In the age of SoulsBorne games, Monster Hunter World, and Sekiro, you may have glanced at a PS4 title called Malicious Fallen. Or, maybe not, and this is the fist time you’ve ever heard of it. Boss rush game, anyone?
Genre: Action, Boss Rush
Developer: Alvion Inc.
Release Date: 17 Feb 2017
When it comes down to it, Malicious Fallen‘s gameplay is fun if you like drawn out boss battles, yet it can be frustrating. And it is relentless, with bosses going right at you with very little pause in between attacks. I thought it would be super difficult, but with some practice at the essential moveset basics, the mechanics involved really aren’t that hard to get around, at least until the end of the second storyline where it gets insanely tough. At times the bosses can be a grind to figure out, yet with some moderate mastery of the mechanics, you can likely breeze through a few in one sitting within the first storyline. Is it Soulsborne? Nope, not even. Think more along the lines of Devil May Cry and Monster Hunter world, with a bit of Shadow of the Colossus thrown in. Are the bosses worth it? That is more a matter of taste, but each is a little different and depending on the sequence of bosses you choose, your approach on how to defeat them will change. What is a given, though, is that each boss is a very long brutal fight to the death.
There are some shortcomings for sure, though. First off, the camera is spastic, sometimes zooming in too far or taking a corner the wrong way. This makes dealing with the camera angles a good chunk of your gameplay all by itself. It’s a shame because there are some great arenas, including rather large areas where you can traverse all around, below, across, and even above where the boss is, as well as terrain and airships. It gives you a huge amount of freedom to develop your strategy in an attack. I think the reason is that there is perhaps too much freedom, making the camera obscure the action at times.
You can also spam the same attacks quite often for a good chunk of the game and that ruins some of the variety of the game. There are giant fists, a lance you can unlock, painfully low damaging bullets, and a slow-moving sword that is unlocked with a midboss defeat in the first story section of the game. Once you get the lance, though, it really becomes your primary attack to get “Aura” for health and special attacks along with dealing the most damage effectively until you get to the very end of the second story where you have to play with weapon combos more. Even after unlocking upgrades like a hammer and bullet turrets, I still felt the lance was just the best general use weapon unless your boss is too fast or hard to reach until your fists are upgraded.
Now there are some great ideas in the way the battle system mechanics are designed. First off, there is “Aura” or mana you can collect by defeating enemies. You use this to both heal yourself and deal damage to strong enemies and bosses. You can get up to 9999 Aura, but trust me it can deplete rather quickly once the combat is underway. There is also a power move using the Aura where you can buff your attacks with a fast-draining Aura boost, though it’s advisable to only do this when you have several thousand Aura or you risk not storing enough to heal yourself after an attack. On many bosses, this boost is the only way to finish the battle in time. The fact that it is tied together is very well balanced and provides the game with a way to quickly deal with healing and dealing damage quickly. You can also use the Aura as a shield, with a bonus amount of Aura given when performing a perfect block, called a full block.
While there is no upgrading per se, you do get to unlock weapons and attacks after defeating a boss, much like Mega Man or Devil May Cry. it certainly takes the time sink out of the game due to the usual quests and grinding for upgrades often used in most action games.
The dodging system is wickedly fast, though the rapid movement can also make the game a little nauseating to deal with. It is not invincible either. If you dodge into an attack you can still get hit. I didn’t dodge all the time unless the boss was too fast to deal with, but it’s super helpful to get out of sticky situations and so fast, I just enjoyed the sheer speed of it. However, that could be disorienting because the camera angle would move with it and everything would rush over to your new location in a split second. It may feel a little janky to some.
Blocking is the key to success in this game. In fact, some bosses are designed to force you to learn how to properly do a perfect “full” block because there won’t be any other way to get Aura collected when minions just dry up and you’re left alone in an arena to fend for yourself. Pay attention to both physical attacks and movement attacks, because even spinning around or blowing mist can be an attack you have to block. Using chain attacks with Aura when attacking minions is also key. The chain attacks are super easy to rack up the Aura you need.
Some Weird Stuff
One thing that could be off-putting is the health bar. There is none. You visually see your character lose limbs and if that happens you can heal yourself to regenerate them but at the expense of having to be totally motionless when doing so, consuming Aura. The more damage, the more Aura needed and a longer time to heal. I found jumping up and healing in midair to be the most effective way of not being attacked while healing up. For those visually challenged like myself, you’ll have to get a bit close to the screen just to see if your character has taken damage or not, or simply heal often whether you can see the missing limb or not. It’s neat to have it visually addressed in the physical body of the character, but I’d still like to have a health bar.
