Review – Ultra Age
If there is one game that perfectly encapsulates the meaning of the expression “don’t judge a book by its cover”, it’s Ultra Age. At first, the game presents itself as something so unbelievably janky and poorly presented, I was immediately thinking to myself: “this is gonna be one of those games, isn’t it”. It took me about half an hour and an open mind to get past that initial terrible impression, only to be presented by what’s basically a low budget, but very competent hack ‘n’ slash inspired by the likes of Devil May Cry and Nier: Automata.
Ultra Age is set in the 32nd century and features a convoluted story revolving around your purpose in the world, cybernetics, saving humanity from extinction, and a lot of Nier-esque mumbo jumbo that, in theory, should be interesting. Sadly, it isn’t. It’s not even because of the story itself, but because of the way it’s presented. The game is very dialogue-heavy, with a ton of cutscenes and exposition dumps. And boy oh boy, the voice acting does not help at all.
It’s shocking just how bad the damn voice acting was right from the first line of dialogue uttered by our protagonist, the titular Age. Dear lord, it’s terrible. It’s the kind of voice acting that doesn’t even sound so bad to the point of being good. This is the kind of awful voice acting in which someone would have to put a ton of effort in order to sound so over-the-top and amateurish. Given how the game is filled with dialogue scenes and exposition, I just couldn’t stand listening to more than three seconds of it at a time. I had to skip the plot in its entirety and simply enjoy the game for what it had to offer in terms of gameplay. Thankfully, it delivers in this regard.
What we have here is a game whose combat mechanics are clearly inspired by Devil May Cry and most games made by Platinum, such as Metal Gear Rising and Bayonetta. Ultra Age has a fast-paced, sword-based combat system focused around performing combos with your light and heavy attacks and performing timed dodges in order to slow down time for a millisecond. So far, so good, but that’s not all that Ultra Age has to offer. It does have a neat twist of its own, which sounds terrible on paper, but ended up being very well executed.
The twist is that your sword is destroyed after the game’s prologue. In order to defend yourself against enemies, you need to collect crystal scattered throughout the levels, which allow you (somehow) to craft temporary makeshift swords with your hilt. Each sword is strong against a specific kind of enemy (biological, robotic, etc). That means that your swords do break after a while, but you can keep stock of replacement crystal which will automatically replenish their health once the meter goes down, and don’t worry, it takes a while before it depletes. Take notes, Breath of the Wild.
The combat is fast and slick. It lets you lock onto enemies and even use an energy-based grappling hook to either pull an enemy towards you or pull yourself towards a foe, depending on how many times you press the L1 button. You also have access to a simple yet competent skill tree and some equippable perks. Sparks fly around whenever you hit an enemy, and for the most part the animations are pretty good. The game as a whole looks like a remaster of an unreleased PS3 game. It features a good resolution and rock-solid framerate, but it does look a bit simplistic. The worst thing about its visuals has to be Age himself, who looks uglier than literally any other character in the entire game. It’s almost as if this was made intentionally in order to add insult to injury, as if the voice acting wasn’t enough.
In a nutshell, Ultra Age reeks of low budget jank, but its (awful) presentation is deceiving. This is actually a surprisingly competent hack ‘n’ slash that respects its sources of inspiration, all while adding some interesting elements of its own. If you’re craving for a game that remotely resembles a brand new Devil May Cry or whatever Platinum Games used to release at a machine gun pace back in the last generation of gaming, Ultra Age is an easy pick. Just make sure to play it on mute. That voice acting still gets on my nerves.
Its environments look decent, its enemies are well-animated, and its framerate is solid. It does look like a PS3 game at best though, and its facial animations… oof…
The traditional combat and control scheme from a Devil May Cry game, with a neat inclusion of a rock-paper-scissors mechanic with your swords, as well as a durability system that does not suck. Take notes, Breath of the Wild.
I don’t remember hearing voice acting as amateurishly atrocious as the one featured in Ultra Age. Not having any voices whatsoever would have actually improved the game’s overall quality.
Fun Factor: 8.0
Beyond its low budget simplicity and a bit of jank, lies a shockingly competent hack ‘n’ slash game with a creative (and not at all annoying) combat gimmick. An easy pick for fans of the genre.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Ultra Age is available now on PS4, PC, and Switch.
Reviewed on PS4.
A copy of Ultra Age was provided by the publisher.