem to do much better at cultivating wonderful communities. I had a great experience interacting with the other players, the moderators and even the developers while playing Akaneiro. The developers will frequently join in the web-browser chatbox and talk to the players.
I liked the controls for Akaneiro: Demon Hunters a lot. You could either play using the keyboard and mouse, or just the mouse. I'm trying to think of something to criticize about the controls, but I'm having trouble. I could say that I did not like limiting the abilities to groupings of three, while being able to have three different sets of abilities that can be cycled with the Tab key. It just made me wonder, "Why not have all the abilities on a hotbar?" But then again, this method is a lot more aesthetically pleasing than having a big hotbar stuck across my screen.
Movement and attacks are done with the left mouse button. This usually doesn't cause problems, but just in case the Spicy Horse team has given you the ability to stay put while attacking by pressing the shift key, so you won’t accidentally move around when you should be swinging your weapon. Abilities, as mentioned, are activated by rotating between the three ability sets available to you and using the 1-3 keys. Your first ability on each ability set can also be activated with the right mouse button, so it's best to put your most important abilities in those slots. While I could nit-pick about the system, I have to say that once you get used to it, it's quite efficient and does not take up as much screen space as other methods would.
Akaneiro: Demon Hunters has your typical A-RPG elements. The game consists of playing a series of missions to get experience points, Karma Crystals (Akaneiro's money) and looting items, hoping to get good drops. As you progress through the levels, you can unlock more abilities and more areas to do missions in. As a nice distractor/motivator, a unique tale mixing Red Riding Hood and Japanese mythology unfolds as you clear through each level. From what I've observed the game mixes all these things – the combat, the character progression, the story, and the unique art style together seamlessly.
Arguably the most important thing in an A-RPG is the combat. If it doesn’t look and feel amazing, the game will flop. The combat in Akaneiro definitely is not a flop. Thanks to the art style, slashing through countless enemies looks great and is frantic enough to not get old. And yes, the combat is very much hack-n-slash, and you will spend a majority of your time in a thick of enemies throwing themselves at you.
Unlike other A-RPGs, there are no potions in Akaneiro. You will need to rely on healing abilities, if you have them, or get your hands on some karma crystals. As you gain karma crystals, your health will regenerate. This works out well, as when you kill enemies they will drop these crystals, so you can stay in combat fairly well without having any healing abilities, at least early on. You can also gain karma crystals by destroying baskets and transmuting your junk gear.
Death in Akaneiro is not a big deal. When you die, you will be presented with an option to go back to Yomi Village – the hub town, or revive where you died with full health while pushing back all nearby enemies. The second option cost karma crystals and the first time it is used the cost is relatively low, and it gets higher and higher with each use in that mission.
Missions are linear in Akaneiro. Both in what order you can do them in, and while inside the missions. When you are in a mission, you will be stuck taking a certain path to get to your objective. And while there are occasionally diverging paths, they are all narrow and do not give you much room to roam. I did not notice this to be a problem myself, but I know a lot of people will not like the lack of freedom when it comes to mission running. It really comes down to a matter of personal playstyle. All-in-all, it is a more stream-lined system to what I am used to from other A-RPGs, but still the same concept.
When you complete a mission you will be scored and the cleared location’s threat level will go up so that the next time you play it, it will have harder monsters, higher quality loot and better rewards. It is also possible to purchase a threat level upgrade with karma crystals, if you do not want to manually do it by beating the mission. I found this system to work well, and I enjoyed that each mission had several difficulties. If you find a mission too difficult for your current level, you can also purchase threat level reductions until you are strong enough to take on the higher difficulties.
As you level up and gain karma crystals, you can purchase abilities from the ability trainer. As I mentioned earlier, you are not limited to your starting class and are able to purchase abilities from the other classes. You can also purchase armor and weapon specializations. As for level progression, once you have all areas unlocked, the level cap is currently set to twenty.
The biggest negative in the game so far has been the lack of co-op. Currently, the only way to interact with other players is the in-game chat. There is a stand-in feature currently to cover for co-op where you can summon your friends’ characters to help you complete missions. This works for now, but I am looking forward to the day that true co-op is added.
Other than that, I feel that I should mention that there are some bugs. The biggest issue I ran into was an occasional disappearing boss, which can still be fought but is invisible. There was also an issue where mobs would sometimes run outside the areas you are able to enter, so you would have to run away to pull them back in to the open so that they could be killed. Neither of these is game breaking, but they need to be fixed. From what I have seen of the development thus far, it should not be long before these issues are fixed and I would not be surprised if they are gone before this review is even published.
Akaneiro: Demon Hunters is a casual alternative for the other, more hardcore, A-RPGs. It has depth, story, hordes of monsters to kill and gear to loot. Unfortunately, despite being officially released, co-op has not been developed yet. And in my mind this game won’t truly be a complete game until that day. The last estimate I saw for these features was sometime in March, though it may take longer. If you are looking for a more casual A-RPG that can be played in the browser, I definitely suggest you give Akaneiro: Demon Hunters a try.
Features: 3/5 – Though I would give it a 4/5 once multiplayer support is implemented
Customization: 2.5/5 – Casual is nice, but this game’s customization was a bit too casual for me to have true fun with it.
Graphics: 4/5 – I absolutely loved the art style used in the game.
Community: 4/5 – The players were helpful, and the dev-player interaction was superb.
Controls: 4/5 – I didn't run in to any problems, and they tried something different.