Another issue is that you can walk on walls, and that may sound awesome, but I’d just get lost and confused about where I was in the game, or unable to jump to an area I needed to get to because when I jumped up I’d miss the wall and end up having to waste time traveling back up again. Locating the boss on a wall at times could difficult too, as the camera would pan away quite a bit. At its worst, I’d simply have lock-on to the boss just to get an idea of where to move back to.
One big thing that surprised me is that there are limited Continues in the game. At first, I’d use them at will, but then I hit a tough boss and realized they were all gone. I was actually a bit aghast, but then I simply told myself I need to get better at playing and managed to get by just fine without them, barely using them at all after some time. I did have to start my game all over again to get them back, though. Do be advised, even if you die after using a Continue it will NOT come back. It’s a once used, never replenished sort thing regardless if you make it through the boss. Only use it if you are seconds away from a win and just need one more chance.
A time limit of 30 minutes per boss is what you have to work with, and in some cases, it is not enough. Though I found after getting the lance, I never had an issue with time limits again. However, do look at your clothes because you can change out the clothes you wear and this can affect your stats. I liked the Scholarly one as it gave me a small Aura boost at all times.
As you defeat more bosses, you unlock some skills and combos. As hard as I tried to use the combos, I was unable to pull off most of them. It was easier to use my fast attacks and reposition myself. There is an area to practice them, though. I also could not counter to save my life, literally, but eventually, I could get in between a bosses’ weak areas to work out a niche where I could attack well.
There is barely any story to note here, the emphasis is both on the gameplay and also, in my opinion, the graphic style. You are basically a fighter come to save the world from the evil Malicious, a monster who feeds on the ill will of man, and his bosses. Some weird old dudes in hoods, called the Prophets, give you a super cape called a Mantle of Cinders that can attack monsters and off you go. It is a great way to jump right into boss fights with just the base stats and skills available to you. You get a free choice of a set of four bosses followed by a mid-boss and a final boss for each story section, rinse and repeat three times. Personally, I think that’s great. No need for grinding or fetch quests to get in the way. If you are looking for a story, all you are going to get is a written backstory section.
Graphically, it’s beautiful, just beautiful. I was surprised at how detailed the bosses were and it very much reminded me of Shadow of the Colossus. Even though the game is a generation old, the art style with flowing colors and tessellating hues do rather well at keeping itself from aging a lot. Don’t expect Monster Hunter World levels of fidelity, but it was on par with some of the older Final Fantasy movies I’ve seen.
I would pay attention to the sound a bit, but for the most part the cues for attacks were visual. The music was exciting, but not overbearing. It’s not quiet in the least, but I never had the desire to turn off the soundtrack in order to fight, which I won’t lie, I’ve done that before in boss battles so I can concentrate more. Without voice acting, just some indistinguishable vocal noise, the sound is mostly in regards to effects and background music. The audio effects were nice, though did sound a bit like outer space sound effects at times.
To enjoy this game you have to be the type to play Monster Hunter World all by yourself. It’s a constant grind to kill these bosses who have immense stores of health. Yep, that’s me. I like doing that and if a 30-minute boss battle sounds like fun then this is right up your alley. For those that prefer short, but tough boss battles you will not find that here. You’ll get the tough part for sure, but not the quick battles. Some bosses are just brutal and attacking can be blinding with the way the camera zooms out of frame at times. Yet for a game that was once a PS3 game from 2010, then a PS Vita game, and finally a PS4 game in 2017 with a new level, features, and moves, it’s has held its own compared to other games from the same era.
There are three “storylines” if you can call them that, each getting progressively harder along with a challenge mode and let me tell you it really gets brutal the further you progress. Your time involved will vary depending on how long it takes you to get a handle on the controls. It’s a bit of a niche game, but it’s got great presentation, workable skills, and tough as nails combat. For those in the mood for getting sore hands from long battles, this is a good find.
However, I don’t think it will appeal to everyone, especially the Soulsborne crowd as they may have an aversion to the absolute grind of the battles and the repetitive nature of the attacks without any exploration involved. It seriously takes a certain type of gamer to enjoy this type of boss rush game. Those with DMC/Monster Hunter skills who enjoy big battles that chip away at bosses slowly, this is for you. The moves will feel familiar, the action rapid-fast at 60FPS, and just when you think you know how to attack a boss, the next one kicks you to the curb. I thoroughly enjoyed the game even if other gamers I’ve shown it to thought it was too merciless.