Spanish developer Coven Arts describe their title Inglorious as a ‘dungeon crawler indirect PVP’ game: an asymmetrical competition in which two players face off in hack-and-slash competition without ever directly fighting each other.
It’s an interesting idea, and I’m not sure whether it’s something that’s ever been done before. I feel like there must have been games which pit players against each other in a non-immediate way, making them race to complete the same task before the other, but it’s a novel enough concept that it feels like something I’d really like to see done well, something that could be really entertaining.
Unfortunately, Inglorious isn’t quite there. If I didn’t know that it had in fact been released back in October 2018 I would assume it was a tech demo for something still in development, or a proof of concept for a game that’ll eventually take the concept and put meat on the bones, making a real experience out of it. It feels like something that’s been put together as a kind of test, something to prove to the developers and to the world that this kind of gameplay can be executed, but it demands more.
At its core, Inglorious feels less like a dungeon crawler and more like a MOBA; the isometric view and cooldown period on each character’s abilities (including the basic attack and dash moves) are reminiscent of something you might expect to play online, in an arena with many heroes all fighting for dominance or for territory. It’s hard to think of the game as a ‘dungeon crawler’ when there’s only one stage in which to play – I tend to think of dungeon crawling as involving a struggle through many rooms, many levels, in search of ever greater enemies and treasure, but there’s very little of that in Inglorious.
There’s very little of anything, really, in Inglorious, and I think that’s the crux of the problem. It’s not that it’s bad, so much as that it’s really difficult to judge something that seems mostly defined by things that are absent. Still, let’s try to take a look at the things that are present, and perhaps that’ll make it possible to identify not only what Inglorious is missing but also what promise is there in its foundations, what pluses could be expanded upon to make a really solid game.
There’s a single-player and a multiplayer mode; in both cases, the player(s) pick one of four champions to play as, which gives a range of attributes and abilities to choose from. There are two melee warriors and two ranged fighters; each has a basic attack plus three abilities. In some cases these abilities are harder-hitting versions of their usual moves; in others, they’re debuffs slowing your foes; still more might be AoE damage, or even healing. You’ll only ever get the same three special moves for each hero (you can’t pick and choose your loadout to any extent), although you can unlock a fourth ‘Ultimate’ move during the course of gameplay.
In the single-player mode – which, unlike the multiplayer, has three difficulty modes to pick from – the player’s task is to capture five ‘cores’ spread throughout the map, and defend them from waves of oncoming enemies. A ‘win’ entails finishing the five minutes for which a round lasts with more cores than the opposing forces; getting your first two isn’t hard, since you’re initially unopposed while the enemies meander your way from their starting position at the top of the map, but claiming the ones that start nearer to enemy lines is much harder, requiring the player to take out foes while preventing the encroaching hordes from taking your own cores.
Fortunately, you can do a few things to give yourself a better chance of successfully overcoming the waves of mooks and keeping your bases safe. Although you always start each game with a hero at square one – there are no permanent upgrades or levelling – you can gain augmentations to your moves, including unlocking the aforementioned Ultimate, and during the course of each match you can spend ‘souls’, acquired from killing enemies, to purchase stat-boosting equipment or augment your cores’ ability to defend themselves. Souls have one other important use in the single-player game, which is that you can use them to create ghostly apparitions to defend your cores and even give you a helping hand conquering new ones. You can basically bring forth your own summoned version of the enemy forces, then march over and let your happy transparent wolves and the angry opaque enemy wolves bite each other in the face until the path is clear and you can claim a core.
Even with your newfound phantasmal friends, it’s not an easy task. Heroes are fragile, especially when beset upon by hordes of mooks, and I found that even on the easiest difficulty I had absolutely no luck with the two melee heroes; only when I used the mage, whose ranged attacks allowed me to take out foes while kiting around and avoiding taking as much damage as possible, was I able to win a match. Death is cheap, in that you’ll resurrect within a few seconds, but after a couple of deaths your respawn time increases to upwards of fifteen seconds, which feels like a really long time to be waiting around.
This is another reason Inglorious feels more like a MOBA: in a huge online arena, facing off against several other players, it’s important to ensure that each player’s abilities are balanced, and that heroes can’t just endlessly spam attacks at each other. It quickly becomes meaningless that way. In the single-player campaign, though (and even in the multiplayer, as we’ll get to in a minute), what I think was a well-intentioned attempt to recapture the philosophy of those features becomes a burden, forcing the flow and pace of the game down to a sluggish grind. It makes sense to limit an online player’s ability to quickly return to the game after defeat, or to quickly fire off powerful attacks, but when playing only against nipping wolves and bomb-slinging orc-troll-things, it just causes the player to become quickly overwhelmed and killed. Then, of course, it’s a fifteen-second wait to return to the game, during which period the much quicker and more numerous enemies are taking over all your cores.
