God of Rock Review – A Chaotic Battle Anthem That Misses a Few Beats

    Title: God of Rock
    Developer: Modus Studios
    Release Date: April 18, 2023
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Modus Games
    Genre: Rhythm, Fighting

Since Modus Games announced God of Rock, I’ve been looking forward to this release. From the very beginning, the idea of combining the fighting and rhythm genres seemed exciting. It’s rare to find a game that takes such disparate genres and attempts to mix them up. The result is unique but hard to parse due to the chaotic ensemble of combos and music notes.

God of Rock puts twelve fighters in a tournament for music supremacy. The game’s creators modeled each of them after idols that left a lasting impact on the industry, such as Elvis Presley. Everyone is quirky and unique, and their skills reflect this personality.

For instance, Champ does not accept anything below perfection. It’s simply beneath him to make mistakes. Even getting a “Great” will reduce his Ultra Meter, making him one of the most complicated choices for newcomers. However, if you can output all these combos with such precision, he can become a monster with hits enhanced by the amount of energy in his gauge.

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It’s also a lot of fun to see how characters interact with each other, as every combination has unique dialogue, usually quips on their eccentricity. Modus Studio put its heart into making those characters, and it shows. Though the core battle mechanics persist from one individual to another, their fighting style translates to significant differences in what the player can do.

Beyond the technical specifics of each character, God of Rock is all about players competing in rhythm battles. The bottom area of the screen corresponds to the music sheet, having players press buttons according to the notes that show up. Both sides have the same score to play, and accuracy determines the damage players will deal to each other.

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If it went only as far as that, the game would be a rhythm game with a fighting motif. So it introduces the ability to pull off special attacks that can cause damage to enemies, add some nasty tricks to your opponent’s score, and cause many other effects. The character you choose impacts significantly what you can do, and there’s even a “reversal” mechanic which allows you to deny their abilities by activating your skills with the right timing.

The problem is God of Rock is so profoundly technical the mayhem of things happening on screen is hard to parse. Players need to concentrate on the score as hard as possible so their hits will be enough to cause damage. However, it’s very tricky having to do that while paying attention to the enemies’ life bar, pulling off special skills, and trying to find the right timing to counter your enemy with a reversal.

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During my time with the game, battles became a matter of mostly mastering the rhythm. I had to dedicate my entire focus to the bottom screen lest I would start missing too much. Pulling off Ultras and special skills was something I could only do when the sequence of the notes became somewhat uninvolved, and this still broke my combos more often than not.

But focusing only on that makes it hard to grasp the characters’ peculiarities. While the game offers a few tutorials, they only help players understand the surface of the mechanics. Nothing helps with understanding all the details, like unique tokens on the screen when using specials from specific characters. And with how complicated the usual fights already are (even on easy difficulty), mastering these unique traits is a lost art to any but the most dedicated competitors.

Maybe we should have expected that a rhythm fighter would demand supernatural skills, as the nature of both fighting games and rhythm titles are technical experiences. Excellent games in both genres often reinforce the value of accuracy and a mastery of the controls that make them often confusing and seemingly impenetrable to newcomers. Years of practice polishing the nitty-gritty is a part of the experience.

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As such, despite how uninviting God of Rock may seem at first, I’d say it offers a unique experience worth a try for fans of the fighting and rhythm genres. The game fails at conveying these details to a reasonable entry point, making it a convoluted mess for newcomers. However, the obscure gameplay experience hides a true gem you can enjoy when you dive deep into the details beyond the surface, finding a character you’re comfortable with.

Beyond learning to play it in depth during Arcade, local, and online matches, the game allows the player to make a custom beatmap. However, you can only pick one of the songs the game already offers, and you can’t share it with other players. The menu for customizing the notes’ positioning is also separate from the testing, making it annoying to use it. It could have been a sharp addition that rewards players’ creativity, but it ends up severely limited.

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As expected of a rhythm game, the soundtrack is excellent. There are more than 40 tracks within the rock and pop-rock spectrum. They are great picks, inducing the hype of the fights with their energetic tunes. Though I liked the whole soundtrack without exception, I’d like to highlight Call to Battle by Tyson Wernli, which sounds like the kind of badass rock you encounter as a JRPG boss theme.

Visually, each character has a distinctive flair, matching their inspirations and personalities. The game manages to abuse colors, and the backgrounds offer a nice variety. Each area feels unique and charming, ranging from futuristic urbanscapes to ruins in the middle of nowhere, volcanos, and an aquatic stage.

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God of Rock is a unique experiment in taking two highly technical genres and mixing them up. Though it’s sometimes an enchanting title, the frustrations can be tremendous as it hardly offers any leeway for newcomers to get into the meat of the game. The game may annoy even those familiar with the genres due to how convoluted this unlikely hotpot ends up, but this is still a unique experience you won’t be able to find anywhere else, and it’s worth a try.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Ivanir Ignacchitti

Random Japanese games are my jam. Handhelds, RPGs, VNs and PC banzai.