UPDATE: I dug further into the Babylon's Fall demo, and found that I enjoyed it quite a bit more. Check out the full story here.
Platinum Games' new AAA release Babylon's Fall got an extensive demo dropped on PlayStation yesterday, and not knowing much about the game, I was excited to jump in and check it out. What I found is more than a little bewildering.
Published by Square-Enix, Babylon's Fall is a multiplayer hack 'n slash that casts players as "Sentinels", who must go on missions into the fabled Ziggurat of Babylon - with the end goal of reaching the top. The setup feels a little MMO-ish, with players starting in a hub area to accept quests and buy equipment, then accepting quests to enter the Ziggurat for a few floors of kinda boring combat and samey exploration.
You wander down a few hallways, fight a few dudes, wander down a few more hallways, fight a few more dudes. Rinse and repeat until you fight a boss, then go back to the hub with some loot. The whole thing feels like a beta for a game that might come out in a year or two, not a demo for a game that is releasing in a few days (Babylon's Fall is going wide on February 28). I was just kind of staring at the screen, thinking thoughts like "Is this supposed to be fun?" and "How is this ever going to compete with the thirty high-end open world epics that just came out over the last month?". The immediate advertising littering the game for battle passes and such didn't help sell me on the experience. Even in the demo, I was already feeling like I was missing out on something by not having the dumb battle pass. Yuck.
Even booting the game up was irritating. The player is first greeted by a series of screens asking them to sign into their Square-Enix account. I find this sort of thing to be beyond irritating. I hated it in Avengers, I hated it in Final Fantasy XIV, and I hate it here. Seriously, Square-Enix? Can't you just maintain a database with my PlayStation ID and my Square ID and ask me if you have it correct the first time I log in? Do I have to remember my password for every damn Square-Enix game I want to play? You know you are the only major publisher that does this, right?
Then there are the visuals. Fans will have to excuse me, because I've been in the dark about this game, but I guess there was a minor insurrection from beta participants about the "painterly" visuals used. Get ready to claw at your eyeballs, because this game makes you feel like you just woke up after a long nap, and an evil imp sprayed you immediately in the face with pepper spray. There is some sort of heinous filter running over the already-not-the-best graphics that is supposed to make the game look like a living painting. Apparently, this was toned down some after the beta to allow objects in the foreground to appear somewhat clearer, keeping the backgrounds all painting-like. Whatever they did, I don't think it was nearly enough, because this game is flat out tough to look at.
I was getting serious "PS2 game played on a television covered in Vaseline" vibes. My immediate reaction was to dip into the setting to see if I could turn off the painting filter, but to no avail. Even the character creator looks rough, like someone iFramed interfaces from a 1995 PC game into a modern AAA title. I managed to create a pretty attractive character, but I can never see her very well in the actual game because I'm always trying to squint through the globs of jelly Babylon's Fall has smeared on my eyeballs.
My five-year-old son was watching me play through the tutorial. Out of nowhere, he looked up from his tablet and asked "Dad, is this an old game?".
"No buddy, this is a new game," I responded.
"Oh," he said. "This looks like a really old game." And he doesn't even know what really old games looked like. That's just the way his inexperienced five-year-old mind interpreted the visuals in Babylon's Fall.
So yeah, I don't understand this Babylon's Fall demo at all. I don't know what this game is going for, what they were trying to accomplish with the graphics, or whether the quests become more fun as you press on. There might be a barrier that you hit, burst through, and then the magic happens. But after one hour spent with the game, I don't know if I'm willing to push any further to find out.