Advent Rising

The title of this review is a fascinating one. Advent Rising is the only game developed by GlyphX Games, who previously only did promotional videos, cinematics and artwork for various video games. This was clearly a personal project for Donald and Geremy Mustard, since they went so far to become the game’s designers and the creators of its story. Their project was going to be a big franchise with Advent Rising serving as only the first game in a trilogy, but the planned sequels and tie-in novels never came to be. Thank God for that, as this is a pile of hot mess that is full of itself with no clear direction. 


Star Wars: the god complex, directed by Micheal Bay

In an unspecified time and universe (besides that it is sci-fi), we meet our protagonist Gideon Wyeth, a renown pilot who is making a stop at a space station to meet up with his brother. After Gideon and his brother Ethan fought off some lacklustre bullies, they are assigned to escort a group of human ambassadors to a meeting with the strange fish-alien race called Aurelians. They tell the humans that they are looked upon as gods and warn them of another alien race called Seekers, who are setting out to destroy them. A little too late for this warning, as their space station is under attack by Seekers the moment our protagonist returns to it. Gideon leaps to attack the aliens scanning people, and rescue his love interest.

Gideon’s journey really does not become more interesting than him trying to take down these fiends and anyone else threatening him. It is a meagre story where our hero eventually learns basically force powers and that he is God. Not just a god, but as in the almighty singular one. This is presented severely blatant with forced imagery and awkward dialogues from the aliens trying too hard to make their sentences sound grand with silent voices and huge vocabulary that are unnecessary. This gets incredibly tiresome, as they are just long and abstract ways of saying “Gideon is their divine saviour” multiple times.

This is terribly unengaging and uncomfortable. In fact, it got to the point where I started siding with the villains, since they are at least upfront about their hunger for power. Furthermore, while the enemies are one-note power-hungry creatures, at least they are not Gideon or any of his comrades. Gideon is the worst protagonist I have ever had the misfortune of meeting. He is always cocky, never shows care for his friends, and when he is supposed to have a deep moment for his losses, it is all so shallow implemented with dull flashbacks that never show personal bonds to anything and are accompanied by music that tries to force in that these moments are sad. This is further damaged by how quickly these moments end, with our main character going back to cracking unflattering jokes.

Speaking of which, that is really the only thing the human characters do. These jokes have the quality of a teenager trying to be edgy while their parents are supervising, making every adult humour awkwardly PG. I severely blame the writers Orson Scott Card and Cameron Dayton for this, since the characters are just stereotypical jerks you see in movies where they cast only the bland and good looking actors. None of the minor human characters are any better either, as they are simply there to fill a role such as the love interest, the bro, or the other love interest. Everyone cracks the same poor jokes about wedgies and strange innuendos.

This is made even more frustrating by the game’s different tones and the lack of good transitions between them. Characters throw fits everywhere, are never logical about who should go into battle and why, and can go from being serious to a kid on a sugar rush with a water gun within the blink of an eye. The story is all over the place with no structure, making me not care about any event or character.

Even when “lore” is introduced, it is presented in long dialogue sequences that would make Shyamalan blush. When every paragraph of text could be reduced to one sentence each, it becomes simply tedious to listen to them. This is especially infuriating when you realise that it is all ripped off from Star Wars with sprinkles of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, just with no interesting insight in how this world is structured or even how their version of the force works. Because of this, everything becomes shallow. No world-building or banter between NPCs can help, as it never matches up to what you actually see. There is not even a reason for why humans can breathe in outer space!

This game made me angry, due to it being just toxic masculinity and views femininity as a negative aspect. There is nothing wrong with a game focusing on fun action, but when there are so many forced moments, unintelligent lore and terrible characters included in the foreground, then the action is never a highlight and I only became frustrated dealing with angsty jocks. This is hot flaming garbage of a story, and it makes me glad that the cliffhanger ending never got resolved. At least then I can make my own fanfiction, where the shallow villains win.

