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Slain! Review – A Sheep In Wolf’s Clothing

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.

The soundtrack is also above average, and decent for the game’s style. It’s a good range of heavy metal music, although the songs can be a bit repetitive in the long run. If one were inclined to bang their head and throw up devil horns while listening to it, I would hardly blame them.

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 04-08-16-1

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.

slain 04-08-16-2

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.

slain 04-08-16-3

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

The Good:

  • Impressive, hand-made environments
  • Decent heavy metal soundtrack

The Bad:

  • 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
,
Diogo Teixeira

About

A gamer since a young age, starting with oldies such as the IBM 386, Atari, and Commodore 64. A Portuguese guy with a tendency for snappy and witty remarks. Also harbors an obsession for adventure games.




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56 comments
  1. Heavily Augmented
    Heavily Augmented
    April 8, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    Well this is really… disappointing. The art looks fantastic and I was really hoping the rest of the game would have the same quality but sadly doesn’t look like it.

  2. Mr0303
    Mr0303
    April 8, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    Shame. This looked like one of the better pixilated games in terms of artstyle.

  3. Hawk Hopper
    Hawk Hopper
    April 8, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    Another game with the only good thing you can say about it is “it looks nice.”

  4. Kainevil Rc
    Kainevil Rc
    April 8, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    Yeah, i refunded. Waste of potential.

  5. Immahnoob
    Immahnoob
    April 8, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    Using “Btw” in a dialogue.

    What the fuck?

  6. Extrange
    Extrange
    April 8, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    “That’s alot of bones”

    TWICE

  7. Immahnoob
    Immahnoob
    April 8, 2016 at 7:36 pm

    Grammar Level: 0

  8. Bestial
    Bestial
    April 8, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    Jesus Christ what a mess.

  9. Extrange
    Extrange
    April 8, 2016 at 7:41 pm

    I should have commented how playing this game made me physically ill…

  10. Michael Richardson
    Michael Richardson
    April 8, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    Holy crap, that script is a total mess!

  11. PenguinPlayer
    PenguinPlayer
    April 8, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    That ending. Holy cow, that damn ending. If I bought it and saw that I would check it 10 times on the internet to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. Then the fact I bought such a thing would leave in despair for a month.

    How did the devs think this was acceptable in any way?

  12. scemar
    scemar
    April 8, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    It looks nice tho!

  13. RockstarRepublic
    RockstarRepublic
    April 8, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    This is what happens when an artist makes a game but have no experience or knowledge when it actually comes to game design.

  14. KissDisqus
    KissDisqus
    April 8, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    Hmm for some reason this isn’t popping up in my RSS reader

  15. Hawk Hopper
    Hawk Hopper
    April 8, 2016 at 8:27 pm

    It really does look nice!

  16. Tyrannikos
    Tyrannikos
    April 8, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    What in the actual fuck.

  17. wombat
    wombat
    April 8, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    I saw playthroughs of the first level, it looked a bit weird, but I figured MAYBE the players just sucked at the game.

    Sad to see it’s not good, since the graphics are really cool.

  18. Kainevil Rc
    Kainevil Rc
    April 8, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    YES

  19. Deathtone
    Deathtone
    April 8, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    With a budget of 20,000 what do you expect?

  20. Rumble Red
    Rumble Red
    April 8, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    Between this and Sonic Boom, “ex-Naughty Dog” is starting to seem like the kiss of death.

  21. KissDisqus
    KissDisqus
    April 8, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    Huh, took an hour for it to appear.

  22. sanic
    sanic
    April 8, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    Is it a sheep in wolfs clothing because it’s BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHD?!

    Did that make sense?

    Edit: That dick move ending is actually pretty hilarious.

  23. Brandon Orselli
    Brandon Orselli
    April 8, 2016 at 9:47 pm

    I added a snippet of code that includes custom posts like this in our RSS now. It didn’t before :3

  24. Random Dude
    Random Dude
    April 8, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    Wow, the credits glitched out.

    I’ve seen my fare share of insane bugs and glitches but this….

  25. Max
    Max
    April 8, 2016 at 10:28 pm

    Lmao that fucking ending. That’s hilarious.

  26. tenshi_a
    tenshi_a
    April 8, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    I hope the artist works on something better next time. He’s the real talent in this team.

  27. Tyrone Jackson
    Tyrone Jackson
    April 8, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    I was looking forward to this so much. The game came out, the critics came out, and these reviews came out. My dreams were shattered. RIP the dream.

  28. Extrange
    Extrange
    April 8, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    I know better upcoming ones. I’ll have news soon.

  29. Tyrone Jackson
    Tyrone Jackson
    April 8, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    I’m still trying to figure out why “ex-this and that” is a good thing in the games industry.

    To me it’s starting to sound like “I was the ex-janitor at Konami while MGS 2 was being made – hear me roar!”

  30. Annie T. Mood
    Annie T. Mood
    April 8, 2016 at 11:05 pm

    A shame.
    It looked and sounded too good to actually suck.

