By Michael Sagoe (mikedot)
Good quality Hack n’ Slash games have been a rarity when it comes to the F2P online gaming space. While you have a few stand outs like Vindictus and Elsword, the field has been left completely open for many more entries in swoop in and set up shop. With this in mind, En Masse Entertainment and All-M finally decided to publish a four year old hack n’ slash title known as Kritika Online, which has been long overdue for a western release.
Kritika is a game that take influences from popular game titles such as Devil May Cry and Dungeon Fighter Online to create a fast paced, over-the-top kind of game that attempts to grab your attention at first slash and does its best to not let go. While offering both fast-paced PvE and PvP, this is a game that focuses all on action, which is a great focus to have. The main thing players will have to worry about is all the repetition that comes with it.
Kritika currently features four playable heroes (with another four to made available in the future). These classes include Warriors, Rogues, Gunmages and Reapers. While the classes are varied and diverse, they’re unfortunately genderlocked. This sits fine with me as so many previous online F2P games of this nature have been known to do in order to make classes feel more distinct and to avoid the extra work needed to make art assets for the same class twice. Simply put: those that were looking to play as giant sword swinging female warrior or a dark and edge scythe wielding reaper will have to look elsewhere. As mentioned in my previous first look at the game, there is a fair amount of character customization available: although very limited at the start, more options become available once you enter the game. It’s just a shame that most of that customization is primarily locked behind a paywall. If you want your character to stand out from the crowd, you’re going to have to pay up. At the very least, costume items are completely cosmetic, and it is possible to gain Kred (in-game currency converted from real money) for these cosmetics by selling good items to other players on the auction house.
As far as stat customization goes: while you have no direct control over your character’s stat allocation, you can control your characters stat growth through the equipment you collect, the pets you use, and the soul gems you equip. There sure are a whole lot of stats to deal with… raw attack damage, attack speed, critical chance, elemental damage… it can get confusing at times one which ones you should focus on, but in truth, it mostly comes down to your subclass and your personal playstyle. Slowly but surely, you’ll figure out which stats are needed to maximize your classes’ full potential.
Gameplay and Features
The real joys of playing Kritika comes from its quick and snappy combat which takes several nods from both Devil May Cry and Dungeon Fighter Online with super flashy combat where you can juggle enemies for days, pull off devastating attacks that will kill your opponent seven times before they even hit the ground and a bunch of other attacks that will inevitably fill your screen with a sea of blood and damage numbers. Different milestones can be achieved when leveling up your character which will allow you to unlock a new subclass and more skills that will make your killing efforts all the more enjoyable. If you think the combat is great from the start, then you’ll be surprised with just how much better gets later on as subclass skills and awakening skills allow you to do even more insane damage to anyone that dares to step in your general direction.
While the combat starts off strong and stays strong, the enemies themselves begin as complete pushovers and the game takes its sweet time scaling them up before they start feel like a threat to the player. At most, enemies just run straight towards you and attack blindly or try to stay back and attack from a distance, and with all characters being as quick and nimble as they are while having attacks that can easily close gaps quickly, there was rarely a moment where I felt like I actually needed to concentrate in order to clear a room filled with enemies. When I did take a hit, it was usually because I was getting greedy with my attacks or simply not paying attention as much as I should have. When compared to Devil May Cry, one of the main inspirations for Kritika, you can be one of the more focused DMC players out there and still get tripped up occasionally because the enemies are clever, fast and straight up relentless. I wish I could say the same for Kritika, but most enemies are simply there to get slaughtered.
Luckily the boss battles fair a bit better, as they slowly introduce you to new gameplay elements such as breakable armor, red circles that need to be avoided, and other phases that bosses may go through that will teach you not to mess around. I’ve always appreciated this kind of progression as it makes you feel like you’re growing in skill as a player, unlike similar hack n slash games where trial and error is used far too much to make a game more difficult than it should be. If you’re cautious and talented enough, every boss fight feels like it can be beaten on the first try, and when you do get it on the first try, it’s a great feeling to see your former opponent die in slow motion.
