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Review

Akaneiro: Demon Hunters Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • PC

It's gorgeous to look at and fun for a short while, but Akaneiro: Demon Hunters is an unvaried grind that wears out its appeal long before the level cap.

What gorgeous tedium Akaneiro: Demon Hunters is. This isometric action role-playing game looks as though it were brushed into existence by a watercolor artist, all colorful swirls and sophisticated flourishes. Sometimes, the gameplay capitalizes on this elegance, matching the fluid visuals with equally velvety action. On the whole, however, Akaneiro is unvaried and monotonous, and its rough edges let down the beauty initially on display. Whether or not you spend money on microtransactions in this free-to-play game, you spend a lot of time repeating content, hoping to earn the right to finally see something new. And there just isn't enough depth or diversity to give this repetition any appeal.

Yet there's no denying that Akaneiro draws you in at first, thanks to its lovely looks and evocative Japanese setting. Some surfaces look like tea-stained parchment, while archways and columns have the asymmetrical beauty of an artist's strokes. You can play the game in a browser window, but to see the game at its best, you should download the stand-alone client. Either way, you must sign in and remain connected to the server to play, even though there is no simultaneous multiplayer for the time being. You can chat with other players, but the lack of co-op is a noteworthy disappointment.

Akaneiro's structure is simple. A small village serves as your hub; there, you purchase skills, weapons, armor, and maybe a spirit animal to join you, which serves as a buff. Then, you select a mission to undertake and begin that leg of your journey. There are no health or mana potions to contend with, though you can consume purchasables like sushi and tofu that give you a temporary stat boost. Instead, you are healed by the karma shards that spill from fallen enemies and treasure chests. It's just you, your wits, and your enemies. The moment-to-moment gameplay has the right kind of feel for such a game; there's enough fluidity to make it a pleasure to click on shambling trees, demonic wolves, and other atrocities, and watch them erupt in colorful fragments. That smoothness will keep you entertained for a few hours as you make your way down Akaneiro's overrun pathways and through its haunted graveyards.

Heavy onslaughts getting you down? Try the shockwave ability: it's a great way to clear a room.

All too soon, however, you discover that to unlock new content, you need to grind. And depending on whether or not you buy karma with real money, that grind could be significant. Not only do karma shards give you health, but they are also the game's currency, and to visit new areas, you need to pay karma to unlock them. Furthermore, you need karma to buy new skills and equipment, among other things. That can mean frequent visits to early levels and revisiting content you've seen many times before--and even if you do pony up the funds to purchase new levels and abilities, you still need to grind for experience. There's no escaping repetition. Granted, each level offers up multiple difficulties, called threat levels, and enemy arrival patterns, miniboss placement, and other details differ between these threat levels. Those tweaks give return visits a modicum of freshness, but not enough to make Akaneiro a varied jaunt. Games like Torchlight II, Path of Exile, and Diablo III offer much more in the way of tactical consideration, level diversity, and pacing shifts.

There may be no co-op, but you can summon an AI mirror of another player to join you. It's nice to have an ally, but this is where some of Akaneiro's problems come to the forefront. Your companion doesn't make good choices, running into the fray all willy-nilly. Furthermore, the AI is incapable of using abilities, and there's no way to tweak AI behavior, so it's common to watch your henchman fall in battle while whaling away on a boss without regard for the brute's attack patterns. You can't bring your companion back during combat stages, either, so once he's down, you're on your own. And bear in mind: you don't earn any experience unless you complete the mission, so losing your companion can be a real setback.

The bosses look great, but their attack patterns are pretty similar to each other.

Your companion may also run up to enemies clipped into the environment, or roaming behind impenetrable force fields. This can lead to the AI's untimely death, since you and your companion may not be able to hit your target, even though it can hit you. Such sloppiness is common, with enemies making their way into pieces of the environment they're clearly not meant to reach. Even the loot that flies out of treasure boxes you bash open can fly into unreachable places. Then there are the boss fights, which demonstrate problems with visual tells and collision. You might be so far away from a boss that it's practically offscreen, yet take damage from its attack. On the other hand, you might exploit a boss by hammering on it from behind a column that shields you from its stubborn bites.

The class system gives you some flexibility, allowing you to purchase abilities from three different disciplines. It also allows you to perform ranged attacks, which is fortunate, given that standard combat is conducted only with melee weapons like katanas and claymores. Akaneiro: Demon Hunters is a mostly simple game, and that simplicity doesn't always work to the game's benefit. The action feels good under the fingers, and there's no doubting the visual appeal. But ultimately, Akaneiro offers a limited amount of relatively unvaried content stretched thin by necessary repetition. Developer Spicy Horse promises more content in the future, from cooperative multiplayer to proper tooltips where currently none exist. But for now, this one's for the grinders who need only the promise of better loot to keep pushing forward.

