Love them or hate them, we as gamers have to accept that micro-transactions are now a staple part of video gaming. Depending on how they are implemented, they can be a good thing, but as we all witnessed with EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront 2, they can also detrimental to our experiences. It’s a subject matter that is touched on with Ratalaika Games’ Shadow of Loot Box as it purchases a release upon the Nintendo Switch; although don’t worry, as there’s no actual micro-transactions here.
The game plays as a first-person shooter, or FPS, that touches on many aspects of video gaming, as well as contains a few nods towards a few well-known titles and the state of the gaming industry as a whole. The game begins in a dungeon-crawling style, forcing you explore a series of labyrinths in order to pick up glowing orbs that reward you with experience. As you gain XP, you then unlock a number of abilities which you need in order to escape from the game’s first level. Abilities such as jumping, interacting with objects and opening doors are some of the basic moves that you’ll need to learn, before finding yourself a gun and making it out into the big, wide world.
From here, you traverse through a total of sixteen levels, each containing various environments, as well as revisiting some old haunts. A number of NPC’s require your assistance in a series of side-mission style quests, often involving collecting certain items or shooting a number of specific enemy types to progress, Through successful completion of these tasks, you are awarded keys that unlock the door to the next level, as well as more experience points and useful items that unlock further abilities and help you in your cause. Dotted around each of the levels, lie a number of loot boxes, each of them awarding further experience, as well as weapons, ammo and other objects.
The game places a big emphasis on satirical comedy that highlights the addictive qualities of some gaming elements, as well as some of the things that can also go wrong. These can range from loot box collecting to purposeful glitches that make the game appear broken. Although it is trying to be funny in its execution, unfortunately the game falls rather flat in what it is trying to achieve. However, with all of the elements that the game tries to incorporate, the execution of each one produces a rather lacklustre experience when compared to other titles that it is trying hard to take the mickey out of.
For instance, one particular quest tasked me with finding five blue mushrooms, each of which were nestled directly behind the NPC that asked me to do such a task. Such is the nature of the game, I wasn’t too sure if this was a purposeful inclusion in the premise of its satirical humour, or if it was just simply a gaming error. Personally, I’m going for the latter, as subsequent quests never bore the same level of simplicity; not that any of the quests, or the game itself is particularly difficult. The shooting mechanics itself, also falls foul of what the game is trying to achieve. Whatever enemy you face, you simply have to walk backwards whist shooting to get a kill. It soon becomes a tiresome experience and still had me asking questions on whether this was a purposeful mechanic. If so, then it simply just adds to the grinding nature of the game.
The reason for thinking in such a way, is that the game does contain elements of purposeful mistakes to try and create humour on the state of the gaming industry. Unfinished levels and graphical glitches are abundant in its attempt of humour; unfortunately though they simply don’t work. All they do is force you to ask questions to yourself. Is this game broken or is this just all purposeful? My personal assumption that this isn’t a broken game, it just simply feels like it is and that in itself, isn’t really fun. It all adds to create a puzzling experience as you’re never really sure what you you’re playing; at least in terms of the game’s mechanics.
One example of this was in the control scheme of the game. It follows a simple layout that is easy to get to grips with. However, especially within the dungeon sections that involved jumping, my character would seemingly veer off to the left or right, forcing me to miss the platform ahead of me. Again, I asked myself why? Is this purposeful or a broken mechanic? I know it’s not my Joy-Cons, they all work fine on other games and I know it’s not me; well, at least I hope it’s not. Like I said, I don’t think the game is broken, it just feels like it.
Presentation-wise, the game contains a quite basic aesthetic, taking on a look that follows along the lines of the original Doom, but also blends it in to a very Minecraft feeling and looking world. There’s nothing wrong with it, although I did feel that it looked a bit dated in this day and age. Although primarily a FPS, the aiming mechanics also felt a bit off and lacking in challenge. There simply isn’t any oomph in the firing of your weapons, or any satisfying feeling in vanquishing your foe. Everything just felt a little too simplistic for its own good. This also leads on to the challenge of the game, which in all honesty is very bare-bones. Despite containing sixteen various levels, the whole game can be finished within a couple of hours, with little or no replay value to lure you back in.
Overall, Shadow of Loot Box is a game that tries hard to highlight certain elements of gaming through satire, but simply ends up making a joke of itself. Its purposeful mechanics of broken elements just creates an uncertainty in what you’re playing. A broken game is never fun and creating a game that is purposely meant to be broken isn’t either. However, it’s not all bad as the nature of its simplicity creates a game that may be enjoyable to a younger player, but to a more experienced gamer, there really isn’t a lot on offer here. Controls that feel broken, shooting mechanics that are simple and unchallenging quests that are basic; even the premise of levelling up and collecting loot boxes soon becomes tiresome. Unfortunately, this is a loot box that contains nothing but a shadow of its potential value.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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