Speaking of difficulty, the game offers multiple difficulty options from Easy to Crazy. They’re scaled up in a way that’s very typical for online hack n’ slash games of this nature, in which all that the developers have done is make enemies have more HP and hit harder. Even at the highest difficulties, enemies will still bum rush you like madmen instead of performing a new attack or skill to catch you off guard (with the exception of some of the later boss fights.) This is, by far, the laziest way to program your game to have increasing levels of difficulty and I can’t understand why game developers keep going with this route. When you’re facing against a foe that you know you can beat, it simply gets tiring and frustrating when you’re sitting there for 30 seconds at a time, combo-ing them to death instead of moving on with the mission. I suppose this raises the importance of making sure that your gear is upgraded, but I’ve always believed that when it comes to games focused on skill-based combat, stats should simply be an asset than a necessity when progressing. If some player wants to beat missions only using bare minimal equipment and stats required, then let them. Just don’t make them have to play twice as long through the mission compared to a player that’s armed to the teeth if they’re both equal in their mechanical skill.
But on the upside: because of how difficulty and challenge is handled, every mission can be completed solo. While bringing friends along will certainly make things even easier, it never feels like you need a party to get by.
Now jumping off from the topic of skill-based combat: Kritika Online also features PvP modes including 1v1, 3v3 and 3v3 Capture the Flag. Character stats in this mode are all equalized, so cash shop warriors will have to leave their credit cards at the door. Skill is what matters here, as any good PvP should be like. It’s just a shame that your character needs to reach LV65 before you can engage in it.
Another thing to mention is that while the stats are equal and PvP combat has the same kind of furious action like its PvE counterpart, it does bring along a slew of problems that I personally feel that will bog down the enjoyment factor. Since most attacks and skills in Kritika have large hitboxes and AOEs, those same attacks can easily catch any unwary opponent off their feet. Combos are fairly easy to initiate and with a bit of practice it’s quite possible to perform combos on your opponent that can take off 50%, 75% and close to 100% of their HP. Long and devastating combo strings like these have always been the reason I could never get into the competitive scene of games like Dungeon Fighter Online and Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3. Sure, combos in those games still take some time and practice to learn, and at least in UMVSC3, long combos strings have several inputs that needed to be memorized in the heat of battle, so there’s at least a chance that players can end up dropping their combos. But here in Kritika, dialing a combo is as easy as hitting 1-2-3 and each fight mostly boils down to who can bait who onto a big combo platter. If you get baited and caught, you may as well step away from your keyboard and mouse and go fix yourself a sandwich in the kitchen, because chances are that your character will either be dead or still being juggled to death.
(Video source by lagerowonder)
For what it’s worth as a F2P game, playing a round or two in Kritika’s PvP CAN be fun at times if you’re okay with juggle baiting gameplay. Just don’t expect it to become the next spectator e-sport if you decide to go all in.
There’s a very bold claim towards the replicability of Kritika’s content, claiming that there’s “all action, no filler.” And well… there’s certainly a lot of action, but the claim that there’s no filler is completely false. A large amount of quests in the game will have you playing through the zone and the same missions at several times, and the quests are typically of the kill and fetch variety like in a typical MMORPG. While the combat does everything it can to make each run enjoyable, repetition and fatigue sets in quickly.
Visuals and Presentation
Kritika Online is a game that started its development back in 2011, but the overall visual presentation for this game makes it seem like it was made back in 2005 or so. From the character models to the environments, everything has this blocky, low-poly look to it as if it was made to be played on a mobile phone (which is ironic, considering that there is in fact a mobile phone version of the game which was actually released in English long before the PC version.) While the aesthetics and art design tries to focus on bright and colorful visuals that are reminiscent of mangas and comic books, it doesn’t quite hold up well in this day and age. This game would benefit greatly from some kind of graphical update that bumps up the polygon counts on character models and improves the texture quality a bit, but as it stands, chances are that this idea will probably never be on the table for All-M as long as they want to keep the system requirements low.
To be perfectly honest for all those that are reading this review: I had zero interest in the game’s storyline and main story quests, as it seemed like a very average tale about war and rebellion. The main antagonist seemed generic and the supporting characters seemed too boring and formulaic for my tastes. It also doesn’t help that the voice acting in this game is really subpar, with actors that sound like they should be nowhere near a recording microphone as they splat out lines like “Let me kill you!” in the most unmotivated, unenthusiastic way possible. At the very least, the music in this game holds up well with calming or atmospheric tunes whenever you’re chilling in town, and rocking heavy metal beats that sound like they’ve come straight out of a Guilty Gear title when venturing during missions.
Overall: Good (3/5)
If you need a new fix when it comes to MOARPGs, then Kritika can certainly be a blast, but how much and how long of a blast you’ll be having will all come down to how much you can deal with the repetitive nature of the missions in PvE, the dated visual presentation, the uninteresting storyline and the potentially frustrations of getting juggle combo’d in PvP.