Does Death have a life? Can Death marry someone? Does he/she have children? What is Death’s job? Does he/she have a vacation? Does he/she have a friend? If yes, who is he/she? Is God Death’s boss? Does Death have colleagues? In today’s review in Game Scan, we will talk about a game whose developers might have thought about such questions and came up with some answers, and compiled their findings in an indie video game about Death. Let us know more about Death! This review was conducted on the game the publisher provided for Game Scan on Steam.
Death Tales is an indie action-platforming developed and published by Arcade Distillery for both PC and Nintendo Switch. It was released in October 2020 and thus far reached ‘Positive’ among 14 reviews on Steam. The current price is 9.99 $ (April 2021) and it requires a very modest system. In Death Tales, you walk in the shoes of a minor reaper in a spiritual world who is trying to save the soul of his daughter. On his quest, the hero has to face Death, Famine, War, and Soulless Queen to finally be able to redeem his child. A friend accompanies him through the journey; this character is available to be picked in the co-op mode which enables the owner of the game to share it with a friend. The co-op mode, although a bit unrefined, is a great feature of Death Tales but requires adjustments. For example, the second player is not capable of upgrades or choosing different gear sets and must be played with the basic set from the beginning to the end. However, having the co-op option is a blessing.
The story is narrated by non-animated cutscenes that show the hero standing next to his friend both facing a third character whose dialogues scroll below the screen (the scroll speed is not consistent). After every two or three missions, a short piece of the story is revealed. Unfortunately, only the idea of the scenario is catchy. Not characterization nor the plot are thoroughly worked through. It is an added asset that does not function as a true story should. Also, the language is not uniform; it ranges from the weighty words of the Sisters to the lackluster opinions of Spaura, neither fitting the situation where they are uttered. The absence of consistency is the biggest problem of Death Tales which comes up in many of its aspects.
The action of Death Tales can be tagged hack and slash to the degree of a smasher. The hero, Reaper, has his signature scythe which is the main and the only weapon you have. The scythe has a total of five combos that involve pressing the attack bottom in different orders, up to three consecutive hits, and with up/down directions. But the weapon has a variety of mods and secondary effects that are both purchasable or are given to the player as mission completion rewards. Along with the weapon, the Reaper can acquire or buy Spells and assign them to two slots. These Spells are a game-changer and add intensity and color to the combats, but only one or two of them are actually decisive in the battles; the rest are only fun to try provided that you play as much as having enough currency to unlock them all. The last part of the gear set is the armor and the hood. There are multiple types of hood and armor with side-assets that are available to the player, in the same form as other gears. Regarding gears, Death Tales provides more than enough for one playthrough but the lack of new game+ and the overall easiness of the missions makes repetition or search for the better gears almost unnecessary.
There are two main challenges for the player to overcome in order to finish missions: enemies/bosses, and platforming. Enemies are various, both in design and character, meaning that they have certain individual attacks, movements, sound effects, and looks. Up to the third-fourth of the way the game introduces new enemies or newer versions of the previous ones and in the last chunk mixes each and every type you have encountered earlier. The platforming is also an extra feature similar to the story; it exists but is not very functional. Sometimes, the problem of the platforms rises above the challenge of the enemies and becomes the only reason that forces you to restart from the checkpoint. Overall, Death Tales gameplay is solid and interesting, yet with not much variety. But keep in mind that Death Tales is among the video games that require some time for the player to become familiarized and enjoy it, so if you are to try it, be patient for the first five or ten missions.
Graphics are controversial; there is a peculiarity to the art style of Death Tales. It is not very often that we witness such bizarre and colorful worlds in games, at least not recently, a unique feature that distinguishes this product from others. But this does not mean that Death Tales is beautiful, not always. The matter of inconsistency is insight here as well. There are some backgrounds and enemies that are highly polished, colorful, and abound in details. On the other hand, some characters and scenes are flat and uninteresting. The same is true for the animations; some are smooth and complex like the Reaper’s and some of the bosses, and some are crude and very basic which is the case of some of the enemies. Concepts seem to be fine but the application and results are a bit shaky.
Sound and music are basic and somewhat generic. There are a few soundtracks for the menu and missions that are beautiful and have a good and almost chivalric/knightly/spiritual vibe to them. More than often, the soundtracks in lost between all the sound effects of the fights because there is audio for every action taking place on the scene, except for walking. The enemies’ attacks, fires, fireballs, Reaper’s attacks, and powers, and some other elements have their unique sound effects, so much that when the scene gets crowded, the amalgamation of all of them intensifies the battle. Also nice to hear are the menu and mission selection effects (short ‘ding’ sound as if swords or any two steel plates clash). There is also cutscene music; they do not diverge much from the main course of the scores.
Death Tales takes anywhere between four/five to six/seven hours to beat. As mentioned earlier, it requires a bit of patience and you need to wait until at least five or seven missions for the game to reveal its potentials and new mechanics. The co-op is an advantage that should not be ignored, a feature that gives more value for the money you pay. If you love small hack and slash games or you want to play with a friend for a couple of hours, Death Tales is an inexpensive option that fits almost all ranges of systems. But if you are among the gamers who are not fond of repetition, get bored or angry quickly, and care much about the visuals and storyline, this is not your cup of tea!
Death Tales does not provide the gamer with variety and all it has to offer is revealed halfway through the campaign; the rest of the way is repetition. It represents its concepts in newer disguises but regarding that the whole experience is short, nothing special happens. So, you are dealing with a mediocre game to which no more than a 5 out of 10 is applicable. However, among all other things, Death Tales has two great achievements which deserve praise and set it apart from others: the co-op, and the success of the developer in delivering a fine-tuned games that has no bugs, no inaccuracy of hitboxes, no haphazard enemy movements, and no technical issue whatsoever in the battles. God bless Chris Dewman!
۶ out of 10