Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Legend of Korra Video Game? Not great...

It is with a heavy heart and great remorse that I am here today to report that the new Legend of Korra video game is a bit of a flop.

Run awaaaaaay

While at work I read that reviews of the game had given it some of their lowest scores of the year. But I mean - come on. Platinum Games doing a Legend of Korra title?  I had to put those articles aside tonight, and I knew I was just going to have to play it myself.

I...don't want to say the reports were mistaken, but they definitely aren't too far off.  This was particularly disappointing, given that the development company—Platinum Games—had released several critically acclaimed games such as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Vanquish.

Please note that I'm reviewing this game from a PC point of view, so some of the technical issues I have described below may not be applicable to the PlayStation or Xbox systems.

The first of which being that as soon as you boot up the game, it strongly suggests that you should play this game with an Xbox or similar controller.  A bit of a bummer for those of us without controllers, but definitely not the end of the world.

Then there are the mechanics of the game.  Oh man, the mechanics.  By which I mean, there are very few.  This is a game I could give to my 7-year-old self who loved hack and slash, button mashing, kill everything as fast as possible kind of games and former me would be all over it.  Current me finds that clicking as fast as possible should be a mechanic left to games like Cookie Clicker.

And really, if you play Cookie Clicker right you only need to be actively clicking stuff for the first ten minutes before you can hand it off to your cursors.

No but really, check out the skill tree I have going right now:

It's a lot of clicks.  My water bending combo?  Left right left.  Or right right.  Left left left left?  (If you're using an Xbox controller, I believe it translates to the X and Y buttons.) I shouldn't be able to roll my face around on my keyboard and spam my mouse buttons in order to win fights.  I will say that when enemies are stunned, there is occasionally an opportunity to click a directional control or the F key to throw in a finishing move...which looks exactly the same every time you use it.  Meh.

The camera angles are a whole other issue as well.  I imagine that on a console or with a controller, you can use one joystick to operate the camera and the other to move.  With only a mouse and keyboard, you have to fight the camera pretty frequently to see what you're doing or who you're supposed to be hitting.

Speaking of hitting enemies - there are a lot of encounters and the bad guys don't ever really diversify.  Even though this game supposedly takes place in the gap between Book 2 and Book 3, we see nameless chi-blockers by the dozen, a couple of triads, and the occasional mecha-suit.  

The story itself is quite lacking as well.  There's an evil old guy, you've got to stop him, and you've lost your bending.  Really.  As for the lovable cast that we were looking forward to in this game?  I only saw Mako and Bolin for about 15 seconds before they got kicked off the pro-bending platform, never to be heard from again.  Jinora makes several short appearances as a sort of guide for regaining your powers, but the voice actor doesn't sound like the one from the show.  Asami?  She doesn't even exist.  Her tech sure does though, and it's a bit of a doozey.

Given that some of the encounters are actually fairly challenging, it seems reasonable that the creators had implemented an item shop.  This particular shop is run by Uncle Iroh, presumably from the spirit world (although it's not really explained).  He has many wares in stock, including potions, tea pots, scrolls and books with move sets and power ups.

There is a big downfall to the healing items in the shop though.  Say you're fighting a mecha and you're really struggling to time the counter attacks correctly; you burn through all 3 of the potions you're allowed to carry, die, and have to start the match all over again.  You'd expect the healing potions to be back in your inventory because, technically, you're loading a save so the fight never happened right?  Wrong.  If you run out of potions and die, you need to buy more potions.  You don't get your previous potions back, and that's kinda poop.

My final negative bit about the game is the cut-scenes.  There are cut-scenes thrown into battles that you're supposed to lose.  You could be randomly jumping around and surviving just fine when dozens of spirits appear and then it's automatically presumed you'll lose so they move to a cut-scene of Korra being dragged away and then fade to black.  On the other end of the spectrum - there are a number of cut-scenes in which you see enemies start toward you and by the time the cut-scene ends you've already been attacked twice.  The flow for these particular scenes isn't great.

With all of the negativity spewing from my fingers as I write this, there are still a few redeeming qualities from this game.

The animation does resemble the animation used in the series: both in the 3D gameplay and the 2D cut-scenes.  I think that this was a great choice.  It helps to have the player fit into the world they already know, and in a way it also brings back a sense of nostalgia.  The moves, although repetitive, are the same moves that benders use in the show while controlling their elements.  Water bending is very smooth and fierce, while earth bending is very heavy-footed, and it requires practice to get the timing just right.

The one mechanic I am a fan of is the leveling system.  Instead of having Korra level up, you level up your bending styles.  If you fight a lot using water bending, it makes sense that you're getting in a lot of practice and therefore would be better at water bending.  If you don't practice your fire bending, how do you expect you'd ever get better at it?

The voice acting for the most part was also well-delivered.  The only bit of voice acting I haven't quite warmed up to yet is the new voice of Jinora, which is different than that of the show.  Other than that, the team did a great job.  The delivery of the lines is on point and all of the non-word expressions (the grunts and the yelps) are all appropriate and timed pretty close to perfect (if not perfect).  There are definitely a few silly lines ("deal with it!" after beating an encounter, or "I think that was Pemma's favorite" while destroying jars on Air Temple Island), but for me these are well received and welcome lines.  


Given the content that I've already gone though, I'd probably give it a 4.5/10. (If we had an established number based review system. Which we don't. -Ed)  It's Korra (which I love), it's bending (which I also love), and the animation is pretty solid.  I would like to say that this game is now an example of how mechanics can get in the way of storytelling...except that there wasn't much of a story to tell.  Eek.

With that being said, I will be completing this game over the next few days, and I'll probably be streaming it on my twitch channel at  You can tune in, ask me questions there, and see for yourself firsthand what the gameplay is like.  If I find that the game is better in the second half, I'll be sure to update!

Stephanie Cala is an avid board, tabletop, and video gamer, who streams regularly on her Twitch channel. She's the Ace of Geeks' Empress of Events, and would really love it if you would tune in this Saturday to win over $2000 of prizes while watching us game for 24 hours to raise money for Extra Life.

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