by Christopher Coke
reviewed on PC
Survival of the Richest?
Survival can be a problem, especially early on. The lack of health potions means that regaining health in-combat is often a matter of killing enemies or smashing crates. Which begs the question: what do you do during boss fights when there are no more enemies or crates to smash. Unfortunately, there aren't many options. Approaching certain fights at mid-health makes them impossible without relying heavily on ranged attacks. If you should die, it is possible to return to full health for a small karma cost. This is preferable, as death otherwise means losing all of the items and karma thus far.
Still, completing missions was a lot of fun. The game doesn't shy away from testing your limits. I like that. Akaneiro assumes that you're competent and chooses not to coddle you, but also isn't unfair (certain bosses aside). When you enter into a mission you can expect satisfaction on par with any of its action-RPG peers.
Cooperative play is also in the game, but probably not as you would expect. Rather than jump-in, jump-out fun, players can select their friends from a list of available party members and adventure with an AI controlled counterpart. While this is better than playing with stock companions, it still falls short of what players would expect from this type of game. Spicy Horse has noted that full cooperative play is in development and is a high priority release.
One interesting aspect to the game is the Karmic Balance system. Every mission has a threat level associated with it. This level can be raised over time, increasing the difficulty and chances at better loot and karma gains. As players take on more challenging missions, the overall Karmic Balance of the world is lowered (think of it as restoring equilibrium) which raises the game-wide chances of better loot and karma. Every player in every region has an impact on every other player. It's a neat system that I wish other games would adopt.
Well Worth a Try
Akaneiro: Demon Hunters is an audio-visually mixed bag. Hand drawn art is prominent in menus and emphasizes the heavy outlines and pencil-sketched details westerners tend to associate with Japanese art. The outlining carries through to the actual game giving everything a cel-shaded aesthetic. Regretfully, much of Akaneiro feels muddy and washed out. The first town, as an example, bears a dreariness that suggests it's always just about to rain.
Sound, on the other hand, is well done. The music fits the Japanese theme and effects all seem to fit. No issues there.
So we return to our original question, is simply being free enough to keep Akaneiro from getting lost in the crowd? It doesn't need to. Akaneiro could stand on its own as a $20 game and, in fact, does if you would prefer to skip region unlocking entirely. Being free, however, makes it a much more compelling option. Without a need to spend cash, the whole game is still open to you, without penalty, and it's worth trying out. American McGee and Spicy Horse Games will have to deliver on their promises of monthly updates if they want to be competitive, however. Comparisons to fellow free Diablo-esque Path of Exile are sure to come. With proper support, there is no reason both games couldn't thrive. For now, the velvet rope has been opened, so why not look inside?
Good free-to-play model, not pay to win, open classes, fun combat
Lacks some polish, needs better co-op, muddy visuals