Review – Goken
Goken is an early access title from developers Gianty that attempts to “bring back everything that was right about gaming in an action packed open world environment in the form of the good old Action RPG genre and have the old school gamers tremble in nostalgia.” That is quite the bold statement, but besides a few balance and pacing problems Gianty developed a solid action JRPG with good looks and some pretty funny humor.
In Goken you play as Edge, the infamous swordsman who wields the 5 sacred swords made by the Gods. The swordsman brought peace and order to the world. One day, during a fete to praise the gods, the blades of the swordsman turned against the gods for reasons unknown. Furious by his powers one of the gods, Ozone, sealed the swordsman away on top of a mountain known as Swords Peak. Our tale begins 5,000 years after this event when a young boy attempts to free one of the swords from a crystal and accidentally releases the swordsman from his prison. Here begins the swordsman’s tale of recollecting his swords, discovering why his swords turned, and to find a decent meal after 5,000 years.
Combat is simple, consisting of three hit attacks with a chance of performing a super attack on the third hit. While this makes the beginning hour of the game drag on due to only having one weapon, it does get better once you obtain your second sword. You will be able to equip a main and secondary weapon and are able to swap between the attacks with the three hit combo. It’s by no means a complex system, but there’s enough variety in situations that will be requiring you to swap for certain enemy encounters. Each weapon has their own unique style and some will even give you access to secret areas or you will have to use them to proceed in the game.
Each weapon can be upgraded by using a combination of materials dropped by enemies and your currency. Each upgrade changes the look of the weapon and, of course, the weapon’s stats. My main concern here is the item drop rate is very low and will require you to grind an area for far too long. This is where my balancing issue comes into play. To get an upgrade on my sword I spent a long while grinding a looped area and I would get one drop in every ten or fifteen kills, and with needing eight or more materials from each enemy it made it quite the grind fest. This also led me to over-level and become over powered. In that one run to just get one upgrade on my one sword I leveled seven times. You can purchase upgrade materials from stores, but don’t expect to purchase all of them for two reasons. 1) They are darn expensive. 2) The shops only carry a couple of each item.
The swordsman also has the ability to dash by using a portion of your stamina. While this is obviously a useful ability in combat, it was mostly used to quickly travel, which brings up another issue. The game is open world and while it’s not a massive world, you will be walking quite a bit and the standard movement is slow. This forced me to dash during most of my exploration which means I was always low on stamina when I came to an encounter and the stamina regenerates pretty slowly. There are consumable items to help refill your stamina, but again they are dropped infrequently and are better obtained through purchasing them.
The upgrade system is pretty creative, however. While experience upgrades give you the standard HP, stamina and damage upgrades, it also gives you ink. Ink can then be used at a tattoo artist to further upgrade you weapons and stats. The weapons offer a mostly set list of upgrades, but there are also “free ink slots” where you will be able to use found ink that offer different stat boosts. As you unlock these upgrades a new piece of the tattoo is unlocked and while that is a cool gimmick, it sort of loses its uniqueness since you can’t actually see the tattoos on the swordsman’s body.
There is also a decently sized pool of enemy designs, but some of the basic enemies are just re-skinned to fit in the different world areas. But Gianty did put in the effort to change some attacks even for the re-skinned characters to fit in the different environments so it doesn’t feel like a complete re-skin. Enemies will also damage you with various elemental status effects, from freezing and burning to cursing and dazing. Consumable items and ink upgrades can help protect you from these status effects, but there were a few times during a boss fight where they would spam a daze attack and before the status effect would time out they would use the same attack again getting me stuck in a constant dazes state, consuming most of my HP. Also, while dazed, you can’t use items in your quick menu to heal or remove the daze.
The graphic design is very nice, offering a very stylized hand drawn look and, while there are no graphical settings, the appearance is sharp and good looking and performed flawlessly during my playthrough. Each area of the world has a very distinct look with bright colors and is detailed well with some interactive elements. Goken, features your typical RPG areas: snowy mountains, lava filled volcanoes, lush woods, but they also have a few unique areas that were nice to see. The sound design is decent, not all of the sound effects are great or the highest quality, but the music is fantastic. Each area and town all have their own unique tune, each boss fight has its own battle music. My only complaint is that every step, no matter the surface, your feet make the same sound which does get a little irritating, but you quickly block it out after a while.
Despite a few small pacing and balance problems which could easily be adjusted during its early access stage, Goken, was a fun game that actually had me laughing a couple times. Between the varied environments and classic ARPG elements, Gianty gets very close to hitting their bold mission statement. While Goken is a pretty straight forward story driven RPG with no actual side missions, there were a few other things that I could go back for and discover that aren’t a part of the main story or any quest. I also appreciated that there are zero waypoints, no trail to follow to your next destination, just your own ability to listen to quest destinations and go explore.
A copy of Goken was provided by developer.
Goken is available now in early access on Steam.