I was quite looking forward to playing Zenith; at first glance, it looked like it might be something along the lines of a Baldur's Gate or Dungeon Siege. Boy, was I in for a disappointment.
According to its developer Infinigon, the ironically named Zenith supposedly tries to capture the golden era of RPGs, but it fails on pretty much every front. The warning signs are present right from the beginning. The first is a classic hallmark of bad games: overly long loading screens despite having poor graphics. In other words, bad optimisation. Once you actually begin playing, things don't get any better. Character movement is clunky as you run too slowly like you're moving through molasses. There are invisible walls at every turn. NPCs get stuck in the levels or judder up and down in place - and that's just the first few screens.
The music is particularly awful. Most of the tracks are incredibly irritating and they loop so frequently that they'll get stuck in your head long after playing. Some people may say this makes them "catchy". Maybe they are, but then again so was the bubonic plague. By far the worst aspect of Zenith is its dialogue for two reasons. First, there's far too much of it. It seems like you can't run ten feet without another long conversation breaking up the "action". Second, it's awful... and I mean awful. It's full of swearing, multiple exclamation marks and capital letters. It looks like it's been copied and pasted from a bunch of kids screaming at each other in a YouTube comments section. On very rare occasions, it manages to raise something approaching a smile but most of the time, it's just eye-rollingly juvenile.
Just to make things even goofier, sometimes the fonts are huge and written in garish colours like pink or orange. When these letters are splayed across the screen (saying something like AAAAAARGHGH! in giant purple lettering), it looks very amateurish and badly produced. I get that it's supposed to be funny, but like the rest of Zenith, it really isn't. Other times, it's just hard to read. For example, when a white font is used in front of snow. That being said, it's probably not worth reading anyway.
Combat isn't great, either. It's awkward and dull. Luckily, however, even though you move like a snail, the enemies are even slower meaning you can literally outrun nearly all of them and avoid fighting altogether. Using this tactic, I was able to run through entire levels without having to stop once or take a scratch of damage. I know this is technically another failure in game design but it's actually a positive in Zenith's case as it means you can get the whole nasty affair over with more quickly.
If you manage to stick with the game long enough to exit its first city, you'll come to an open world map. Here, some enemies will give chase, instigating a battle encounter if they reach you. Sadly, you have to wait through about a fifteen second loading screen for the battle to begin. Then, another one when it ends. Like regular combat, however, these can just be run away from once they're initiated. Which, again, I'm grateful for. At least the designers had some mercy.
Zenith is really weird. On the surface, it looks like an all-ages action RPG but it's full of swearing and crass, unfunny humour. I don't know who it's supposed to be aimed at. Maybe people who like garbage games. I'm sure they'll love it.
- + Occasionally manages to raise a faint smile
- + Despite overly long loading screens, it actually saves very quickly
- + You can run past most of its boring combat
- - Terrible dialogue that overstays its welcome
- - Awful mind-numbing music loops
- - Long and frequent loading screens