WRATH: Aeon of Ruin Review
WRATH: Aeon of Ruin is an upcoming retro first-person shooter and a great throwback to id Software‘s timeless classics: Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake. All modern-day shooters have mechanics that stem from id‘s games, but id‘s shooters in particular belong to their own sub-genre, similar to From Software‘s souls-like games. I like to call id‘s style of shooter the “hell yeah” genre. The whole idea behind them is to make the player feel that “hell yeah” energy with everything they do: causing chaos, killing monsters (or nazis), purifying hell; all while gospel music and guitars blare in the background. WRATH: Aeon of Ruin is a true testament to all of what makes the “hell yeah” brand of shooters so fun.
Straight to the Demon Slaying
Waking up behind a cemetery, you’re greeted by a dark and abandoned world, wielding only a blade attached to your wrist. There are multiple portals that lead to the levels you’ll be taking on. The first portal I jumped through landed me in a tomb full of monsters. Everything felt fluid as I cut down undead scourge in front of me. The sheer speed of the Outlander (the protagonist) felt beautifully nostalgic and felt just as exhilarating as its predecessors. Weaving through enemies and blasting them, not being able to stop without getting shot or bitten, is an adrenaline-fueled treat.
I had to carve my way through the undead horde until I finally picked up my first gun, and that’s when the game truly began. Thankfully, you pick up all the guns currently available in this first level, so you have a full arsenal for the entire game moving forward. You go through ammo at an extreme rate and it’s easy to run out, which means you’re going to have to frequently change guns. And in WRATH, that’s a good thing.
Guns, Guns, Guns
The gun you start out with, the classic pistol, isn’t anything to write home about, but it works wonders for wiping out small-fry. The shotgun can one-shot medium-tier enemies with speed and ease. Naturally, the ridiculous guns are the most enjoyable. First, there’s the fang spitter, which, as you might expect, spits demons fangs. It’s extremely strong and fires very quickly, so ammo is scarce. Then there’s the retcher, by far the strongest gun. The only way to get ammo is by killing demons and harvesting their puke, so you have to be conservative with this. because there are only two demons who provide this ammo.
Each gun is extremely satisfying in its own way and they each serve a different, vital purpose. This makes for great gameplay, as it encourages you to use all the weapons in your arsenal. In most shooters, you’d just use the strongest or favorite weapon, but WRATH forces you to adapt. It’s also plenty difficult because of this — sometimes I’d be swarmed by enemies and, not having much time to think, I’d blow through all my fang ammo spraying down nobodies right before I need that ammo most.
Welcome to the Underworld… Again
It’s hard to recreate the same atmosphere of games that came out thirty years ago. Many developers make their textures look a little grainy and ancient when trying to recreate a retro world with newer tech. This can make environments look bland or strange, so it takes a lot of creativity to pull that off successfully. To mitigate this, Wrath: Aeon of Ruin is being developed on the original Quake engine. Gunning through the portals is a feast for the eyes. Everything looks nostalgic, yet quite original. There’s something so splendidly charming about authentic ’90s pixelized demon blood.
Let’s get to one of my personal favorite mechanics of throwback shooters: the secrets. Once you’ve cleared an area of enemies, it’s time to start exploring. There are so many secrets in each level, it’d take hours to find them all. As you progress, you’ll also acquire artifacts that give you special abilities — namely, the abilities to steal health from killing demons during a limited period of time, become invincible, or breathe underwater. I never really used the latter two, just the life-steal was useful to me. However, I was on normal mode, and I can see the other upgrades becoming a must in harder modes of gameplay. Of course, being a throwback FPS, there are four modes of difficulty, leaving plenty of room for replayability.
And while you’re doing this, you’re treated to the sounds of your own footsteps, echoing ominously, the subtle burning of lanterns and braziers around you, or a hymn from a choir. The eerie dread that hangs under the sky of an abandoned world. Everything feels correct and immersive. Altogether, the level design is very impressive and makes for a bloody addicting world to explore.
WRATH: Aeon of Ruin released into early access a month ago, so it’s still in the very early stages of development. There are only two levels available as of right now, which equates to about two hours of gameplay at the most — perhaps a bit longer if you try to find all the secrets. I did run into a couple of kinks, like an elevator landing on my head, which forced me to re-load. The good news is that the devs are expecting a 2020 release, so at least it should update often.
It’s hard to judge a game so early on in development, but I can say, that if you enjoy this sub-genre of shooter, WRATH is one of the most promising newcomers in years. WRATH: Aeon of Ruin does exactly what it means to do and focuses on good old run-and-gun, demon-slaying fun. It’s a great throwback to some of the best games of all time and for sure worth checking out. The price is steep for the content it has, but it will be well worth the money once fully released.