The Good
Lovely, pseudo-watercolor art style
Fluid, entertaining combat
The Bad
Making progress requires excessive repetition
No co-op for the time being
AI, physics, and collision issues lead to frustration
5
Mediocre
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play Rock Band because he always gets stuck pla

Discussion

96 comments
sumljivc
sumljivc

Eh it would be ok game to play when you're bored if it wasn't for the godawful unresponsive combat...want to run from that 10 enemy pack...no no, click 10 times and maybe we'll move your toon away from danger (innovative 1 click per enemy to move away??). Skills are also kinda meh...use 2 of special attacks and then you're reduced to single target attacks while you wait for energy regen (so it's pretty much faster killing speed if I kite/AOE, kite/AOE instead of trying to kill 1 mob out of pack and have to heal). Unless you choose two handers, they have some auto attack AOE, which is quite dodgy most of the time...mobs in pack wailing on you, my attacks missing 3/4 of the pack. Meh. And I have 45 ping, so I doubt it's my net.

Oh, and skills are inexplicably tied to some "uber" system, where you only have 3 skills at a time, if you press tab you can cycle through 2 times 3 skills. What devs, don't you believe that people can press 6 buttons at time? Or even 9, my god, it would break the universe, I couldn't even choose what to press then. Sheesh.

I did like the gfx style and the soothing Japanese music. But that's like 5% of the game so yeah 20/100. Even grind can be enjoyable, but here, it's very much not.

Red_Jester
Red_Jester

The description of how they punish you and intentionally attempt to remove fun from the game in order to get you to spend money is a deal breaker for me right off the bat. Why spend hours grinding for the ability to have fun when you can just spend a flat fee and have a full, complete experience that actually has production values? Speaking of which, how far does a typical $20-$50 take you in F2P games? Not very far. That's why this model is taking off.

Sadly, that's probably the future for gaming with all of these suits finding out you can get money for little to nothing done to earn it with the F2P model. You can very much expect this on next gen consoles judging by how clear Sony was in making sure they're supported on PS4.

Courtawulf
Courtawulf

First: I agree with this review. I also think that I understand what American McGee was going for with this game (I think the reviewer understood that too), and that he just failed to achieve what he was going for (the game just isn't very much fun). This is a great looking game, that seems like it SHOULD have a ton of personality like we see in other indie titles. But it just seems kind of flat and boring at first impression, and tedious and greedy with further inspection. It seems odd to me that someone like McGee (who's Alice games have so much depth) wouldn't be able to recognize the complete lack of depth in akeneiro.

philMcCrevis
philMcCrevis

i have respect for Kevin Van O.  he lays it out as he sees it and while I've not played this game, i wanted to point out inconsistencies in their complaints about the repetition and grinding.

my new years resolution was to let go of my disdain for Diablo 3!  and I made it 6 weeks on that goal but it has to be said that Diablo 3 personifies repetition and grinding in every way.  The single player is way shorter than D2 and grinding for loot that just won't drop, in an attempt to force you into spending real money to progress, is the most obvious cash grab in gaming history.  yet not one thing was said in the review about this reality and so to trash a free-to-play game for that same design is UNFAIR.

All I'm asking for is consistency within the Gamespot ranks on their treatment of gaming reviews.  If a AAA title like D3 is allowed to use repetition and grinding as the cornerstone of its design and monetization structure without a single comment in the review, it shouldn't be an issue with ANY other game that does the same thing.  Just because this title couldn't afford half a million $ of advertising on Gamespot doesn't make its design principles any less relevant than its competition

Ghanima_A
Ghanima_A

I have never agreed more with a Gamespot review. The game is beautiful to look at but empty of any soul. Its just a dull grind. I was very disappointed with it,

Jonny-Two-Delta
Jonny-Two-Delta

Such a shame, this looks like I game I would enjoy, but I'm sick of grinding.

faceless-mask
faceless-mask

Not sure why Spicy Horse decided to submit the game for review before finishing it.

