Although it’s a massive cliche to say so, playing Decay of Logos was a rollercoaster ride of emotions. The thing about a rollercoaster, though, is that you have to go up as much as you go down. Things must balance out. Decay of Logos, however, was like a rollercoaster that somehow defied the very laws of physics by having a lot more down than it did up. It’s easily the most annoying and downright infuriating game I’ve played this year. At one point I spent nearly 30-minutes yelling at an Elk, calling it all sorts of horrific names. I finished the game eventually, but I’m not sure if it was worth it.
Let’s just start at the beginning, yeah? At first Decay of Logos is promising; as a bland, silent girl named Ada with white hair you venture out of your house to find the entire village burning, and your parents dead. At least, I assume it was Ada’s parents since the game doesn’t actually specify. They might just have been the local drunks. There’s a single clue as to who committed this crime, a flag flapping in the breeze which seems to be the girl’s sole motivation for seeking out the king of the land and getting some old-fashioned revenge. Joining her on this journey is a beautiful elk who just so happens to be hanging around and forms a bond with Ada through a very short montage. This elk will turn out to be the single greatest enemy in Decay of Logos. Not because it’s evil or anything, you understand, but because it’s about as smart as a space hopper.
We’ll come back to that elk later, though. As you first venture into the game’s world it’s hard not admire the gorgeous graphics which clearly take inspiration from the legendary Breath of the Wild. Lush pastel colours and sweeping views hide the fact that the textures themselves are low resolution. Decay of Logos doesn’t sport a big world, but it’s still an interesting, interlocked series of smaller locations tied together by a central hamlet. These early moments hint at grand adventures, a story worth following and all sorts of things to be discovered.
But within the first steps you take into the world you encounter the combat and everything starts to decay and fall away. While Breath of the Wild serves as the artistic inspiration it’s the Souls genre that serves as the game’s muse when it comes to fighting and narrative. The enemies are capable of reducing your health bar in just a few hits, the pacing of fights is slow and considered and emphasis is placed on picking the moment to strike. It sounds great on paper.
In reality, it’s not so great. Let’s just start at the basics; you have light and heavy attacks to work with. Even with a quick weapon tapping the light attack still feels like the order to swing has to go through a few other people before it ever reaches your character. It’s frankly glacial, and the heavy attack is laughably slow to the point that I never actually used it outside of the initial 30-minutes. It didn’t seem to have a place within combat, the enemies more than capable of launching into their own attacks well before you even begin to start the ardous process of swinging your weapon.
For defense, you have a dodge that works most of the time. The important thing to know is that it won’t cancel your attack animation, so choosing to go on the offensive means committing to it. In other words, the game seems to push you toward dodging incoming attacks and using the space to launch your own counter assault.
There’s a parry/block button, too, but using it consumes a vast chunk of your quite limited stamina and doesn’t seem to open the enemy up to a counter attack. I couldn’t find any advantage to using it over the dodge except when wielding a shield because then you could keep block held, though again the stamina drain from taking hits is substantial.
Aside from just feeling clumsy and awkward the issue with combat is its lack of consistency. For example, you might dodge an attack just fine, but the next time you do it against the same enemy they may suddenly pivot around mid-animation and hit you regardless. Sometimes you have time to launch an attack after a dodge, but if you repeat the move the enemy will just launch into their own, much quicker attack than shaves off most of your health bar. Then there’s the weird way in which sometimes an enemy attack won’t hurt you if you’re already in your own attack animation, yet the next time you’ll get smacked in the face.
Hitboxes are also a massive issue, frequently resulting in hits and misses that defy expectations. It’s more frustrating when deciding to face off against one of the many large ogres roaming the landscape who have an area-of-effect ground stop. Ignoring that this attack has its very own set of completely nonsensical rules, that make combat a royal pain in the arse, trying to figure out the hitbox is a game in itself. In any game with a combat style this slow and methodical the hitboxes need to be accurate, but they simply aren’t.
Ultimately, it’s a combat system that is brutal, but never in the right ways. It isn’t a hard game, it’s just one that frequently feels unfair because you can’t learn from the combat. Just when you think you’ve figured out an enemy the game seems to ignore its own rules, killing you in a manner that leaves you unable to learn and become better. That is until you learn the rules that circling seems to baffle almost every enemy, leaving you free to get behind them.
You’ll die a lot in the first hour or two in Decay of Logos until you figure out how to work around the combat system’s horrible flaws. It’s in death you’ll discover another of the game’s more brutal design choice; dying results in you taking a hefty penalty to your stats, and those penalties stack. So in other words, dying makes you weaker and more likely to die again, which in turn makes you even weaker. It’s an unforgiving system made even more savage by the fact that save points are far and few between, with enemies respawning whenever you die.
