Review – Aeon Must Die!
Aeon Must Die! looked amazing on previews and stills. A cyberpunk beat ’em up featuring an ultraviolent art and audio style, animated like a cartoon, cutscenes emulating comic book panels, with a story revolving around having your body possessed by a revolted being? I wouldn’t be able to say no what basically sounded like Cyberpunk 2077 meets Akira meets Venom. I was eager to try it out, and I guess I got half of what I expected from it. That is to say, I got all the style I wished from it. Sadly, I did not get a single droplet of substance.
Despite the title, Aeon Must Die has you playing as the titular Aeon. Aeon is a galactic dictator who got betrayed by some of his minions, resulting him in losing his bod and resorting to basically possessing the body of the edgelord you constantly see onscreen. Let’s just say that said possession isn’t exactly mutually consensual, but both parties begrudgingly accept to “work together” as their shared abilities can let them reach their specific goals. It’s a story with potential. The execution of said story on the other hand, was pretty bad.
It could have been a story not unlike the one we’ve seen in the recent Venom movies, but we ended up getting something with the convoluted world building from Blade Runner, the edgelord dialogue from a Three Days Grace album from the mid 2000s, and weirdly enough, a character building hindrance stemming from the actual art style. Strangely, everyone looks identical to each other, meaning you can barely understand what’s happening onscreen, as you never know who’s currently speaking.
Oddly enough, despite this big issue, I actually loved Aeon Must Die‘s visuals. Its level of contrast is off the charts, with really dark blacks and stupidly bright neons and flame effects, all covering a colorful but derelict cyberpunk aesthetic. Everything is edgy, in both senses of the word. The overall movements and animations are heavily influenced by cartoons and comic books, in a bizarre slow pace, with less frames of animation. Bear in mind, that’s by design, not due to hardware and performance issues. That also causes another major issue with Aeon Must Die. Sure, it’s amazing to look at and animated in a way that looks awesome onscreen, but the same reduced amount of frames of animation results in the game being painful to play.
In theory, there’s a good combat system in here. This is basically a beat ’em up where you usually only fight one character at a time, with really impactful attacks, such as punches, kicks, grabs, and so on. The more you attack someone, the quicker you’ll fill up a fire meter on the bottom of the screen, which will basically put you in overdrive. You will become a lot stronger, but also frail to the point of dying in one hit. You need to literally let off some steam by using some fire attacks to cool you down.
In practice, you get a lethargic combat system where the reduced frames of animation and intentional bad framerate result in an ungodly amount of input delay. Imagine having to deal with a combat system where it takes ages for your attack to register, all while being literally susceptible to dying in one hit because of your character going into overdrive after half a dozen punches. It’s way too punishing and risky, and as a result, far too hard for a game that should not have been as challenging. I get it, you’re a frail “soul” possessing a new body, but you’re a freaking emperor, why would your rage result in you becoming MORE frail instead of LESS frail? Not to mention the utterly repetitive nature of the game as a whole. This is basically all you’re going to do in between annoying dialogue sections.
There’s nothing more frustrating than a game with so much potential, a game oozing style, with such an awesome premise, ending up being a disappointment. Aeon Must Die had the looks, the sound, even the interesting concept for a neat combat system. Yet, it ended up being one of the most frustrating and repetitive beat ’em ups I’ve played in years. This is the quintessential “all style, no substance” kind of the game.
I absolutely loved Aeon Must Die‘s high contrast cyberpunk aesthetics. Even its bad framerate actually made it look more stylish, in a quasi comic book kind of way.
The basis for an awesome combat system is in here. Sadly, the punishing nature of the gameplay, as well as the obscene input delay, ruin what should have been a slam dunk of a beat ’em up.
Harsh synthwave combined with some really loud and aggressive voice samples. It works better than you would otherwise think.
Fun Factor: 4.0
Between the edgelord story and the really obnoxious and punishing gameplay, Aeon Must Die is the quintessential “all style, no substance” kind of the game.
Final Verdict: 6.0
Aeon Must Die! is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of Aeon Must Die! was provided by the publisher.