  31. Dammage
    Dammage
    April 9, 2016 at 12:18 am

    A good game, quite a few make better on similar budgets

  32. Dammage
    Dammage
    April 9, 2016 at 12:20 am

    I wonder if they actually made a GDD or if they just made cool art and then copy-pasted from the unity documentation

  33. Bedarb
    Bedarb
    April 9, 2016 at 5:16 am

    I’m about halfway through this and I’m enjoying it although it’s got some rough edges. I think people were expecting Symphony of the Night or Super Castlevania IV but got classic Castlevania instead. The controls are stiff. Spacing and patience are important. You die over and over until you get it right. There are cheap deaths. This actually plays a lot more like an NES game than something like Shovel Knight.

  34. Galbador
    Galbador
    April 9, 2016 at 6:57 am

    See, people? Nice graphics does nothing for a game, when the actual game is bugs as hell and cursed with a horrendous story.

    And BTW? Really devs? You wrtie btw in a speech bubble instead of by the way? What, was the speech bubble to small? Seriously… what a lazy, horrible work.

  35. Thanatos2k
    Thanatos2k
    April 9, 2016 at 7:10 am

    Oh my god, that ending.

  36. Thanatos2k
    Thanatos2k
    April 9, 2016 at 7:11 am

    They’re ex employees probably because THEY GOT FIRED

  37. fnd
    fnd
    April 9, 2016 at 8:49 am

    “Nice graphics does nothing for a game”
    I woudn’t click in this review if this game was ugly, so you are wrong.

  38. Galbador
    Galbador
    April 9, 2016 at 8:58 am

    Brilliant, you just ripped my sentence out of context so that you can tell me I’m wrong. You go, fnd.

  39. fnd
    fnd
    April 9, 2016 at 10:29 am

    The statement “Nice graphics does nothing for a game” is wrong even when considering the context you talk about.

  40. Neojames82
    Neojames82
    April 9, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    Didn’t the developer act like a huge fucking cunt about the controls in this game? Saying people were acting “entitled” and all of that?

  41. Galbador
    Galbador
    April 9, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    No, it doesn’t. I would never buy a game for its graphics. Maybe you see it different since you are from a different generation, but for me, Story and Gameplay goes first. I have nothing from a game, that looks like the Mona Lisa and has a story, that could be used as a sleeping pill, while the gameplay is almost like a caterpiller on ice.

  42. fnd
    fnd
    April 9, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    And yet the first thing you mentioned in this game before trashing it where the nice graphics. I’d say the graphics/art style on this game served it’s purpose(bring atention to potential buyers).

  43. Galbador
    Galbador
    April 9, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    Can you read?

    “See, people? Nice graphics does nothing for a game, when the actual game is bugs as hell and cursed with a horrendous story.”

    “Nice GRAPHICS DOES NOTHING for a game”

    That means, that no matte if a game looks like the most perfect art composition, it still is crap when story and gameplay is horrendous like with this. I speak to those people, who claim that graphics make the game, which is bullshit as you can see here.

    Do you get it now?

  44. Extrange
    Extrange
    April 9, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    to be honest, I only noticed the game fans doing it. Do you have a screenshot or archive of the devs saying it?

  45. fnd
    fnd
    April 9, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    Graphics does make the game is false , just like “Nice GRAPHICS DOES NOTHING for a game”. I would probably play this game if the alternative was an ancient nintendo game or worse in terms of graphics.

  46. Neojames82
    Neojames82
    April 9, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    Hmmm, seems the developers aren’t the blame here, you are right. But their blind fans seem to be the ones. Saying things like “It’s their game, they can make it however they want.” which, yes, that is true, but you want that game to be, oh I don’t know, FUNCTIONAL?

  47. Extrange
    Extrange
    April 9, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    “No one plays these games on the pc with a keyboard anyway.”

  48. Galbador
    Galbador
    April 9, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    You don’t get my point… whatever.

  49. Neojames82
    Neojames82
    April 9, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    That’s probably also another common excuse. Or the one that pisses me off the most “You’re just being entitled”…

  50. AnarKreig
    AnarKreig
    April 9, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    I was goin’ to get it, but it seems like you took a bullet for me. Kudos.

  51. Crunch Buttsteak
    Crunch Buttsteak
    April 9, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    I’m not trying to defend this game, but in this specific instance, I would have assumed they left Naughty Dog because ND started making movies instead of games, not because they were incompetent. After seeing what this game has to offer, I think it’s probably just the latter.

  52. Random Dude
    Random Dude
    April 9, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    It’s dark souls pc port all over again, except Dark Souls is decent.

    …and has working credits.

  53. Edmund Black
    Edmund Black
    April 11, 2016 at 9:42 am

    This game has the worst case of butt-rock I’ve ever seen.

  54. Edmund Black
    Edmund Black
    April 11, 2016 at 9:43 am

    How do you fuck up scrolling or fade in/out text in a release?

    It’s not even exclusive to this video. Every ending video I found has the same glitch.