What a tough break for Sony, after they give the world the fantastic God of War for PS2, they then slip us a mickey with the average Rise of the Kasai. Wait, maybe that’s not the best way to start out a review. Allow me to start over…Rise of the Kasai, the sequel to the Mark of Kri, is a game that is enjoyable, but not exactly a stunner. It might be that having come out right after the utterly fantastic God of War caused it to be looked upon as a lesser, or it might just be that this game, while fun, is just a notch above average.
Rise of the Kasai has gamers playing as various warrior characters; you have Rau (from the original game), his little sister Tati, and two other barbarian warriors, Griz and Baumusu. Each character comes complete with their own nicely fleshed-out personalities, skills and appearance, so you won’t feel like you’re just being stuck in “a new skin” when you play as these characters. The characters are tied into a pretty deep storyline that spans more than a decade. And the outcomes of the game depend on how you play each character.
As far as the action, the gameplay is a mixed bag. There’s a bit of stealth, and a lot of slash and bash action. The gameplay is completely buddy-based, too. So whomever you pick to play at the start of a round, you’ll be forced to keep an eye on his tagteam partner. Problem is, these buddies, while helpful, can also be a hindrance as their AI can be pretty frustrating. Sometimes they forget they need to help out, other times, they get stuck in corners or other obvious places. While you’re busy smashing up the opposition, your partner is trying to get around a simple box. The buddy system is cool in that it affects the way the storyline plays out, but other times, you’ll wish you could just go it alone.
Combat is where Rise of the Kasai slips and falls. While there are plenty of cool stealth kills and viciously vile attacks, you won’t really need much skill to win at combat. The combat system does have a novel targeting system that lets you lock onto an opponent and select a specific button as a “target button” (thus allowing you to chain together attacks on multiple baddies) but that’s not enough to save it from being a button mashing festival. Once you’ve assigned buttons to each target, combat is simply a matter of hitting that button as fast as you can until the bad guy dies, then smashing the next button as quickly as you can until you’ve killed that target and repeating the whole process ad infinitum. There are cool combos available, but they are mostly there for visual effect, as just pounding one button will do just as much damage.
The game’s production values are, well, scattershot. The character and level designs are beautiful to behold, as they were created by top Hollywood talent. The game has a feeling of “Berserker Mulan” if you will, due to the cartoony stylings mixed with massive bloodshed. While these components are nicely polished, there are quite a few annoying graphical glitches as characters seem to slice through walls and themselves at times. Textures aren’t always seemlessly stitched together either. The game’s dialog is good, as are the combat (and subsequent death) sounds. The soundtrack is one of those kind that fit the mood so well, you hardly notice it’s even there, which is pretty good stuff in my book.
Rise of the Kasai is another one of those “could have been a contender” titles. It has all the makings of a top tier title, but due to a boring story, iffy AI and so-so combat mechanics, it just doesn’t manage to pull out of the “average” ranking. Not a bad game, but likewise not a fantastic one either. It’s really tough to recommend it when God of War is currently on the market for the same price.
- Gameplay: 7
- Farily average gameplay that tries to be different..
- Graphics: 8
- Beautifully developed characters and environments, but some graphical bugs can be bothersome
- Sound: 8
- Lots of squishy, gushy combat sounds and a good musical score
- Replay: 6.5
- Very short, and there’s no need to replay it.
- Overall: 7.5
- Good, but far from great. An enjoyable discount purchase or rental.
— Craig Falstaff