Slain! is described as a “Gothic/Heavy Metal action-platformer with puzzle combat.” It was developed by Wolf Brew Games, a brand new dev studio comprised of names like Andrew Gilmour (Naughty Dog) and Asa Dang (Rockstar Games). Slain! was funded via Kickstarter, with an ending budget of $20.000 and a thousand backers.
You play as Bathoryn, a metal-as-fuck warrior, raised from the grave by angry spirits who have bestowed a mighty sword upon you. Your task is to defeat the demon hordes of Prince Vroll, who have invaded your lands and occupied 7 mystic towers.
With a setup like this, you might deduce that Slain! had the potential to be a masterpiece. The developers promised a gaming experience reminiscent of classics like Altered Beast or Rastan, coupled with a retro rock-metal atmosphere. Sadly, as it turns out, Slain! failed to meet my expectations.
Let’s start with the good: Slain! is fairly impressive from a visual standpoint. Wolf Brew Games have managed to create vibrant, retro-inspired environments that really catch the eye. The game’s Gothic aesthetic is well-presented, and compliments the heavy metal soundtrack beautifully.
Unfortunately, that’s about it. Slain! has managed to fail in so many unique ways, I’m having trouble finding anything positive in this veritable mess of a game.
First on the chopping block are Slain!’s controls. This game hates your keyboard. There’s a full second of lag behind inputs, which is absolutely unacceptable for an action game like this. While gamepad works perfectly, there’s no excuse for your main input method to not be working properly on release.
Another glaring and unexplained bungle is the lack of a tutorial, or any sort of explanation of the controls. You can’t even pause and check the options menu for key bindings, since the only thing you can tweak via options is sound. Just like overtutorializing is a problem, doing the opposite is equally frustrating.
Slain!’s gameplay mechanics are terrible and bland. You have 3 sword modes: standard, fire, and ice. They’re supposed to be used against specific mobs with elemental weaknesses, but the lack of visual and audio cues makes it hard to even understand if you’re doing damage or not.
You only have a basic 3-hit combo with any of the elemental modes, with no special melee attacks, which means that you’ll mostly be tapping the same button the whole game.
Slain! does have a mana system, used for a magic projectile attack, as well as a bomb that damages everything on-screen. Mana can be restored with pickups, or by decapitating monsters with a slow attack.
This attack isn’t any stronger than regular blows, and only decapitates when the enemy is almost dead (indicated by a barely visible red slash.) Annoyingly, the mobs’ swings are usually faster than the decapitation attack, so it’s always very risky, and not a rewarding trade-off in the slightest.
Of course, this complaint is only relevant if you can actually hit the monsters. Slain! suffers from serious hitbox issues, which consist of registering sword swings improperly, or even causing you to swing right through enemies on occasion. Sometimes, monsters will even be able to hit you during their death animations, which results in unfair damage to the player.
The level design, sadly, is also horrid. Slain! claims to be non-linear, which is only partially true. What they actually mean is the game lets you choose which level you want to play first, with a mandatory first stage.
You access said levels from a poorly-implemented hub area. The stages themselves are crudely designed, with areas made not to challenge the player, but rather to result in cheap deaths.
More often than not, the platforming is designed in a way that requires the player to make pixel-perfect jumps. Other times, there are large open areas, which are mostly empty and artificially stretch the time you spend playing.
Most time with Slain! is spent being bored, or feeling cheated. Enemy placement is shoddy at best, with monsters literally spawning on top of you.
The story and writing is abhorrent. If the issue was just being cliché and underdeveloped, it could have gotten a pass from me. Action platformers aren’t required to tell a great story, and I certainly don’t think it should be expected.
Honestly though, the writing feels like it was scrawled by a twelve-year-old who was given twenty minutes to write up a script.
Words and typos like “BTW,” “Definatly,” and, “Alot,” are used in cringe-inducing ways. The main character, Bathoryn, is written like the Spirits annoy him, and he’s just doing their bidding to shut them up. The worst offender of all is the ending.
Spoiler warning, but it’s one of the most embarrassing endings to a game I think I’ve ever seen.
I just can’t stop wondering how the developers thought releasing this unfinished product was a good idea. This is not an Early Access game, this is a finished title that was released on Steam with that claim.
Wolf Brew Games have acknowledged the glaring flaws and bugs reported in the forums, and they’ve promised to release an update fixing them. However, my review and judgment cannot be based on promises, and until a fix is released, my score will stand.
Slain! was reviewed on PC using a digital copy provided by Wolf Brew Games. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 3
- Impressive, hand-made environments
- Decent heavy metal soundtrack
- Unplayable with keyboard
- No manual or tutorial, no info about key bindings available in-game
- Riddled with bugs
- Bad level design
- Boring combat and horrid hit detection
- Terrible ending