MAXAM999
MAXAM999

Still much better than Resident evil 6 !

snaketus
snaketus

To hell with these free to play games. I'm starting to really miss the games that were complete packages without dlc money crabs and always online drm. Developers should just simplify games again to drag development costs down, NO to set pieces, NO to quick time events, YES to quality game play! Games can be pretty without being extremely expensive. But this free to play crap is just... crap.

acelogan1989
acelogan1989

so now gamespot starting to review beta phase game ??

khaos107
khaos107

CASH GRAB!!!! I'm sick of the path this industry is going down.

KinoDaKonqueror
KinoDaKonqueror

I hate all F2P games. It's like ordering a cheeseburger and only getting the bun, and paying extra for meat, cheese lettuce, tomato, etc.  It is stupid.  Also, money equals power!!!(which isn't far off from real life. :P)

SecularSage
SecularSage

I realize that the game was likely submitted to GameSpot for review, but isn't part of the story right now that the game isn't fully finished and is going to undergo several updates since the Kickstarter campaign just concluded and successfully raised $200,000 for further development?

It seems really strange to me to review a free-to-play, browser-based game that's not quite finished (but which has been released in an effort to gain support and start generating revenue). I generally appreciate Kevin's reviews, but this one just seems a little ill-timed to me. It might be worth revisiting in six months when the game is actually finished.

Xroalia
Xroalia

Though I agree with this review to an extent, I really like this game and feel it has a lot of potential.

The game is at its bare bones right now. With the Kickstarter recently reaching its goal this game has many fixes, features and additions to come so I feel it's too early to review this game.

sinofsinners
sinofsinners

There is one point that Kevin did leave out. The game has a after launch kick-starter that has made it's goal. That means there will be a dedicated team working to fix the lack-luster start so it isn't an entirely hopeless game. I do agree it isn't what it can be but I have SOME faith that in the next 6 months the game will improve greatly and either the karma drop rate will increase or the cost of items, areas, and buffs will decrease. So where the game is totally a 5 right NOW I believe it has potential to be in the 7 ball park with re-balancing.  

Pukshd
Pukshd

Well, the year for gaming dind't start so well...(Excluding Dead Space 3.)

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

Just to be clear, what killed this game is its pricing model.

There's a very clear reason *why* this game turns into a grind so soon.

botsio
botsio

here we go again kevin!what!

carolino
carolino

path of exile eats both this and diablo 3 then it vomits and moves on

commanderxp90
commanderxp90

Why Kevin says about bad review on this game? It looks very interested to me.  I do not care about bad reviews from him. 

isaacyassar
isaacyassar

This game is like Diablo 3 in a sense that everytime you hit a monster, the game request a response from its server before giving you any visual and damage effect. There is always delay between your attack and its effect, gamebreaking 0.5-1s delay if you are far away from its server. It kills the game for me.

Pierce_Sparrow
Pierce_Sparrow

Didn't realize that this was an American McGee game until this review, and then I realized why GS was reviewing it. I played the beat for a little while, it was all right. The art IS pretty gorgeous for a browser game, but it does get very grindy. I will say it's one of the better browser games I've played. It just doesn't have lasting appeal. Then again, that might be why it's limited to being a low budget browser game.

Pierce_Sparrow
Pierce_Sparrow

Not all that funny, but it's pretty amazing technology. This best demonstrates what it's capable of, so it's pretty damn cool to see this.

wexorian
wexorian

well It got better review than RE 6, But Gamespot Got silly reviews 90% :)))))

StarsiderSajun
StarsiderSajun

What a shame... been a fan of American Mcgee and anything that he's had a hand in really since Alice, but it's all been on a downhill slope for a while.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@philMcCrevis You can play Diablo III from beginning to end without ever having to grind. Akaneiro has a tiny fraction of Diablo III's content, and forces you to repeat levels over and over again--*even* if you spend money--before you can see new areas. 

That is a very different kind of structure from Diablo III. If you would prefer to take Diablo out of the equation, I can play Path of Exile for the same amount of money (free), and have more variety in four hours than I can from Akaneiro in twenty hours. I can spend $20 on Torchlight II and get a full game that allows me to see its stages consecutively without having to repeat them; I can spend $20 on Akaneiro and get a small fraction of the content I can get from Torchlight, and still be forced to play stages multiple times before getting to move on. And while neither Torchlight and D3 tell amazing stories, at least there are quests, characters to talk to, and other elements that break up the pace and give context to your actions. 

Beyond that, Akaneiro is very simple. Enemies do one of two things: come up to you and hit you, or fire one kind of magic at you. (One type of enemy bounces when it hits you and is harder to click on because it's small, but that's about all you get for variety.) They exhibit no other behavior. They don't poison you, or use different elemental attacks. They move at the same speed. Every boss behaves in more or less the same way: a melee attack, a ground pound, and sometimes a ranged AOE. 