Story Score: 1/10


Like shooting your own foot with an RPG

The core gameplay is at first just underwhelming. Advent Rising is a linear third-person shooter, with plenty of bizarre additions that make it go from shallow to downright awful. At first, it does not seem too bad. Gideon can hold up to two different guns, which he can dual wield if he chooses to. The left and right mouse buttons work for shooting with either of the two guns respectively, and the concept is clever for mixing up different guns for varied situations or for blasting through with all the weapons you find.

However, that is all the praise I can give this game. Gideon has the ability to dodge, but it is badly implemented due to it having a second of delay after each dodge, making you a sitting duck. In fact, jumping around is a better option since it is faster and actually reliable. The shooting is also full of issues, as while there is a good variety of guns, none are significant enough to make for interesting strategies. Personally, I stuck with rapid-firing weapons and RPGs throughout the game, nothing else. I actually forgot that this game had a sniper rifle and a form of a flamethrower, until I reviewed the footage. This is because I was never forced or intrigued to experiment, due to how insignificant and boring the guns were.

The shooting could still have been entertaining, had it not been for a bug. Despite aiming dead centre at an enemy or even locking onto one, Gideon would get constantly stuck every other minute in a part of an animation and shoot in a completely different direction. This becomes especially frustrating whenever I shot rockets or threw grenades and Gideon aimed at a wall, despite my crosshair being towards an open environment where an enemy was. There is also an FPS mode, but since your mobility and view is limited when entering this perspective, it was completely useless in this fast-paced game. On another note, who uses melee combos in a shooter? Not a singular attack for close-up kills, but combos for dealing minor damage? As you might be able to tell, this never came in handy throughout this game, despite being implemented.

This awkward and tedious shooting was made even worse by two other bland designs: the enemies and the levels. Every single location is flat and structured linearly, giving no interesting layouts for clever fights. The locations that feature a wider scope are too open and barren to be intriguing, and those with actual altitude are barely noticeable due to holding maximum two levels of floors. Because of this, no fight became engaging. I cannot even remember a moment I crouched because of this.

Then we have the fiends. While there is an attempt at providing variety, such as fighting big heavy machines, jumping aliens or those with dual-blades that can reflect bullets, none were memorable threats. This is because all were easy to take down with simple tactics, such as pummelling them down with my dual-set of rapid guns or exploiting their AI. In fact, the AI is utter trash as they will either jump into their death, shoot each other or get stuck in the constructions. Because of this, fights got tiresome and boring.

The boss fights are just terrible. They only require you to jump a bit and move in a circle while attacking. Everything is simply dull and uninspired at this point. However, I would rather take these low points over the other variety Advent Rising offers. Driving any car is bumpy and always focuses on poor ramps and tight areas to drive in, the turret sections are uninspired busywork, flying a ship is slow and drags on, and escorting wounded characters by your shoulder just limits your movement and contains no interesting threats. Come to think of it, an actual run button would have been welcoming in general.

We are not done, however. Despite that the enemies never evolve with better or more interesting setups, the game has force mechanics that you must use at least once each. These can be generating shields, pushing objects and people away, lift them up and so on. However, none of these matter as you will have to exchange one of the guns for one of these powers, forcing you to neglect weapons that are actually useful.

The powers do recharge after being used, but they come with slow movement or uncomfortable controls. For example, throwing a fiend away forces you to lock on to an enemy, which limits the camera, and then you have to jerk the mouse around, which also controls the camera. This made me disoriented and sick every time I had to use it, with the strength of the force never being comparable to an actual firearm. I never wanted to use these powers, and only did to make sure that I did not miss anything or whenever the game forced me to use them for a minor segment in order to progress.

This is also destroyed by the fact that in the halfway point of the game, you have already levelled up your favourite guns significantly. Yes, there are some RPG elements in this title where you can level up force powers, gun skills, melee, dodging and even jumping by simply using them. However, I only noticed minor improvements to stats as the special abilities some levels came with, like secondary shots, are never needed or interesting. Even more strange, is that the max level to each stat is 5 and it is far from difficult to achieve this level quickly. Picture this: you can upgrade your melee to only level 5 in a shooter that is barely 6 hours long. This is a bizarre level of useless ideas implemented. I am almost surprised that you cannot level up your ledge grabbing.

