Case-001 Venetica (Xbox 360)- A valiant venture into a valorous venue

Venitica

 

Oh, Hi! Didn’t see you there, The name’s VonBlak, Kuro VonBlak. I’m rather new here at the Red Sector but please, have a seat. Never let it be said that I’m not a gentleman and good host. We're of equal rank here. I'm older, but you're far better looking, probably. I can tell we're going to be grand partners.

I’m sorry my office isn’t cleaner, I have a LOT of interests here, old cases and whatnot. Cases you ask? Yeah, I delve back and look into things some people ignore; some are lost gems and others should just remain in the void for as log as possible, only showing up as a warning to others.

So come on in, kick back with a glass of vintage Italian wine and lets check the latest case to saunter across this old desk, a black lacey number called: Venetica.

So, a little back story; in early 2005 a SCE Santa Monica Studio released a game for the PlayStation that would become almost a standard in gaming genres. That game? God Of War. An amazing opus that I’ll most likely delve into later. To make a long story short, several companies have tried to emulate the combo heavy, hack-and-slash action adventure for a while and this title is no exception.

Venetica debuted in 2009 by Dtp Entertainment, developed by Deck 13 interactive. Set in the 16th century, the story revolves around a young girl named Scarlett who has grown up in a quaint village outside of the beautiful city of Venice. One day her village is attacked, townsfolk die and Scarlett must take up arms (Or in the case of the beginning scene, a fire poker) and deal out some swift medieval justice. With her love interest killed at the hands of these evil men, she starts down a mystery that reveals that not only is her father the ACTUAL incarnation of Death  but, she may be the heir to his powers! All that stands in her way is a Necromancer and his followers that have cheated death and become immortal. What can a girl do? Oh noes!

I’ll tell you what she does, CARVES A BLOODY SWATH THROUGH THE CRADLE OF THE RENISSANCE BABY! No looking back, nothing but vengeance on her mind as she wades through waves and waves of disposable henchmen and soldiers, who by all rights better have one HELL OF A LIFE INSURANCE POLICY because, damn they just get wrecked…hard. During this you are introduced to a number of folks who will help you on your quest to defeat the Necromancer and band of evil doers.

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Now her story can go one of two ways, the path of repentance and acceptance or The path of angst and fury. The core game doesn’t change much but, the responses during dialog scenes do. Wracked by the loss of her beloved Benedict at the beginning of the game she now must fulfill her destiny and carry out Death’s request of slaying This upstart Necromancer known as The Undead Archon. Sounds easy right? Yeah, like all games it ‘aint that easy and you WILL go through a bunch of mini bosses before you step up to the Archon. Now Scarlett will fight and through the game will learn of Death’s influence and the powers he uses to accomplish these goals. The game takes you on a stunning tour of the renaissance from rocky mountains and coastal sea sides venues to  the depths of sewers and catacombs. From the dizzying heights of the Royal palaces to even the plains of Africa. Although she is the daughter of Death, that does not exclude her from his influence, master the powers of the twilight world and you too can become almost unstoppable, like a shadow darting between the world of the living or the dead, fail to do so and follow like generations before you into the stillness of the grave.

To be honest, the story is rather contrived and clich├ęd. It’s just enough to hold on to but, the side missions and some of the motivations are rather weak. It plays like a generic Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode. Down to the sappy moments between Scarlett and Benedict, a love that can not be because “We are of two different worlds now…” Yeah..okay, and cue end of cut scene…annnnd  KILL DUDES!!! No real in-between with Scarlett here, one minute she’s shedding a tear for poor Benedict’s fate the next BAM! some poor shmoe’s being gutted like a fish. Overall it’s enough to keep the story consistent but, sorta leaves you wanting in the true motivation department.

Story: 6/10

Graphics wise? Well, it’s a console game so not much tweaking here. There were a few issues with textures and some lighting mess ups but overall? Not bad. The cityscape was amazing for a reconstruction of 16th century architecture. Not 100% but hey, it’s a game not a historical reconstruction.The environments are smooth and give a great feel, the lighting also adds to the mood, from the bright day lit outdoor bazaars of Venice to it’s dark and foreboding catacombs. 

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For just the atmosphere, it’s done right and give you a great sense of the world around you, towering and sometimes a little daunting.

I’ll give this a 6/10 if only due to the lack of open travel into the world. Some places I’d really like to have seen a view from if nothing else.

Now the biggie…Game play.