The problem with Akaneiro isn't just that you have to repeat stages; the problem is that the stages are all functionally the same, offering no variety, no new considerations, and nothing new to break up the pace. Having to repeat the same few levels numerous times to unlock three more isn't that fun to begin with--but when they all play mostly the same way, the game wears out its welcome. I spent about $25 on Akaneiro and still had to grind so I could gain enough levels to see more content. As for Diablo III, well, that game does not erect a wall between you and finishing it; I was able to complete it on normal just by playing through it. I would hope you could see there is a huge difference between the way these games are set up. 

Mind you, I don't even care for Diablo III (I much prefer the excellent Path of Exile, which is everything I wanted D3 to be; D3 felt soulless). But its structure is entirely different from Akaneiro's. Ultimately, Akaneiro is a couple of hours worth of gameplay stretched into 15 hours that asks you to pay money so that you don't have to stretch it quite so far. I'd rather have been given the option to spend 20 dollars and play it all the way through, and then return on my volition if I wanted to grind (the way most such games are set up). I would have had a lot more fun.

iminsanescott
iminsanescott

@snaketus death of video games. brought on by the viral behaivior of consumers.

dont worry though, there is always a silver lining

Jonny-Two-Delta
Jonny-Two-Delta

@snaketus *shakes fist at QTEs*

They're in everything these days, and they're rarely good. Hated QTEs in FarCry3.

And Free-to-play/Payto-win has turned a lot of otherwise amazing games into garbage. Battlestar Galactica Online for example.

snaketus
snaketus

@acelogan1989 Well the game's website doesn't imply very well that the game is on beta state and they take your money. Of course you can review it. I beta tested RaceRoom Racing and they didn't charge for micro transactions, because it was A BETA, and they wanted the stuff tested.

majere613
majere613

@SecularSage Frankly, as soon as a game starts asking for money, it's asking to get reviewed. Your game isn't ready, don't take money until it is.

jmaybury
jmaybury

@Andava We do not review the developer or the budget of the game, those two things have nothing to do with our reviews. We also don't review features that may or may not come in patches or updates. The game needs to speak for itself. 

Me and my mom hand built an airplane, it wont fly far and you will probably not survive our flight, but hey, there were only two of us and we had a small budget. You'd still give us a good review though huh?

StarsiderSajun
StarsiderSajun

@Andava I think part of it is just that people have expectations about games coming from specific developers. I know I waited like 10 years for a sequel to Alice and was sort of let down when it finally did come out. I expected Spicy Horse to outdo themselves with their next game but ya know. =(

Andava
Andava

@StarsiderSajun @Andava It took sometime for me to warm up to Alice Madness Returns. But I gave it another chance. I was a lot less frustrated with it the second time through.

Andava
Andava

@Mattyrock @Andava I wish there was an edit button on these things because i found out just after posting this. Which makes my whole comment irreverent and an utter waste.  

Kyrylo
Kyrylo

@chipwithdip @percuvius2 @Kyrylo @naryanrobinson I think PoP from Ubisoft, Borderlands and Walking Dead are sh****anime too...oh, wait...we're talking to mindless FPS drone that can't play anything outside CoD....No respect for Japan = no brain

Lord_Python1049
Lord_Python1049

@percuvius2 @naryanrobinson Every western developer has been influenced by Nintendo and Miyamoto. Cliffy B calls Miyamoto a genius, Steam founder Gabe Newell calls Super Mario 64 "art". Ocarina of time is the highest rated game on metacritic.

Truth hurts, eh?

Andava
Andava

@Mattyrock BTW for those who happen to read this my original comment was about the budget constraints of the game and how I thought they didn't reach their Kick-starter, they did reach it. It also contained that the crew that made this game was under ten people.

Andava
Andava

@Mattyrock Well there is a edit button but someone decided it was a great idea to give it a time limit. I should have deleted the comment but oh well. 

Akaneiro: Demon Hunters More Info

  • First Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • Unix/Linux
    Akaneiro: Demon Hunters is a fantasy action RPG that takes you back to feudal Japan and pits you against the Yokai, demonic creatures inspired by Japanese myth and folklore.
    4.7
    Average User RatingOut of 33 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Akaneiro: Demon Hunters
    Developed by:
    Spicy Horse
    Published by:
    Spicy Horse
    Genres:
    Role-Playing, Action