A repetitive and childish power fantasy laced in gimmicky cheap thrills that lacks long term appeal.
he Legend of Korra feels like a far departure from Platinum Games’ usual take on action games. Being considered as what is arguably the best development studio when it comes to hack ‘n’ slash and fast paced action games. I can’t help but wonder what exactly went wrong with The Legend of Korra other than the fact it was an £11.99 downloadable game that was overshadowed by Platinum Games more anticipated title Bayonetta 2, which was released within the same week.
Unfortunately there’s a lot more to it than just a sheer lack of attention or better yet, a high level of unawareness in regards to the game’s existence. The problems that reside within The Legend of Korra go deeper than it’s budget price tag, and as degrading as that may sound there’s just no other way to put it.
The Legend of Korra is a boring and repetitive half-baked game that teases at interesting combat system while simultaneously failing to deliver upon it. And to be perfectly honest I’m not sure fans of the TV series of which the game is based on will even find much enjoyability from if either. Taking fan-service in to account I’m not sure they even asked for it. While one could say that it’s a game for the fans and you would have to be familiar with the television show in order to reap the benefits from it.
It doesn’t change the fact that a large portion of the game feels cheap, and every enemy encounter as well as it’s gameplay mechanics are just a poor repeat of what the player experienced ten minutes to three hours prior of the current situation they’re now battling through. Despite being a game that centers around large group battles, cross-media lore, and a level of exploration.
Be it a false and illusionary sense of exploration mind you. The only thing I found myself having conflict with was actually the game itself. The repetitive nature of the game isn’t just down to one aspect, but follows through every other aspect of the entire game.
"Despite being a game that centers around large group battles, cross-media lore, and a level of exploration. be it a false and illusionary sense of exploration mind you."
Everything from the combat mechanics, level navigation, and enemy encounters, all follow the exact same path as the last with nothing in sight to grab the player’s attention, or to even get them psyched for the next battle they’ll find themselves in. In fact, the repetition that lingers across this game is even present within it’s storyline.
For those familiar with action adventure games or power fantasy hack ‘n’ slash games. The idea of playing as an almighty powerful character that is drained of their special abilities within the first ten minutes of the game, only to play through another four hours in order to get them back, borders a fine line between pure mediocrity and straight-up lazy storytelling.
After five minutes of play time involving a tutorial which shows the player how to use and combine each of Korra’s abilities. Those of which that revolve around the manipulation of the elements, earth, water, wind, and fire. It will come as no surprise to the player as to what’s going to happen next.
Korra’s powers become blocked by an evil hunched-back villain and she must set out on a quest to retrieve them, as well as finding out what else the sinister little creep has planned. At this point in time it’s just a poor video game cliché and regardless of what happens within the game’s storyline there’s an overwhelming feeling of “I’ve done this all before, so spice up the formula”.
When games choose to take on this formula it usually leads on to a feeling of character progression, interesting combat, and enemy specific attacks, that make use of certain abilities, weapons, or button combinations. See God of War, Devil May Cry, or Bayonetta 2. The Legend of Korra does none of this sadly and since the game encourages the player to switch between elemental attacks as they simultaneously engage in combat, this mixing of combos completely invalidates the need to concentrate on just one specific element in regards to a specific enemy type.
"The repetitive nature of the game isn't just down to one aspect, but follows through every other aspect of the entire game."
The enemies the player will encounter on their playthrough actually encourages the repetitive nature of the combat mechanics, as each one of these cut and paste clones lack serious variation and fail to distinguish themselves from the rest. Enemies come in the form of Chi-blockers, Mecha Tanks, Evil spirits, and Triads.
Not much can be said for the art direction of these characters either, as the Chi-blockers are just colour coded ninjas, Mecha Tanks are a living definition of their name’s sake, and the Triads could’ve been any other NPC of Asian descent, as nothing in regards to their appearance have the possibility of convincing me otherwise.
NPCs…that’s another thing the game lacks and would’ve done well to make use off. I couldn’t help but wonder as I navigated through an earlier level of the game which takes place in a city, as to why all the building lights where switched on and in-game cut-scenes showed moving traffic, none of which where present in gameplay. Between Korra, the Chi-blockers, and the oh so common force fields that prevent the player on moving on to the next stage until all the remaining enemies have been defeated.
There was nothing as far as they eye could see that demonstrated any level of detail, or anything of actual interest that had the slight possibility of exploration. Sad to say the game looks flat and bland and is certainly lacking some visual appeal. While the levels within the game do manage to diverse themselves and make use of scenery that fans will no doubt recognize from the TV show. Such as the air temple, the spirit world, and the South Pole.
"NPCs...that's another thing the game lacks and would've done well to make use off."
The levels themselves are quite linear, but rather than tight corner corridors of a Ninja’s dojo and narrow pathways of an icy mountain, the game gives the player a fair amount of freedom in which they can roam around while fighting with enemies.
Making good use of the game’s cross-media background and the lore that it roots from is crucial to a game of this type, and despite the few gripes I have with the game that’s not say there’s nothing here worth the player’s time. While the game starts off slow in the beginning and the game practically lives on repetition, there are a few elements laying within the game that makes it worthwhile.
For instance the power fantasy of earth, wind, fire, and water, that the game places in to the player’s hands do have their moments. Mashing the buttons while switching between each elements on the fly can result in some pretty spectacular effects and some interesting combos. And although the combos are simple in nature which is vastly different from what Platinum Games is using to presenting us with, the animations and stylish ways that Korra delivers these attacks do have some entertainment to them.
