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Malicious Fallen
Score: 60%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: ALVION, Inc
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:
Malicious Fallen is the latest counterpoint to the argument that only the best games are remade, rereleased, and updated for new hardware. This thoroughly disposable action title was originally a downloadable PlayStation 3 game, but for some reason I canít fathom, itís been reintroduced for the PlayStation 4 with an injection of content, as well as a few new bells and whistles and a shiny new coat of paint. Thereís some promise to it, but itís buried so far beneath the surface that itís ultimately not worth the effort. If you were a fan of the original, you might find some value in revisiting it. However, there are far too many superior alternatives to Malicious Fallen. Its price point is half that of a standard new release, but since few of us spend money just to spend money, thatís not nearly good enough.

At first glance, Malicious Fallen appears to be an anime-inspired musou type game, and that first glance tells you all you need to know. The Spirit Vessel is a cloaked, blue-haired individual who floats about with near-silent grace. The Vessel animates well, with shadowy appendages and projectiles constituting the visual component of its offensive capabilities. Given the type of game that Malicious Fallen is, most enemies are clones of the same otherworldly template. Environments start out rather cookie cutter, but diversify the further in you get. Aesthetically, the game is pleasing enough; bright colors lend a regal atmosphere to the proceedings, and the combat animations and particle effects work well enough Ė though theyíre certainly not the best.

Sound design is middling across the board; thereís nothing particularly impressive or offensive about Malicious Fallenís application of the sonic arts. The music exists to exist. The sound effects only serve to remind you that the developers didnít neglect to include them. Itís all very standard stuff, designed to elicit nothing in general.

Thereís a vague story to Malicious Fallen, but it is by no means the star attraction. A race of elder beings has charged you with protecting the world from the evil Malicious, led by the evil Keepers. A lofty task, to be sure, but they hope to give you the edge by equipping you with the Mantle of Cinders, a once-legendary weapon that is now a shadow of its former self. By slaying the Power Holders who are withholding the lost components of the Mantle, you might stand a chance.

Malicious Fallenís story is simple, and when it comes down to it, so is its gameplay. Itís an arena combat game structured as a series of boss battles Ė and nothing more. There are no levels, per se; you show up on the map, a giant monster appears with legions of lesser foes, and you get right down to it. If youíre a fan of musou (Dynasty Warriors, Sengoku Basara, etc.), you might find gratification in tearing through swathes of helpless cannon fodder. However, they are not the goal; the bosses are, and they take some work. Personally, I am not a fan of this style of gameplay; if I want to mash the (Square) button for hours on end, I can do that without shelling out my hard-earned cash.

Considering the fact that Malicious Fallen is nothing more than a series of boss battles, itís not unreasonable to expect a high difficulty level from the get-go. And thatís exactly what you get. When things are working properly, the challenge is mostly welcome; combat in Malicious Fallen is a matter of staying out of the way of everything while learning tells and capitalizing on each and every opening provided. Itís just too bad that thereís always something getting in the way.

Unfortunately, the tutorials do an extremely poor job of preparing you for whatís to come. Rather than introduce concepts and mechanics as they become essential to the experience, Malicious Fallen opts to drown you in a deluge of abstractions and poorly-explained functions before kicking you out the door to face down a ten-story-tall monstrosity and his little friends. The tutorials assume far too much of the player, and as an extension, so does the game proper.

Game Mechanics:
Malicious Fallen is supposed to have a certain ebb and flow to its combat; the game insists that you're to build your "Aura" by slaying lesser enemies, then releasing it on the more powerful enemies. It never really comes into its own, however; there's a distinct lack of balance that feels like it closes off the routes that would make the gameplay interesting and only leaves the ones that are unexciting, yet effective. I found myself reserving my Aura to heal myself after each time I attempted to find some hidden depth to the close-quarters combat and received a grave injury from a brutal off-screen attack.

The Spirit Vessel is a modular combatant, and as you discover new uses for the Mantle of Cinders, the more potentially diverse the combat becomes. I say "potentially" because the balancing between these forms is mostly moot. Your most efficient strategy in combat is almost always going to be the one that is the least exciting. The projectile weapon earned at the beginning of the game? Itís really all you need, but I donít think I know anyone who would enjoy a 20-minute battle of painful, painful attrition. Youíll be yearning for something substantive that requires finesse, reflexes, and nuance, but in the end, the encounters simply were not designed with that in mind.

Boss battles may be Malicious Fallenís bread and butter (or more accurately, its entire being), but the greatest of all this gameís formidable foes is the atrocious camera system. I havenít seen one this unwieldy and defiant in years. Perspective is hugely important in a game that emphasizes situational awareness, environment negotiation, and verticality. When this perspective is denied the player, the gameplay gets just plain cheap. Focusing on specific enemies is wonky and only works some of the time, and the field of view is often obscured at the most inopportune times.

Malicious Fallen inspires indifference of an incredible caliber. It's not aggressively bad, but its mediocrity wholly prevents any kind of compelling response to it. A tiny subset of action fans may appreciate what it has to offer, but even that comes with a qualification. When you take into consideration the amazing lineup of releases on the horizon, it becomes incredibly difficult to even consider this one. Spare it a nice, brief, confused, side-eyed glance, and move on.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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