If you own an HMD and are a fan of RPG games, you have no doubt heard of Karnage Chronicles. We covered its launch into early access back in April and since then, this game has undergone some incredible changes. On October 26, a major content update was implemented, and this one has me very excited to take another look at Karnage Chronicles.
In Karnage Chronicles you take on the role of a Murkwraith. Think Dragonborn, but with less shouting. You don’t know who you are yet, or what your role is. Luckily you come across a very helpful construct that, for a price, will enlighten you further. One dungeon at a time, you set off on your adventure of self-discovery.
Pick a Path
In its current build, Karnage Chronicles has two playable classes. A Warrior with a sword and shield, and an Archer with a bow. Both classes have supplemental weapons to cover ranged and close combat respectively. The Warrior has a crossbow that fires three rounds before requiring you to crack it to reload another three. The Archer has a set of daggers for when you, if you’re anything like me, miss your target because you have horrible aim.
I liked that the developers, Nordic Trolls, had the good sense to balance these weapons. That is to say, the crossbow does not make the Warrior feel like a fully capable ranged class. The Archer, while it is fun to slash with the daggers, does significantly less damage than his beefcake counterpart when doing so.
Why is this important? Because the developers have said that they intend for Karnage Chronicles to be a multiplayer game down the road with at least two more classes coming. With a Mage and Cleric in the works, a well-rounded party would definitely be more satisfying than having a group of “all powerful” characters running around. You have three character slots to utilize so no need to worry about losing all your progress if you like to bounce around and find your sweet spot.
Loot and How to Use It
You can’t have an RPG game without gear, gold, and magical loot. Karnage Chronicles covers these areas nicely. The dungeon is littered with breakable objects that hide various items, quests yield rewards, and the game even has an item shop. While the bad guys you fight along the way do seem to drop the occasional bit of coin, I never came across any armor or weapons in this way unfortunately.
You can check out all your loot, see your health, use and equip items through what looks like a belt that acts like a menu. You have tab on that belt that will display a paper doll of your character for equipping armor and items. Other tabs will bring up your quest log, menu options, and consumable/weapon quick slots.
This does bring me to one of my complaints about the game. I couldn’t find a fast and reliable way to use any of my consumable items during a fight. While you can toggle your weapon quick slots just fine, nothing gave me an option to quickly access a potion during the heat of battle. Or when I was running away from a giant spider monster for that matter.
All of the items you pick up can be examined and this is one area that Karnage Chronicles pulled off very well. Each item has a nice little description and sell price. During your dungeon exploits you will come across pages of lore that are pretty neat. The pages, much like your quest log, can actually be looked at and read like a real page or scroll. It sounds small but with full artwork and story elements, they help highlight what VR brings to the table. New ways to deliver tried and true game elements.
Lay of the Land
Three dungeons are currently playable in Karnage Chronicles. One complete dungeon that is actually rather large, and two smaller dungeons that are still having content added. Each one is in a different land, accessed through portals found in your home location, and the monsters inside reflect the area the dungeon is located in.
Your home location is where you will get quests that further the story, buy items from the shop, and have access to your room and the various portals I mentioned. While I am still somewhat unclear as to the function of your room, everything else is pretty self-explanatory. The quest giver, who looks and sounds amazing by the way, gives quests and helps restore your memory. The shop sells upgraded weapons, armor, food, and magical items.
The portals will lead you to the various dungeons and this is also where you can place a still beating heart on an altar. This is to reset the dungeon later in the game apparently. This interests me a little because right now, all I have to do is die and every monster I have killed seems to respawn right along with me. This makes getting around a pain so hopefully monsters will one day stay dead until reset!
A Fair Maiden
Graphically, this game is top notch for a high fantasy RPG. The textures used, the lighting, right down to the detail in the items you pick up. Everything just looks fantastic for the setting they have set out to capture. It is a little cartoonish in style and some people might not like that, but I didn’t mind because it was its own style of cartoonish design that looked great.
The same goes for audio. The ambient sounds of the caves, the arrows whizzing by your head, it all sounded great. The voice acting that was recently implemented definitely goes a long way to set the mood and was beautifully done. Even the audio feedback provided by the monsters when you hit them is good. Every little thing seems to add up to a well rounded experience in these two areas of the game. I really wanted to nit-pick about something here, but it would just come off as petty so, bravo you trolls of the north.
Controlling the Battle
The controls in Karnage Chronicles are pretty easy to get the hang of. You have all the various movement options you have come to expect in VR, including teleportation and free locomotion. Menus and quick slots are navigated through button presses and, as I mentioned earlier, your inventory belt. Everything else is done with motion controls and they work as intended. You swing your sword, block with your shield and shoot a bow!
The combat is probably the most important part of how we interact with this VR game. While the rest of the game blows my mind, this area could still use a little work. It is by no means broken, it just felt a little unsatisfying after a bit. I think this was due to how predictable the enemies become after a while.
Depending on the class, enemies will run at you and stab or stay back and shoot. With the limitations of the enemies AI, you can see how this can get a little old rather quick. Currently a typical fight is just you versus a small number of enemies and the makeup is generally in your favor. It makes sense in single player, but it also makes things predictable and easy to overcome at some point.
But, this is early access and once this game has multiplayer functionality, this problem should correct itself. When a group of players is faced with a diverse group of enemies, they will need to think a little more and that should make for better gameplay. The potential is here and I think, in time, we will see this realized.
Back at the Hearth
After playing Karnage Chronicles, I can’t help but see good things on its horizon. Nordic Trolls have created a great setting for a high fantasy RPG. They have also left all the right areas open to future development to make this a very long running game.
The first time I started exploring my way through a dungeon, I couldn’t help but think of how amazing RPG games could be in VR. To actually be in the dungeon exploring for loot and looking out for traps is an amazing feeling. This game, so far, is chalked full of those types of feelings and I truly think it will only get better with time.
For now, all I can say is that I love this game. Not just for what it is, but for what it could be and for what it shows us that VR can be to the RPG genre. You can pick up Karnage Chronicles, on Steam, for the Rift or Vive for only $21.24 until November 14th.
Title: Karnage Chronicles
Publisher: Nordic Trolls
Release Date: Apr 24, 2017