The game doesn’t go as deep as to suggest that the player should master the skills of one type of element, and later when it’s available become familiar with the next. Everything is fairly simple. The game also incorporates a unique counter system that allows Korra to deflect enemy projectiles such as elemental attacks and bolas. As well as melee attacks when going head to head with a group of enemies.
"The game doesn't go as deep as to suggest that the player should master the skills in one type of element and later when available become familiar with the next. Everything is fairly simple."
While the combat system in the game is designed to have Korra fighting groups of enemies at once rather than just single duels, the game could do well in catering more to this style as I found it to be a simple of formula of knowing when to counter and smashing my way through the hordes making use of Korra’s bending skills.
The game highlights when an enemy is about to attack as a sign for the player to hit the counter button, sadly though this starts to feel like a norm in the way you deal with enemies and it becomes a repetitive loop of doing the same thing over and over again.
Aspects about the combat system I did enjoy where the attacks that Korra delivers in response to countering. Moving the analog sticks in the direction the game tells you to in a small time frame after countering an enemy attack, will have Korra delivering a flying kick, an elemental attack, or some form of fast-paced brutality, that relies on the player button-bashing till Korra is ready to land the final blow.
Countering is basically a quick-time event of cinematic feedback, and if you don’t like quick-time events I don’t know what to tell you. It’s just how the countering works in this game. Think of it as a neutered variation of the button scripted events in Bayonetta 2 and you’ll have a better understanding of how the game functions. However with that being said and this being a title from Platinum Games, there’s a level of infuriating yet addictive and enjoyable difficulty that players will come to expect.
As to whether or not this game is addictive and challenging, and does well in delivering a sense of player feedback that was worth the hassle, is largely going to be down to personal preference. As I find out the repetitive nature of the game to offset any enjoyability and challenging moments I did have with the game.
"However with that being said and this being a title from Platinum Games, there's a level of infuriating yet addictive and enjoyable difficulty that players will come to expect."
Although the combat system lacks a certain level of depth and resides of anything complex that players will find themselves heavily involved in getting more skilled within. There is an item shop within the game that allows Korra to upgrade her health, damage attacks, and intensity of chi attacks, as well as items that are carried during gameplay that will activate in certain situations.
The majority of these items are just variations of the last but do prove useful in lending the player a helping hand. There’s also additional costumes to unlock as you progress through the game, some of which can be unlocked through secret codes entered at the game’s start screen.
Outside of the usual enemies the player will encounter there’s also boss battles to deal with in order to try and keep things interesting. Given the background and universe that resides within the TV show I think many would agree that the boos fights could have been a touch more interesting, as the game resorts to throwing out giant Mechs that the player must take note of in regards to the attack patterns they deliver that never seem to change.
Boss battles play out like a waiting game with the enemy refusing to change or variate any of their attacks. Drones, robots,and mechs always appear as cheap and lazy in games of this genre, and given the wide range of abilities that Korra possesses, an enemy of similar nature would have been more appreciated not to mention enjoyable. To break up the combat moments in the game there’s a mini-game present that players will most likely disregard as a Temple Run knockoff.
During these sequences Korra will call on her giant pet dog Naga and gameplay revolves around dodging cars, jumping gaps, sliding under obstacles, and making sharp turns. Just like Temple Run. While I familiarize these moments of the game to my younger years playing Naughty Dog’s Crash Bandicoot which involves riding a Tiger, Warthog, and a Panda Bear, as you hop over potholes, barrels, and blade-wielding enemies. The comparisons are justified.
"To break up the combat moments in the game there's a mini-game present that players will most likely disregard as a Temple Run knockoff."
Outside of the gameplay the visuals of the game take note of the animation seen in the TV series and attempt to replicate this as best. Safe to say it does a fair job of this other than the severe lack of detail within it’s levels, and the implementation of out-of-game cut-scenes which are identical to the show, the fan-service is welcomed.
Frankly I found the cartoon cut-scenes to be more interesting than the actual gameplay as gives the player a better look at who the characters in the game are, as well as making Korra seem like a more interesting character.
Aside from the game’s campaign mode there’s also an additional mode named Pro-Bending which is unlocked upon the completion of the campaign. Pro-Bending plays out as a tournament based arena mode of three on three, and must use their bending techniques in order to stun back their opponents in an attempt to face them off the edge of the arena. There’s also a time limit given to each round and it makes good use of the countering system, whereby the player must deflect back their enemies attacks as a means to and send them hurdling towards their defeat.
As expected by a cheaply priced downloadable title that’s greatly outshined by competition from the it’s camp, this isn’t exactly going to be a long game to get through. Taking around six and a half hours at most depending on which one of the three difficulty levels the player chooses to go with, there’s not much to go back for accept the game’s pro-bending mode. And as entertaining as this is it’s also fairly short lived and doesn’t offer much in the way of additional games modes or even variations of itself.
The Legend of Korra is a fun and mildly entertaining game but the amount repetition that goes on within almost every element of the game is something that can’t be ignored. And seeing how this is a title from Platinum Games the obvious let down that players will experience in regards to what they’ve come to expect from the studio, known for it’s over-the-top, fast-paced, action-ludicrosity is without a doubt going to have players feeling turned-off, as the game is very slow and largely dialled down in comparison to the other titles the studio is known for producing.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox One.
Brief moments of enjoyable combat once the game gets underway.
Painfully frustrating repetitive combat.
The Legend of Korra by all means should have been a much more enjoyable games given the studio behind the title. But the large amount of repetition and lack of level design conflicts with player enjoyability.