Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The Legend of Korra

Post-Launch Review
The Legend of Korra (PC)
Developer: PlatinumGames
Released: October 2014
Played: story complete in 4h:42min


Between the events of the show's second and third seasons, avatar Korra is ambushed by chi blockers and a mysterious old man, who somehow manage to take away her bending. With no time to stop and figure out what they've done to her, Korra must regain her bending on the run and fight off chi blockers, triad, and mecha tanks as she attempts to discover the identity and objective of the old man.

At Launch

Reviews were mixed, with console scores in the low 50s and PC scores at a slightly higher 60. Reviewers enjoyed the combat animations, but complained that the game felt like a "light" version of Platinum's typical fare. Many critics felt that the game misunderstood or failed to respect the source material, with no plot or characters and disjointed and frustrating segments and minigames.

Post Launch

Some lazy looking around revealed no evidence of post-launch patching. 

Strap yourselves in because this is going to be one of the only negative reviews I've ever written.

I noticed right away that some of the voice actors from the TV series are back, which really gives the game a feeling of familiarity and authenticity. Only briefly, though - Korra doesn't get to hang out with any of the show's characters and is on her own the whole time. The cutscene animation perfectly mimics the show's style, but is noticeably choppy in a low-budget not-enough-frames kind of way. In-game character animation is lacking in facial movement, but character movement and Korra's techniques and bending look excellent.
The game is very much a combat-focused arena brawler. The story is bare-bones, just enough to justify all the fights in various locations from the show. It doesn't add anything meaningful to the characters, lore, or world, and isn't particularly interesting, and fight areas are just big flat circles or squares.

Combat, on the other hand, is solid, responsive, and well-animated. Dodges, counters, and blocks can be tossed in to any combo sequence instantly, and the four bending styles all look and feel unique as well as having their own combat roles (water is for ranged attack, earth is heavy close combat, fire is about speed, and air is for groups). There's a reasonable amount of enemy variety for a short game. Bosses follow the typical Platinum style of having a huge pool of hit points and requiring multiple attempts to learn their attacks and patterns, which can be frustrating at first, but feel rewarding to clear.
When you have all the elements unlocked and levelled and upgraded, it's really cool to be able to switch between the four combat styles instantly and at will. Unfortunately you don't gain access to all of them until more than halfway through the game. I would have greatly preferred to have weak, basic versions of all four elements and have to level them up through use. Upgrading doesn't actually feel like upgrading, more like removing a handicap - early in each element's progression, the combos feel weirdly incomplete or disjointed. I get the feeling that in a bigger, higher-budget game, the final combo strings would be the baseline.

There are a few runner-style segments where Korra rides her polar bear-dog Naga. These feel a little bit out of place, but not overly so, and do help to shake things up now and then. The game also opens and closes with pro bending matches, and you can unlock that game mode after clearing the story. They felt a little too simplistic - you only have access to one element, and it's really just about mashing the attack button and pressing dodge or block now and then.

I really don't have that much to say about this game. The core combat and animations are solid, and it's great to have the series' voice actors, but everything else is pretty weak. I didn't hate it, but it adds nothing to Korra's story and doesn't really let you feel like the avatar until too late. The show wasn't perfect, but it had a lot of great characters and dealt with some surprisingly deep and mature themes. Unfortunately, the game has none of the show's strengths.

Recommendation: don't play it.

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