Man, you are either gonna love this or HATE every waking moment of this game. To be honest the place this falls apart the most is the combat system. You are given a multitude of weapons to find and use along your travels, with different stats to help you defeat enemies. This is great…in theory.

Now, I say “In Theory” because really you only need one weapon, the Moonblade. This weapon you get early in the game but, really with all the upgrades you can you get, why use anything else? It’s fast, nearly unblockable at some points and is the only weapon that will kill certain monsters in this game. On top of that a few devastating spells get channeled thought this thing. The other weapons are neat but, once I got the ‘Blade up high enough most of the other weapons were useless. Fun to play with, not really useful. In short you’ll find yourself doing one of two things. Opening attack, dodge, attack combo, dodge, attack combo or Block, Attack combo, dodge, attack combo.

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The Skill sets allow you to “Customize your weapon specializations” , which once again SOUNDS good but, in truth isn’t all that. You can grind enough XPs and gold to practically learn everything but, why? I learned the spear tree and it was a whole lot of damn useless.

Oh, and lest I forget…BLOCKING SHOULD NEVER BE A LEARNABLE SKILL.EVER. That should come with the territory of being an adventurer and holding any weapon. Oh hey, I can preform wushu-like lightsaber combos that would make any Jedi jealous but, blocking? Holy Crap! I could get hurt learning that!! Just a bad idea overall. Developers, unless you want something to build off this (Counters, special effects etc.) please for the love of Pete, don’t do this.

The Puzzle mechanic, Oh yes! What is an epic action-adventure Hack-and-slash game without QTE’s? Nothing. that’s what. I Imagine that somewhere in a board room , there’s that one one old guy who always says in a gravelly voice “Da kids with their X-stations and Play-Boxes! Da kids love them quick time events! put in a Quick Time event!” but, I digress…So in this game you literally have a simon-type puzzle system to open some doors and chests. You are guided by two spirits to “pick locks” The picks are colored Blue,Yellow,Red and Green.Just like your X-Box buttons!! *GASP* the spirits will then point to the picks in a specific order copy that order and Bam! Open chest, get loot. Of course you are timed so take too long and you fail but, there is no down side. If you fail you can just keep trying. 

Now, a cool side note, you can actually “cheat death” in this game, You have a heath meter that will go down after taking hits but, if you have enough twilight energy, you basically slip into the netherworld and run away to a safe spot to re-materielize. Neat huh? So you made a tactical error..whoops, slip away around a corner to regain health and try again. You can also actively slip into the netherworld and launch some surprise attacks that way as well. Of course you need twilight energy to use this ability and where do you get that? By attacking with the Moonblade of course! Yet another reason the other weapons are a bit unnecessary.

Overall the gameplay is solid and as the saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s a few nit-picky things but, I’ll give it a 6/10.

I did find a few bugs, the first on the 360 version of this game is actually GAME BREAKING. In the beginning you are in your little village and you have the option to explore a bit. DON’T. I know, it sounds stupid but don’t. After leaving the village you’ll come to part where a path will lead up into a rocky area, there will be 2 sets of evil dudes here. Free xps you say? Free monies and phat loots? I’m there.

DON’T. I tried this 4 times and I ruined my game EVERY.FRICKIN’.TIME.to the point I had to ERASE MY SAVE AND RESTART THE WHOLE GAME ( Jumpin’ Jeegus on a pogostick; That was about 30 minutes of gameplay mind you) If you kill those guys BEFORE you get the quest to do so you will RUIN your game. You will be unable to complete the quest and can not progress to LEAVE the starting town. SERIOUSLY. Because these guys will not re-spawn and believe me it’s damn easy to do this by accident.

The others were the usual annoyances that plague games of this era, Camera issues, clipping in dense areas, NPC pathing and blocking; the usual little things,Nothing that terrible, just annoying.

Now the question is, Should I play this? Hey, if you got a cheap copy kicking around at your local gamestore, why not. It’s not terrible and it’s a great little title.  Could it have been better? Sure. Was it a horrible piece of crap? Nope. In my opinion if you are a fan of hack-n-slashers you could do much worse. the powers are neat, the puzzle mechanic is fun, if not frustrating at times but, really you could do worse.

Much worse.

SO much worse.

In total I give it a 6/10

And now, if you’ll excuse me I have some filing to do and a bottle of Jack calling my name before the next case. Till next time kiddo. Watch your back, it’s a digital jungle out there.

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