As for the multiplayer, I think this is the mode Inglorious was really made for: it’s the experience the developers highlight when talking about the game, and I think it’s the game they wanted to design. It’s a two-player local multiplayer format, played in split-screen; although the players each appear on the same map, they can’t directly interact with each other, with each seeing the other person as a translucent spectre.
Each player gets their own set of enemies to defeat, which the other player can’t see or interact with. The aim in this mode seems to be for each player to be the first to defeat a specified number of enemies through a few rounds of combat, after which a door opens and each player faces ‘Sabanuyah’, a giant skull-spider thingy. At that point, whichever person kills their version of the boss first is the winner.
If you’re wondering why I said that the goal of the multiplayer mode ‘seems to be’ for players to race for kills, it’s because I’m really not certain. The game doesn’t tell you, as such – perhaps it does at some point spell it out in its brief tutorial, but I tried to play through the tutorial a couple of times and managed to break it to the point of not being able to progress to the end on each occasion (it required both players to complete a purchase, using souls, before progressing, but the distribution of enemies was such that only one player could possibly get enough souls to do this), so I’m not entirely sure what we were actually supposed to be doing. The ultimate goal of the mode is certainly to be the first to kill Sabanuyah, since that explicitly throws up a ‘WINNER’ sign on the spider-killer’s screen and ‘LOSER’ on the other, but you don’t seem to get any advantages from being the first to kill the most enemies in a round other than the slight benefits inherent in having more souls and therefore being able to purchase more buffs.
It’s still terribly slow, unfortunately; Sabanuyah isn’t a test of skill, but a grind. There’s no punishment for dying other than the long respawn times, so it’s just a battle of attrition as each player gets in a few hits, dies, and then sits around waiting to come back for another chance at an attack.
Like in the single-player game, souls have more uses than just purchasing equipment: you can also buy ‘runes’, which allow you to inflict a one-time negative effect on your opponent so as to hinder them from completing their goal before you compete yours, and again you can create your own ghostly minions. This time, though, they won’t be attacking the NPC enemies, but your opponent.
Each of these elements of gameplay feels fairly novel and fairly sensible, but they’re like disparate brushstrokes on a canvas: there should be a bigger picture into which they fit. Speaking of pictures, the visuals of Inglorious aren’t at all bad for the most part, being reminiscent of the Diablo-likes of the world with a decently appealing colour palette and immediately recognisable designs for characters, enemies, and important environmental features. As is becoming a recurring theme, Inglorious doesn’t really do too much wrong in this department so much as it doesn’t do much at all in the first place.
On a similar note, I’d usually like to be able to say more about the story of a game, but Inglorious doesn’t really seem to have one. Each game begins anew and ends by simply declaring ‘WINNER’ or ‘LOSER’ and flopping straight back to the main menu; there is no narrative within the game itself. There are some suggestions of a backstory of sorts in each character’s biographical flavour text, but none of it ever becomes of any relevance during the game.
There’s also no audio to speak of, really; there’s a main theme which plays over the main menu, but in-game is entirely devoid of music. There are a few battle grunts and miscellaneous sounds, along with sparse voice acting (each character has a couple of lines in Spanish), but it really feels very empty.
Ultimately, I think it’s a shame that there’s really so little in Inglorious to talk about. There’s something resembling a decent engine here, with controls and game modes that are simple enough to grasp even with the game’s, er, mixed success when it comes to communicating what it wants you to do. Unfortunately, in its current form it feels slow and unwieldy, and once you’ve played one or two games you’ve seen pretty much everything there is to see. Still, I’d keep an eye on Coven Arts to see what they come up with in the future. If Inglorious is their first foray into seeing what they can create, given time and perhaps a little more ambition I wouldn’t be surprised if they develop something really worth experiencing before too long.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Gameplay - 3/10
Graphics - 5/10
Sound - 3/10
Replay Value - 2/10
User Review( votes)
If Inglorious is their first foray into seeing what they can create, given time and perhaps a little more ambition I wouldn’t be surprised if they develop something really worth experiencing before too long.