The only way to recover your stats is to sleep at specific rest points which are even rarer than standard save spots. Even these aren’t safe, though, since you can be ambushed while sleeping which results in a clumsy fight against multiple opponents. The combat system is bad against just one enemy, but when there are multiple foes to deal with it becomes a mess.#
Swinging swords and maces is one way of dealing with stuff but you do also get exactly three spells to play around with. There’s a simple spell to summon some light that can blind opponents, another that can blast foes backwards and open troublesome doors, and a final one which sets fire to stuff. They all cost health to use, though, and since healing items are so hard to come by they rarely feel worth the effort. Only the fire spell proved to be useful.
As for the gear you use in fights there’s a basic loot system at work with new weapons occasionally popping up, as well as bits of armour. All of these will slowly degrade as you use them, which in theory should push you towards mixing up armour and weapons more often. In reality the rate at which things break isn’t very fast, so it wasn’t a concern most of the time. However, the only way to get stuff fixed is to head back to the little hamlet which serves as a central point on the map, but with no fast travel that means ambling back just to get a weapon fixed. The map isn’t huge, sure, but the thought of having to go back and forth is hardly appealing. However, the rate at which new weapons drop can be very low, so there’s a genuine risk of finding yourself stuck with just your fists.
I’m not the biggest fan of weapons and armour that can break entirely as it is, but I’m even less of a fan of this system because it ultimately adds nothing to the game.
When everything came to a head for me was in the game’s biggest dungeon. This multi-floored area featured rotating levels in the form a very simple puzzle. It took me three hours to get through it, not because it was a challenging puzzle or because there were tough enemies, but because of the game’s single most annoying feature: the Elk. Now, to rotate each floor requires the Elk to stand on a switch while you wander off and use the mechanism. In any other game this would be a simple case of summoning your four legged companion, but Decay of Lagos it turned into a lengthy, frustrating sequence of events where I tried to tempt the Elk to where I needed it. It simply wouldn’t turn up, and then when it finally arrived it would get stuck in walls, amble around or just refuse to the stand on the switch. Even once I finally got it onto a switch I’d head off to rotate the floor only to discover the Elk had decided to amble off. Cue another 20-minutes of angry yelling.
You can choose to ride the Elk, but even this is a painful process. The control scheme seems to be based around nudging the beast in a direction rather than properly controlling it – pushing the stick left or right just results in the Elk turning sharply and not really getting anywhere. No matter whether you ride the Elk in open areas or the confined spaces of a dungeon it’s nothing short of a mind-numbing, infuriating experience.
With the Elk fast becoming my most hated video game companion and the monotonous combat Decay of Logos almost broke me with that single dungeon segment. After taking around 3-hours to get through it because of problems I stopped playing. It took me a day to fire the game back up and see it through to the end.
Was it worth it? No. Decay of Logos opts to keep its story shrouded in vagueness, the only true details offered up through a small amount of collectible Echoes that feature poor writing. The game clearly hopes that its ambiguous nature will draw you in, but for me it failed miserably. You encounter a few characters throughout the game but they’re an uninteresting bunch with no real personalities to latch onto. Aside from some decent moments of environmental storytelling the rest of the narrative (when it actually makes an appearance) is forgettable dross with a lacklustre conclusion.
I’ve not even touched upon the many, many bugs, glitches and other problems that I ran into when testing on the PS4 Pro. At the more basic end of the spectrum there were quite a few instances of the framerate dropping, including in combat. More serious issues included weapons disappearing, a couple of doors that wouldn’t open but then magically did after I died, being launched into the air, being pushed off of platforms, potions becoming unusable, a few crashes and more. It’s in dire need of patches.
So far I’ve spoken mostly negatively about Decay of Logos, so let’s change gears and try to find the good. Despite my issues with the game it has moments of genuine greatness, particularly in how fun it is to explore the world. There’s no mini-map, nothing pointing you in the right direction. While the areas may not be large it’s nice to explore and figure things out without any sense of hand holding. Sometimes this can mean wandering around like an idiot or just plain getting lost, but it’s worth it.
Look, with some work Decay of Logos could become a decent action-adventure game, but I don’t foresee any updated fixing its many core design flaws, and that includes the woefully boring and frequently annoying combat. It doesn’t feel good to be so negative towards Decay of Logos considering it’s the work of just four people who have quite clearly put everything into making it. Those are four people who have awesome careers ahead of them. But my allegiance lies with the player, and I can’t recommend Decay of Logos.
1.5 out of 5
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