While The Guise undoubtedly excels with its visuals, the rest of the game is as shallow as a spilled soup from a spoon.
Genres: Metroidvania, Platformer
Developer: Rasul Mono
Release date: 20 October, 2020
I was interested in The Guise ever since I browsed through its Steam’s Store Page. A dark, twisted fairy tale with the promise of playing as a frightening, evolving monster? And all that accompanied by fantastic, eerie visuals? Count me in! Well, to my unpleasant surprise, even with having glamorous visuals, the rest of the game is rather bland, uninteresting, and mainly, it is boring to play it in the first place.
You play as Ogden, an abandoned child living in an orphanage with other kids. One night, your headmistress has to leave the kids alone for a bit. They had but one rule to follow: do not visit her workroom. Being curious little kids, they, of course, venture right into the room. There is a lot of weird magical-looking stuff, as well as a big white mask. Ogden decides to put it on his face, which changes his life forever. It turns him into a four-legged monster. Once the headmistress finds out, she tells him that there is only one person that can help you. And you have to find the said person on your own.
While this intro seemed interesting to me at first, there is not much else. The headmistress just repeats the abovementioned line until the very end of the game, which is easily predictable and absolutely forgettable. You can talk with the other kids for a bit, but they repeat themselves too. While they offer you sidequests, those do not add much to the story and are pretty short. Yes, one could argue that the environment and your journey to the end tell its own story, but this is not the case. It tries to do that, but as it is not very much in-depth, it fails to do its job. There are only a few tiny environmental hints here and there, but they are blatantly obvious. In the end, I never cared about Ogden and the orphanage, nor I was curious about the world itself, which is a shame because I believe that the initial thought behind the story could lead to something much better.
The Guise is yet another Metroidvania game in which you explore the world, learn new powers, and revisit previous locations to uncover previously unobtainable secrets. I explored this world in detail, which took me around seven hours. Although I actually spent more time with the game because it crashed and deleted my progress during my first playthrough. And after starting a new one, the first boss was invincible for some reason and did not even attack me, so I could not progress any further. Most unfortunate. Luckily, an update got released, but I had to start the game from scratch again.
The gameplay’s premise is quite simple: you kill enemies to get eyes for which you upgrade your abilities, which you get for slaying the bosses. There are also artefacts which boost the said abilities. That is about it. You spend most of the time in combat because there are tons of enemies everywhere. Here comes the problem, though. There is not much depth in the game’s combat. And it is unbalanced and a bit broken at the same time! How could that be?
Well, the enemies can only attack the left or right side. Not both at the same time. So, once they are slowly preparing to attack the left side, you just go behind them and hit them as much as you can. You repeat this tactic until they are dead. The problem is that they are way too slow to react to that. You fight most of the enemies like that, even half of the bosses. It is not challenging nor enjoyable. Sometimes your or enemies’ attacks even do not register properly, so that just adds to this mess.
Fortunately, there is a solution for that! After the very first boss fight, you get an ability – poisonous spitting. You even get an artefact which boosts its damage by fifty percent, and you can upgrade it right after, so you spit two projectiles instead of one. How does this solve the problem? It instakills most of the enemies without even approaching them. Is it fun? No, but at least you do not have to bother with the abovementioned melee combat. It also deals massive damage to bosses. The problem is that there are other abilities, which were intended for use, like increased damage to demons. However, there is no reason to do that, as spitting is stronger.
What I said might be viewed as a rant, but the problem is that there is not much else to say about the combat except pointing out how it does not work. To give credit where it is due, some of the bosses were quite enjoyable to fight, as they had interesting and unique attack patterns. Fighting other boss fights felt like fighting basic enemies with more health, though…
There are also questionable design decisions. Later on, you get an ability to dive in the water, which lets you explore locations even more. However, the last part of the game takes place mostly underwater. How is that bad? The movement is slower there, and you cannot use your abilities there, so the fights return to the abovementioned monotonous way. My character also randomly died there during loading into the new location. The last moments of such games should provide a challenge, requiring you to use everything you have learned so far, not the other way around.
Audiovisuals & Performance
The audiovisuals are what this game shines in. The art style is glamorous, where each location looks a bit unique, with its own dark, immersive atmosphere. Admiring some sceneries is the only thing I looked forward to in this game. While there are a lot of greyish and darkish colours, it occasionally shows more vivid ones too. The sounds add to the atmosphere a lot, especially the soundtrack, which compositions fit the game’s theme very well. I can only praise the developers in this part.
The game was tested with an i5 8300H, GTX 1060 6GB, and 16GB RAM, running at the highest settings, at 60 frames per second, at 1920×1080 resolution. Although my framerate was stable most of the time, it went down even to 30 frames in random locations. It was usually just a quick framerate drop rather than a constant change, but it was still a bit annoying.
All in all, beautiful audiovisuals are not enough, especially when the game is boring to play in the first place. Unfortunately, there is no reason to give this game a try. I usually do not like to judge the game by its price, but as you can get masterpieces like Hollow Knight for a similar amount of money, then there is no reason for getting this game at all. And that is indeed a shame, as the premise looked so promising… Maybe the next time.