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May 2021


Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Not Yet
Release Date: April 28, 2020


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PC Review - 'WarriOrb'

by Cody Medellin on Oct. 1, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Play as a mighty demon trapped in an unlikely body – a talking ball with agile limbs – in this Soulsborne-inspired jaunt where death is the least of your worries...

Higher difficulty levels in a game require balance. On the one hand, there's a growing number of people who want their games to be tough. They want games to test their wit and reflexes, and they want something challenging enough to separate those who give up easily and those who persevere to reach an ending that few will see. At the same time, the increased level of difficulty needs to feel fair, so it allows someone to gradually improve. On the surface, WarriOrb tries to be another challenging platformer, but the execution isn't there.

WarriOrb is set in an unknown time, when the world is in great peril due to an evil force — Ruin — taking over the land. That evil force caused the death of a wizard's daughter, and his grief led him to research a way to resurrect her. Unfortunately, he cast the wrong spell and called forth a spirit that took on a ball form. You play the role of that nameless spirit, which is tasked with trying to find the necessary ingredients for a spell that will hopefully resurrect the wizard's daughter and set yourself free.

Though the story is familiar, it does nothing to keep you interested. Part of this can be attributed to the characters, who rarely have anything going on. The wizard who conjured you is so rude that you don't care if he gets what he needs. The bickering shopkeepers and the crazy bookworm gnome don't get further fleshed out as characters. They exist, but there's no reason to care about their plight or why they keep popping up. It doesn't help that the humor often falls flat. The punchlines for some jokes are too obvious to be humorous, and other attempts at humor also don't hit the mark. The attempts are so frequent that you wonder if it would've been better if the game had just played it straight. Then there's the translation, which runs into a lot of grammatical errors, poor diction, and awkward sentence construction. It isn't the worst translation job, but there have definitely been better examples in other titles from non-English-speaking teams.

WarriOrb can be best described as a precision platformer with some RPG elements. Even though you're a ball, you have limbs, so expect to do lots of running and jumping. You can tuck in your limbs to transform into a proper ball, so you can get a movement boost, get through small spaces, and extend your jump distance — but only if you transform in midair. Combat is more traditional; you use swords to deliver quick and strong slashes to foes, but later on, you acquire spells, a grappling hook, and missiles.

The basics seem easy to grasp, and you can do quite a bit with what's available, but it never feels like the game gets a good handle on things. In most cases of combat, the fights feel involved; this is especially true of boss fights, which requires the player to recognize and deal with some tricky patterns. However, your sword swings lack the expected speed, and attacks lack any sort of impact, so you never feel like you're landing any hits. A few enemies break down in a way that you can't tell if they're dead until you swing and see no numbers appearing above their heads.

It's also a shame that the game doesn't employ any ball-based attacks in your repertoire. You can roll into a ball to go between the legs of some foes, but that's about it. Aside from boss fights, combat isn't a big part of this game, and that is punctuated when you discover that eliminating all of the enemies in an area will give you a summary of what you've killed and some more lore about them or their history.

Platforming takes up a majority of the game, and this is where the problems crop up. For those expecting the ball aspect to come into play, you're not going to see that early on, as WarriOrb relies on traditional platforming. The platforming requires precision jumping and landing with some far-off gaps and small platforms to land on, all of which would be fine if the controls and physics compensated for this. Your basic walking speed feels sluggish, and rolling doesn't feel much better. Jumping feels floaty so you can jump far enough, but the game doesn't take walking speed into account when you make these leaps, so unless you master the art of transforming into a ball while in mid-leap, a running start from your ball form isn't going to help like it would in other titles. You can easily touch the very edge of a platform and somehow slip off, but there are places that give you some leeway, so you can float in the air before you fall. It can be inconsistent to the point where you do need some trial and error to get used to it, but the penalty for taking hits and hitting traps makes this strategy less than viable.

If you can somehow get through the controls and physics, there is one thing that stands out as an overly punishing design choice: the damage system. For starters, you take a ton of damage from any enemy hits. There's no moment of invincibility, so get in between two enemies, and there's a good chance you'll pinball between them for a short while before dying. The most annoying part of the system is that every trap practically results in an instant kill. In reality, you get a health penalty from hitting a trap, and you respawn relatively close to your death point. It can quickly become annoying quickly, especially when you take the floaty physics into account.

WarriOrb tries to give you some platforming help by letting you summon a Soulkeeper statue, which lets you respawn there instead of the very beginning of an area. However, the implementation seems to be more harmful than helpful. The first thing you'll notice is that laying down a Soulkeeper statue will give you a significant health penalty. While some may be able to deal with that, others will hate the fact that you can't magically call upon the Soulkeeper statue again if it's already out. Instead, you have to return to the statue and pick it up before deploying it again. When you consider how tough some of the platforming sections are, it feels like the tool is only useful if you want to make the game tougher on yourself.

The only way to circumvent some of these design issues is to choose the easy difficulty level. Aside from the lowered amount of damage you take, the major changes come with the Soulkeeper statue; there is no health penalty for deploying it, and you can deploy it as many times as you want without having to retrieve it. It doesn't negate most of the title's issues, and that is a shame since WarriOrb sports some cool platforming sections in the back half. There are some sections with good design and actual use of ball physics, but unless you are patient enough to power through the platforming issues, you'll give up way before you see those shots of brilliance.

The presentation is fine. There are impressive aspects of the graphics, such as distorted reflections on bodies of water, and the game produces some remarkable particle effects, but the dark environments throughout yield a drab-looking world. It doesn't help that the character designs are also lackluster. There's not much you can do about your character design, but the enemies look drab, friendly NPCs have subpar illustrations attached, and the wizard who conjured you looks eternally bored.

As for the audio, the music is fine but, like the graphics, it evokes nothing but sadness. Even during some of the happier moments, the soundtrack remains melancholy. The vocal performances are actually pleasant, but you won't quite understand it all due to accents. It works well to give the game a distinct setting and is an overall highlight.

WarriOrb fails to do many things right. The combat is lackluster due to boring enemies and an uninteresting set of moves. The floaty controls clash with the constant need for perfect platforming. The frailty of your character is inconsistent with the dangers you face, and the checkpoint system feels broken. Even the ball physics and spell system fail to impress, despite how often they're used in the latter half of the game. Combined with a passable presentation and an uninteresting story, there are better games you can spend your time on instead.

Score: 4.5/10

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