Reviewed On: PC
Developer: Selenion Games
Publisher: Selenion Games
Review code provided free of charge.
The top-down shooter is a venerable genre, one that’s stuck with me throughout my years of gaming, primarily as a great way to spend 30-minutes of free time, just blasting away at countless foes. A good top-down shooter is a wonderful thing, a cacophony of mayhem that delights the senses. Cue Ares Omega, a game from an indie studio looking to make their mark on the genre. This, though, is no wonderful thing, no cacophony of mayhem that delights.
You’re sent to a station on Mars to deal with a bunch of robotic foes who have decided, for unexplained reasons, to slaughter their fleshy human masters and take over the entire facility, where they now just stand around in corridors doing absolutely nothing, waiting for some silly soldier to come along and try to fight them. At the head of this rebellion are four bosses that you must work toward defeating, with the big bad being the titular Ares Omega. That’s the entire game’s story, with no more narrative to be found unless you count the occasional dead human littering the floor as environmental storytelling. And that’s perfectly fine because while it may be a thinner excuse than the world’s worst toilet paper to shoot robots in the face, it’s enough. Or at least it would be if Ares Omega was actually any good whatsoever. Which it isn’t. Not even close.
Once you get into the action it becomes clear that Ares Omega is the most bog standard top-down shooter imaginable, lacking any imagination or flair. That would be fine if the execution was up to par, but it simply isn’t. It begins with the level design, or more specifically the complete lack of it. The game uses a procedural generation system, a fine idea on paper for but that in reality is merely piecing the most boring, lifeless monochromatic boxes imaginable for you to fight through, each perhaps sporting a crate or two, a few explosives or even a corpse. These boxes are clipped together in straight lines with only the occasional intersection designed to force the player to explore the level to find the exit, again a very fine concept if it wasn’t for that the fact that the levels are so bloody dull. It’s like trudging through the local council offices that somebody decided to paint grey, white and black. If it wasn’t for the introductory text you would never know you were on Mars, such is the blandness of the environments you battle through. Some attempt is made to liven things up with a secret room here or there, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that levels are incredibly repetitive.
This design directly affects the run and gun combat as the small rooms rarely offer enough space to move around, especially when fighting multiple enemies who are bathing the screen in various forms of horrible pain. This is coupled with a lack of cover in most areas, meaning your only recourse when doing battle with flamethrower-wielding robots and drones and other nonsense is to basically just walk backwards while firing madly, using the doors to catch a brief moment of space in which to reload or swap weapons. The brain-dead AI will assist in this task as regardless of the enemy type their single strategy is to plod towards you with same level of looming threat that a fat man trundling towards Burger King conveys. There’s a dodge so that you can leap out of the way of incoming laser beams, but it has a recharge window of several after its use which makes absolutely no sense in a game like this. The default movement speeds makes running through the levels a chore and also isn’t fast enough to effectively dodge or strafe without upgrades.
Ah yes, upgrades. Ares Omega attempts to tap into the ever-popular rogue-like trend by encouraging you to keep plugging away. Kill enough robots and you’ll level up, granting you access to new guns that can be purchased upon respawning using in-game credits to supplement your starting pistol and submachine gun, thus letting you plough through the bad guys with more ease. The selection of weapons on offer shows about as much creativity and flair as the enemy designs, but at least there is a reasonable amount of them to unlock throughout the course of the game. You’ll also be granted skill points for levelling up that can be fed into one of the three trees (assassin, mercenary, specialist), each of which boasts eighteen skills. Don’t get too excited, mind, because these upgrades are merely stat bonuses that will help you make it a better further on your next run. There’s only save points at certain levels, so if you don’t make it to the next one you’ll have to replay previous areas, although they will be randomly generated yet again.
It’s not all bad news and sadness, mind you, the game does have some redeeming qualities. The weapons, for example, feel decently beefy to use and offer nice differences; the submachine gun sprays bullets like Ozzy Osbourne spits expletives, with a hefty hit but little accuracy, and pistols deliver great accuracy but small magazines and not the greatest rate of fire. The boss battles are fairly entertaining, too. There are moments when the game comes together and the action is flowing that are genuinely fun, even if just for a short amount of time. But it becomes repetitive and boring extremely quickly, wearing out its welcome with its very basic design.
There are some other problems, too, that hamper the game. Swap weapons and for some reason your little avatar will reload it, costing you a second or two of valuable time, while health packs force you to stand still for a few seconds, a strange choice in a fast-paced action game. The music is drab and forgettable, the sound effects hardly faring much better, and the animations are stiff and awkward.
I feel like such a dick for criticising the game this much, but ultimately it was sent to me for review and I have to be honest, especially since it has a £6.99 asking price, a relatively small chunk of cash that can still net you a lot of worthwhile games. This feels like a game made by a budding developer simply practicing his or her craft, a stepping stone on the way to greatness, but not something that was really ready to be put on sale on Steam. It’s rough, ugly, doesn’t play very well and doesn’t have any form of creativity within itself, and thus I can’t recommend this one at all. Best of luck to Selenion Games in the future, though. I hope you continue to work on games and that one day I’ll get to review your masterpiece.