Guest Author - James Shea
Based on a sci-fi imagining of Hindu mythology, "Asura's Wrath" is a high-powered beat-em-up game with a bit too much focus on its cinematic aspects.
"Asura's Wrath" takes place in a world based on Hindu mythology; however, the "gods" in this universe are actually space-borne beings who watch over the earth, and the "demons" are a constantly-respawning race of beings called the Gohma. The player takes the role of Asura, one of the Eight Guardian Generals who leads the gods' forces against the Gohma. However, after temporarily defeating the Gohma, Asura is betrayed by the other generals and his daughter is taken prisoner to enact a world-changing scheme. Asura swears revenge, vowing to destroy the other gods and rescue his daughter.
Gameplay in Asura's Wrath is "beat-em-up" style, with Asura fighting against many opponents at a time using his fists and energy blasts. The gameplay itself handles pretty well, with responsive controls and some satisfying counter attacks. The problem with the gameplay, though, is that it's not really that important or relevant. Cinematics play a big role in the game; in fact, despite the game's ostensible action focus, it really feels in some places like the "action" is just there to move you to the next cutscene or (more likely) Quick-Time Event. QTEs are all over the place in this game; you use them to counter enemy attacks, you use them to execute your own powerful attacks, and you use them after you've beaten an enemy to continue the cutscene along.
In fact, "beating the enemy" is rarely ever the main goal: your actual goal is to take and inflict enough damage that you can activate your super-mode and begin the QTE process. This means that the majority of the game's combat is essentially filler: you're not "defeating enemies", you're just punching them long enough so you can let the game beat them for you. This is further emphasized by the episodic formula of the game's story, where the actual "fight" part of an episode may be a five minute segment between cutscenes.
The game's graphics are nice, with an aesthetic style similar to that of Street Fighter 4's ink-based shading. The stylization of the world draws from Indian statues and sculptures, albeit with a glossy sci-fi twist. While it's certainly unique in its own way, it just never really feels that important. I wasn't that impressed with what I saw even though it was very well-rendered from a technical standpoint. It all just felt so busy and polished that I couldn't really see it as anything but a game - a nice-looking game, I suppose, but a game nonetheless. There was no sense of novelty or exploration or discovery, it was just "here's more of the same".
Maybe it's just my own pre-conception about the game, but I couldn't help but be disappointed by Asura's Wrath. Going into it, I thought it would be a high-powered, combat-heavy game, using its unusual aesthetic and theme to justify some really over-the-top combat. In reality, the "over-the-top" parts are cutscenes, with a periodic button-press to justify it as gameplay. The game itself remains pretty much the same throughout the course of the story even though in cutscenes you're destroying monsters the size of planets (quite literally). Asura's Wrath feels like it shouldn't be bad, but it is. Its story is weak, its gameplay is shunted to the side, and all the game's best moments are barely-interactive cutscenes. I guess it's nice if you want to watch an action movie, but if you want to play a game, don't pick up Asura's Wrath.
We purchased this game with our own funds to do this review.
Buy Asura's Wrath from Amazon.com