Asura’s Wrath is the grandest, most epic game on the planet; it’s a game that makes the entire God of War series look like nothing more than a stroll in the park. Combining a solid story with truly awe-inspiring action sequences and enemies the size of planets, Wrath is one of the most awesome things you’ll play this year.
It doesn’t gradually lure you into the colossal scale of the game, either – as the introductory credits roll down the screen, Asura hurtles towards earth, blasting gargantuan enemies in an almost Child of Eden-esque way, whilst performing quick time events to clear the enemies in his path. It’s explosive, colourful and quite a magnificent introduction, which shows exactly what to expect from the next six or seven hours – epic battles combined with both interactive and non-interactive cutscenes.
Twelve thousand years after this introduction is where the real story begins. Asura, taken over by his rage after being betrayed by his fellow demigods – now self-proclaimed deities and apparent saviours of the world Gaea – is on a mission to avenge his wife and save his daughter from the ones he once stood beside, saving the world from the threat of the evil Gohma in the process.
Essentially, Asura’s Wrath removes the necessity for getting to the objective and instead fills that with a relatively strong narrative, blending the line between animation and interactive media, and often combining both for action-packed sequences that prominently feature quick time events. If you’re not a fan of QTEs or set-pieces, then this isn’t the game for you. Yes, there are frequently regular real-time combat sections, in which you’ll fight all manner of enemies, but these often end in another QTE or feature yet more interactive cutscenes.
Anime lovers will appreciate the setting and style, which is a blend of Asian mythology and sci-fi. Think Dragon Ball Z merged with Star Wars – complete with over-the-top dubbed voice acting (or a choice of the the original Japanese voice work, if that’s what you’re into) and more fighting than… well, a fighting game. The episodic format is done very well, with animation credits appearing at the start of each episode and the game itself is even split up into season-like sections.
The actual combat in the game flows rather well, even though it’s largely a one-button affair, with another button used for heavier, finishing attacks that take time to recharge and another for ranged shooting. As you defeat enemies and string combos together by mashing the circle button (and hold it in for more powerful, dash attacks), you charge up both your Infinity gauge and Burst gauge. The Infinity gauge, when charged and then activated, allows Asura to use his heavy attacks without charging, and increases damage resistance.
The Burst gauge, then, is a much more prominent and a very important feature in the game. Not only does it allow for super attacks on most of the bosses, but at times it forwards the game, starting the next section or finishing off an interactive cutscene. It’s a great, powerful feature, but means most battles have one goal: charging up the Burst gauge in order to win. Some sections will even be on-rails, as you race through an area at lightning speed or hurtle through space towards enemies, firing projectiles at the enemies as you go.[drop2]Asura himself will have, at times, six arms and at others zero. His anger is the fuel behind his combat abilities, and the more fury exerted, the more powerful he’ll get, changing his appearance in the process – this is a brilliant mechanic and is intertwined with the plot to be used to its full potential.
Often the combat will enter a QTE section, and as well as mashing circle, pushing the sticks in the right direction or pressing one of the other face buttons, opportunities will arise where you have to press triangle at the right time in order to get a ‘Good’, ‘Great’ or ‘Excellent’ rating. These ratings, along with battle points and time taken in combat combine at the end of each episode to give you a grade, ranging from a complete failure, F, up to A and then an S rating for near immaculate performances.
Depending on how well you do in each episode, you’ll unlock many extras, including art, videos and even new gauges which, as well as aesthetically changing the HUD, offer bonuses such as a quicker charging or longer lasting Infinity gauge. These ratings will bring you back to an episode, in order to better your score.
As for the enemies themselves, there’s everything from the evil Gohma – which appear as black and red coloured versions of animals such as apes, giant turtles, flying fish or colossal elephants – to the minions of those you seek revenge on. As for bosses, Asura’s Wrath has the biggest in the Universe. One boss, in fact, grows to be bigger than Earth itself and words simply can’t describe some of the other mammoth enemies you’ll face.
The story isn’t groundbreaking (that’s saved for the enormous enemies), but it is one that works well. The sci-fi mixed with fantasy allows for a well-paved tale, with a twist or two along the way as Asura’s anger grows. Asura, being the angriest living thing in the Universe, isn’t the most likeable character ever, and this is played out well, showing the story from both sides. There’s interludes between episodes to explain the story in more detail and the way it’s presented and told is brilliant, despite a few plot discrepancies.[boxout]It’s not all good, though, as you’ll soon realise that the entire game boils down to a string of battles and QTEs, which, whilst varied, make for a lot more to be desired as it guides you through the game with ease. The transitions between cutscenes and set-pieces aren’t perfect, either, which breaks the flow somewhat.
It only has one mode too, which lasts seven hours at most, with the actual gameplay sections encompassing less than half of this; most of the game is cutscenes – some of which are interactive. Asura’s Wrath is actually a rather shallow game and beside going back and trying to get the highest grade, or replaying your favourite sections, there isn’t a lot to do once it’s over.
Visually, though, Asura’s Wrath is impressive – it’s a sublime look akin to the cel-shaded Prince of Persia game, though a lot more defined. The juxtaposition of the Asian fantasy setting on the planet, with the sci-fi setting above is brilliant and does wonders for the style, allowing for a very colourful, explosive game. The music also fits perfectly and is often majestic, accompanied by the ridiculous (but true to the style) voice acting.
- Overflowing with action.
- Some of the most epic fights ever.
- It’s certainly a different approach from what we’re used to seeing
- Enemies bigger than Earth itself.
- Non-stop action, permeated with a good story that fuses sci-fi and fantasy.
- Blends animation and gameplay to create an interactive experience.
- It’s all cutscenes, battles and quick time events.
- There isn’t much to do after completion.
- The gameplay always ends in charging, and then using, your Burst gauge.
- If you’re not a fan of quick time events, you won’t last a minute.
- You’re basically guided through the game – you can’t stray off course.
Asura’s Wrath could have been very disappointing – in fact, in some ways it is. There isn’t any exploring, anything to collect or any upgrades and it’s all very scripted and beyond linear. Those are things we’d expect from a normal game though, and Asura’s Wrath shows that it’s anything but that. To put it simply, Wrath will leave you in awe with the incredible enormity of it all. It’s a good story with a brilliant setting, and everything is in working order.
It’s by no means a brilliant game, but it is a good piece of interactive fiction and a new approach, which we’ll happily welcome with open arms. Six of them.