Many episodic games have come to light the past few years. Most have pertained to point and click adventure sequences played out like a movie, so it’s interesting to see how Korgan, a dungeon crawler game developed by indie dev Codestalkers, will take the episodic approach. With games like Telltale Games: The Walking Dead, each episode advances the story a bit further, while giving all control pertaining to choices in the hands of the player. With Korgan being in the genre that it is, one would speculate that there is little option for choice. Despite that, how well does the episodic formula work for a game like Korgan?
When you first start Korgan, you’ll find yourself in control of the warrior Korgan, and his two companions a mage and a hunter, Sedine, and Meldie. The game never advises whether Sedine is the hunter or if Meldie is the mage, so that’s left for the player to speculate. The game presently has two episodes available. The prologue episode is a free download featuring three different dungeons for the player to experience. The 1st episode picks up immediately after the prologue ends and allows players to continue from where they left off. The game has somewhat of a progressive storyline. You never get a backstory for the characters you are playing, and you never find out what lead up to this point. The only text cutscenes you are presented with instruct what is happening in the present day.
What I liked:
Simplistic Design – Possibly the strongest aspect comes from the ability to pick up and play the game. There’s no steep learning curve. The controls are laid out nicely, and even if it’s your first dungeon crawler or role-playing game, it’s the perfect one to start with. Each character has their own set of abilities. The Warrior carries an ax with a light and strong attack. His special ability allows him to enrage and do significantly more damage. The hunter wields a crossbow with two different attacks. The basic attack shoots one bolt at a time, while the secondary attack shoots three arrows at a time while consuming more energy. Her special ability allows for three critical bolts to be released. The mage calls forth a fireball spell which acts as her basic attack and an ice spell that can freeze enemies, which is her secondary. For her special, she calls in a short lightning storm that reigns down on enemies. You can switch between characters on the fly with a simple press of a button. Different attacks can be chained together in unique ways between characters. Characters can also equip different items looted from enemies, or purchased from shops to increase base stats such as strength or vitality (health).
What I didn’t:
Character Imbalance – Out of the 3 characters available, players will quickly find that only two of the classes are useful. The mage is the best choice out the gate. The mage’s spells can be cast at any range and travel to the end of the screen. The ice spell she carries is most effective as freezing pursuing enemies in place for a short time quickly turns the tide in your favor. As the mage’s skills are upgraded, her overall effectiveness doubles. Her final skill which allows for 10% less mana used (up to 40% max) really makes her unstoppable with spell spamming. The mage’s special ability is also the most effective. Grouping a bunch of enemies into a small area and casting lightning down on them is punishing. The best part about it is how quickly her special ability returns after she uses it. The hunter is the second most effective fighter available. The crossbow bolts allow you to fight your opponents at a distance. There’s no way to freeze your opponents, but the amount of damage her bolts does help to defeat enemies quickly. Her special attack is supposed to be more damaging, but there’s really no difference in the amount of damage it does to an enemy versus her secondary attack which seemingly does the same thing. The hunter can also disarm traps faster than the other two classes. The warrior is the least effective of the three. His basic ax swing is a horizontal swing that does a decent amount of damage. The heavy attack is a vertical swing towards the ground that does a bit more. The problem with these attacks is the short delay after using them. The second or two that it takes for the warrior to recover after the attack can make all the difference in close quarters, especially when you’re up against more than one opponent. His enrage special ability is useful if you can pull it off. Activating the ability has the warrior standing still for a brief few seconds which still allows enemies to attack you while doing so. The warrior is least effective during most boss fights. Unless the boss is frozen and unable to move, getting anywhere near the boss will cause the warrior to be instantly hit. That’s not to say the warrior doesn’t have his moments. There is one specific enemy in the game that can only be damaged by the warrior’s ax. It’s just disappointing that a game named around the warrior character has him as the weakest character.
Lack of Story – As a player, I enjoy when a game pulls me in. Korgan will give you a short summary of the present, but in regards to a true backstory of the world you are playing in or the characters you are controlling is almost non-existent. In the beginning cutscene of the prologue, you see a few excerpts with brief details regarding brief tidbits of information, but all of these excerpts aren’t given any context. Everything is left up to the player’s imagination. Who exactly is Korgan? Why should I care about him? Who are the Shadow Legion? Why should I be so focused on fighting this cult when for all we know they could be good people? Moving into the 1st episode, the game seems to leave players feeling more and more empty in regards to detail of what’s going on. The 1st episode closes so poorly it would leave one wondering if more episodes are on the way or if they have in fact completed the game.
Repetitive and Predictable – Once you start playing through the prologue, you’ll start to notice a repeating system of objectives. Almost every level in Korgan will task you with completing 3 main objectives before having you face off against a boss for that level. In each level, there are also optional secondary quests that offer next to no reward for completing them. Main objectives relate to either killing a certain enemy, scouting a number of locations in the level or searching a location for an item. Scouting an area is simply walking over to a random wall or object and pressing and holding the right stick in. There is no rhyme or reason to doing it; it’s just the task you are given. Searching for an item is the exact same concept, except you’re required to walk to dirt mounds on the ground and press and hold in the right stick. The enemies you are required to kill are also unfortunately not unique. Most are just an enemy you’ve already fought countless times only with a more damaging attack and more health. There is also the main objective that’s repeated in a few levels for destroying portals. The problem with this objective is that it’s not really understood what these portals are for considering enemies spawn in whenever and wherever they like regardless. Secondary quests are almost always finding chests or defeating a specific enemy in the level that’s not required for the main objectives. The bosses in each level are simple. As long as you run in a circle and shoot spells or the crossbow, you’ll have no real issue.
No Penalty for Death – In most games, once your characters reach 0 health points, it’s either game over or you start back at a reset checkpoint or last save point with a penalty applied. In Korgan, you’re met with a “You died!” screen similar to that of the Dark Souls series. The game will then let you continue, which will take you back to the start of the dungeon, or you can quit to the main menu. Death in Korgan appears to heed no penalty. Any objectives you’ve completed prior to dying are still completed. You still have all your weapons, currency and your characters are back to full health. Furthermore, if any one character’s health reaches 0, it’s game over. Death in Korgan can work to your advantage. Running in as the mage and casting lightning over an enemy or objective to eliminate it is possible. You may die to do so, but you’ll start right at the beginning of the dungeon with one more objective completed.
Korgan is a game that fails on many fronts. The lack of a story is definitely the biggest issue. The world you’re playing in feels empty and lifeless. The characters you’re controlling are forgettable to the extent that you don’t know anything about them other than their class and skills. The enemies are only bad because the game is telling you so, not because you’ve been given any reason to despise them. The objectives in each level quickly become predictable and repetitive. Every boss no matter their size is the same. Their simple programming allows a player to easily dodge their attacks and run around in a circle shooting the mages spells or the hunter’s crossbows. Korgan is not a game that can be recommended. Really it’s a game you’d have to experience for yourself and see if you enjoy. Luckily, since the prologue is free, consider playing through the first three levels and see if you enjoy it. If you find yourself entertained, then consider purchasing the 1st episode. Otherwise, it’s best to turn around and walk away.
Score: Limited Appeal
Korgan was developed and Published by Codestalkers. The game released on April 27, 2018. The Prologue released for free and the 1st episode released for $19.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.