Title: Greak: Memories of Azure
Developer: Navegante Entertainment
Release Date: August 17, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Genre: Adventure Platformer
I agree that the presentation of a game is what guides my general interest, but I know that sometimes systems and mechanics hurt the overall experience. I wouldn’t say a game like Greak: Memories of Azure leans too far in either direction. And while its beautifully animated designs can distract you for a few hours of engaging gameplay, the core features reduce it to a puzzling and mediocre adventure.
Greak: Memories of Azure quickly throws you into the gameplay as you control the character Greak, fighting against the invitation of an enemy known as Urlags. Before long, you meet up with a group of survivors who inform you that they are building an airship to escape to the lands of Azure. With your help, they’ll be able to complete this mission.
However, Greak isn’t alone in this task, as his main drive of motivation is to meet up with his siblings, Adara and Raydel. Each character plays an intricate role in the overall adventure, as they are playable after reuniting. Missions are accepted at one of the last remaining safe areas and range by various tasks. The game does its best to make each NPCs have a bit of personality, but it isn’t necessary unless you completely invest yourself in the dialogue.
I really liked the organization of the missions, as you have a few different areas across the region that are available to explore. Markers detail if you are traveling in the direction of the mission, so you don’t get completely lost, but it’s still possible. This is mostly due to the minimal map details in the game, including the very limited fast travel options, which costs gems to use. I could have used a few more fast travel points as regions just have one, but the game likes to push you forward by limiting your traversal of back traveling.
Once you enlist your siblings into the group, you’ll encounter the game’s main gimmick; you can control each character. However, this is where the frustration kicks in. I want to preface this by saying, I’m surprised the developers got this to work because most of the time you see this type of feature, you’ll simply play as one character and cycle through the others, but here you are constantly controlling all three.
This cause a bit of confusion since it’s possible to group the characters up and run with them, but you have to keep them all together because jumping will make them all jump at the same time even if one character is further behind or ahead, causing them to miss the timing. To counteract this, you can simply do the jump three times and switch to each character, but it’s taxing on the player.
Further, each character has their own health bar and items, which are limited to 3 at first and can be upgraded later on. There’s a large pool of items to collect, but you’ll never have enough room to hold everything. This can add a bit of strategy to the experience as you decide what to let go of, but there’s no easy way to exchange items with the other characters or see what they’re holding without switching to them.
If that’s not bad enough, a non-controlled character takes damage, and if killed, it’s game over. This is extremely annoying since you can’t easily see their health bar while controlling a different character. Bosses even lock you into having all characters participate in the battle, while the non-controlled characters can attack and avoid damage with you.
It’s overly confusing, and I would have rather liked the group to momentarily split up while you fight one-on-one. As it stands, you constantly alternating between holding down the button to keep all the characters together and then making sure they’re all in a group and not spread too far apart.
One cool thing that the character system allows is fun puzzles that have the party split up and navigate the puzzle together by interacting with different switches and buttons. Of course, it’s mainly a way to slow down progression or test your skills for an upgrade reward, but I enjoyed it as it proves the multiple character feature can work.
Throughout the game, attacks are upgraded for each character adding more depth to the combat. As a result, the combat on its own feels tight and responsive. The enemies are fun to fight, but their respawn rate can be a bit random. At one point, I was just trying to complete a puzzle, but every time I did, a ranged enemy would appear and launch an attack. What made this worst is that this enemy vanishes after a few hits and reappears elsewhere, making this entirely easy puzzle a headache.
Regardless of the execution of the multiple characters, I found the game very fun to play through. It’s challenging for sure but has a nice sense of discovery. Each environment is fun to navigate through and explore. Further, the design of enemies and characters is all beautifully animated to make this feel like you’re playing through a cinematic cartoon. The soundtrack is also lovely and fuels many areas of exploration.
Greak: Memories of Azure has a gorgeous presentation and world to discover, but the added features, although unique, require a specific type of adventure fan to enjoy. Things just become overly confusing, and my muscle memory never seemed to adapt to the constant demand for accessing the menu and switching between characters. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great game, but some elements are largely unnecessary.
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