GAME: Amid Evil
PUBLISHER: New Blood Interactive
AVAILABLE ON: PC (Steam & GOG)
New Blood Interactive shouldn’t be a stranger to PC gamers by now. Their game Dusk has already garnered attention for its 90’s Quake throwback visual style and similarity to old school first person shooters such as Quake, Blood and Redneck Rampage. It didn’t take long for a similar project to follow. Amid Evil is the brainchild of developer Indefatigable who are based in New Zealand. And where Dusk is a love letter to aforementioned titles, Amid Evil’s inspiration comes from similar but still different sources. Amid Evil is a love letter to games such as Heretic and Hexen, and also Quake to a large extent. So while I’m on such a boomercore kick with my previous review of Hedon, today I’m going to be taking a look at Amid Evil and let’s find out if the game is a worthy tribute to the old legends.
Amid Evil, much like most 90’s shooters, is rather light on story content. Essentially some kind of evil has invaded several realms and it is up to a chosen warrior to cleanse these realms of evil, seek out its source and destroy it. It really is the most straightforward story you can think of, but the game doesn’t really need much more. There are no lengthy cutscenes in sight, no text crawls, and very little in terms of dialogue. It’s just you, your weapons, your enemies and the gameplay. So let’s discuss it, shall we?
Amid Evil, despite its fantasy inspirations plays very much like a fantasy version of Quake. No RPG mechanics in sight, just pure action with the occasional puzzle. Puzzles are typically solved by shoving your body into buttons until a sequence is complete, so don’t expect your brain to get any massive exercise. What Amid Evil mostly focuses on is pure combat. The main gameplay consists of traversing levels, going from room to room and cleaning out the badguys.
However what makes Amid Evil stand out is the weapon selection. Since you’re not using guns, the arsenal is rather unique to say the least. You start out with a badass axe but quickly acquire more exotic weapons. Such as a staff that shoots magic bubbles, a sword that shoots green energy, a trident that fires electricity, a claw that fires minituarized planets (yeah really), a wand that shoots spikes and a weird purple crystal thing called the Aeternum that is essentially the game’s BFG-9000 and fires orbs that kill everything in vicinity.
And that’s not all. Enemies upon being killed will drop souls. The size of the soul depends on the power of the enemies you kill, ranging from small souls to large souls and even legendary souls (although the legendary ones never drop from enemies and instead show up as normal pickups, of which I am grateful). These souls fill up your soul meter and when it fills up, you can unleash what’s called a Soul Mode.
In this mode your weapons function very differently and often more powerfully than they would normally. Essentially it functions as a limited time alt fire. Your axe turns into a boat propeller, the bubble wand shoots out even more lethal bubbles, the sword shoots out even more powerful projectiles, the trident fires a continous stream of electricity, the planet claw’s planets create huge nova-like explosions, the spike wand shoots spikes much faster and the Aeternum now creates small black holes that sucks in everything nearby (even you if you’re not careful).
All of these weapons also use different types of mana. Blue mana is used for the bubble wand and trident, green mana for the sword and spike wand, orange mana is used exclusively for the planet claw, and purple mana is used exclusively for the Aeternum. It would also seem these different types of mana represent different elements though I’m not sure about it. Basically they just function as different ammo sources and making sure you usually have a fallback weapon if you run out of mana for any of them. Another cool mechanic is that you can overkill enemies. And overkilling enemies with some weapons can cause chain reactions that take out nearby enemies, such as with the electric trident.
The game’s true strength lies in its level design. Each realm you visit has its own distinct theme and style that runs through everything in it. Both in terms of its level design, visual style and enemy selection. The fact each episode feels so unique makes the game insanely fun to play through, given you’re never sure what to expect around the corner.
And some of the later episodes really threw me for a loop with some seriously awesome level designs that evoked dream-like imagery such as floating islands in a void, ethereal places and just realms where things are completely abstract. It evoked a similar feeling I got when playing Quake where things didn’t make sense in any realistic way, but felt realistic for the realm you were in. In an era where games strive for realism, it is refreshing to play a game that more tries to make something you either haven’t seen before or don’t see too often.
The game’s difficulty overall feels really fair and not only rewards skill but also at times demands it. Especially in the final episode where health pickups are extremely rare or hidden and you have to rely on your skills to survive. But it is forgiveable to increase the difficulty near the end of the game where the player should and most likely will be very familiar with the game mechanics. I like that none of the enemies use hitscan weapons, so pretty much every projectile coming towards you can be dodged which feels more rewarding for skilled players.
The enemies seem a little on the simple side. Some of them force the player to think differently but for the most part it’s just a matter of shooting them until they die. But the designs are pretty cool at least, with each episode having their own enemies to fight with unique designs and themes.
GRAPHICS & SOUND
The game’s graphics is definitely the strongest point of Amid Evil. With such diverse episodes there is a huge array of influences at display. The game is downright beautiful at times with dark and colourful lighting. It manages to look both retro in its use of baked shadows and simple colored lighting but also somehow more beautiful than a lot of photorealistic games released today. Its retro style evokes very dream-like and abstract imagery at times that most modern games don’t bother with. It’s a very strange kind of nostalgia where it reminds you of something you’ve never seen before.
The soundtrack and sound design is done by Andrew Hulshult who I feel once again has outdone himself. Rather than sticking to his (somewhat boring) rock and metal style he’s gone for a more synth heavy ambient soundtrack that is stunningly beautiful at times. It definitely fits the otherworldly and magical levels of the game in the same way Nine Inch Nails’ soundtrack for Quake fit that game perfectly. I was really impressed by the work done on the sound here and would easily recommend picking up the game soundtrack alone.
In a market of shooters that focus so heavily on story and realism, it is extremely refreshing to play a shooter that harkens back to when games were games and movies were movies. If I were to say anything negative about Amid Evil I don’t know what it would be other than I wish it had a multiplayer mode and that there was more of it. Which in my opinion aren’t really bad things and don’t really detract from the fun of it.
What Amid Evil lacks in story and depth, it more than makes up for with its stunningly diverse level designs, extremely fun combat and immersive atmosphere. This is the kind of game you can get lost in for hours upon hours before you realize how much time you’ve spent playing it. If you’re a fan of old school shooters, heck shooters in general you should definitely pick this up. You can get it on Steam and GOG.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10