Then we have the tons of glitches, such as dying from running into a standing car, enemies getting stuck in death animations, doors getting stuck, the lock-on being faulty and glitching out, or even Gideon falling through the environment. I almost thought that the regenerative health I eventually got was another glitch, until I noticed that the medical kits for healing were gone. Bottom line, this is a train wreck and for a 6 hours game to fill me with this many questions for design-choices and utter lack of care, it should speak volumes. 

Gameplay Score: 1/10


How do you make space boring?

All I could think off while playing this title, was how uninspired it all felt. I suppose the best description I can give of this game is if Beyond Good and Evil got adapted to a movie and was directed by the makers of the Final Fantasy movie. Every human’s attire is based on a simple getup that is a mix of Star Trek’s minimalistic shirt with what the 1960s thought the future would look like. Even worse, the important characters have very uninteresting hairstyles and looks that makes me wonder if the game reused character models.

Sadly, the aliens are just as boring as they are either insectoid or fishes with long limbs, with no interesting details. Even the areas you visit are uninspired, with them ranging between dull cafeterias, white cities with skyscrapers, something reminiscent of an aquarium, bleak forests and dreary tombs. Nothing is done to make areas significant or memorable, making me wonder if they were stolen from other properties. You could argue there is variety here, but when you are set in a sci-fi universe that is meant to be original, you have to do more than this to stand out. Star Wars 2: Attack of the Clones has more originality with its 50s diner than this mess.

The action fares slightly better, but not because of the guns. Even if they shoot different projectiles, it is only partially noticeable due to their impact never being clear. The only exceptions to this, are the explosions that can be admittedly neat and the environmental damage that helps to create some immersion. Even if that is it, it is at least something. The technical level is also poor with low textures and reflections of light that are inconsistent. Though the CGI cutscenes can look decent, the stiff animations and horrible frame rate makes it all a chore and uncomfortable to get through. To top it all off, we also have fake widescreen and yellow colours that hurts my eyes whenever I am visiting the menu.

The music by Tommy Tallerico, Emmanuel Fratiannia, Michael Richard Plowman and Laurie Robinson is a strange departure from their original works. Taking composers known for intriguing and cinematic soundtrack with each having their own style and tempo, is not a bad idea for variety. So why have they only made church choirs and orchestral scores for this title? While the music can be strong, it comes off as forced whenever it is used because of how ill placed the tracks are and the lack of solid buildups. It makes the entire soundtrack come off as pretentious and limited with nothing original provided in its genre or tone. I honestly hate how so much talent got wasted.

In fact, this ties in well to the voice actors. Will Friedel, Vanessa Marshall, Stefan Marks, and the rest are all fantastic and diverse actors that really do whatever they can with the roles they are given. Yet every direction here is of an edgy teenager, making their talents never truly utilised. I really feel bad for them, as these actors have a range of voices and tones. Even the sound effects are poor, since explosions can be weak, and with the different ammunition being shot, it can create plenty of audio-crunches. Details like bantering NPCs do not help here, especially when even they can sound utterly bored.

Presentation Score: 2/10


Options that leaves more questions than entertainment

The idea of a level select is wasted, since no part of the game is worth revisiting. Not even with cheats, which oddly enough even includes the Konami code of all things! Speaking of, there are some strange secrets that reference other games, yet Advent Rising never encourages exploration for hidden goodies. Because of this, it makes these secrets feel like forced attempts at making Advent Rising seem intriguing. There is even a reference to Mario of all things. One choice in the beginning will be significant to later cutscenes, but since I never cared about the characters, it is just there for you to randomly choose. Either way, the story still follows the same path, with only an epilogue battle being slightly different. No reason to even play through this mess ones, let alone a second time.

Extra Score: 1/10


Verdict

I remember the first thing I pondered upon after beating this title. All I could think of was whether this was worse than Darkened Skye or not. Even bringing that question up is not good, but I actually have to say that this is now the worst game I have ever finished. Go play any title from the Halo-series, the Mass Effect-trilogy or any of the Metroid games. This is a game that had its downfall coming and I do not see any reason for its existence.

10/100

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