Publisher: Zueira Digital
Steam: Relic Hunter Zero
If somebody walked up to me and said "Hey! Free candy! Take some." I would immediately call the police or suspect some shenanigans are involved. More or less the same stands true for a free game. "Hey! Free Game! Take it!." This game is either going to poison my pc or do unspeakable things to my mind. Free games usually have some sort of connotation with poor quality or cheap budgets, which can make for very simple games. So you can imagine my surprise when I took my bite out of Relic Hunter Zero and was left not only unscathed, but with an incredibly fun game that was challenging and replayable.
Relic Hunter is an action top down shooter along the same lines of Nuclear Throne or Tango Fiesta. There are many games in this crowded genre, so Relic Hunter already had to set a high bar to set it apart and make it unique among the crowd. Relic Hunter accomplishes this with tactical dynamic combat, relics, and unlockables. To give a brief summary of the game, you are fighting the invading forces of Duke Ducan and his ducks, turtles, and other fowl creatures.(See what I did there?) Inside of this mysterious asteroid are relics that grant the owner incredible powers. To be honest, the story isn't all that important, but it's there. The important thing is that your ultimate goal is to take on the Ducan Commander, who is a big bad and will likely stomp on you the first time you encounter him. To gain an edge, you need to collect the relics.
Relics come in three pieces and are randomly found at the end of a level. The buffs range from extra health to unlimited bullets. Aside from the relics there are many guns to choose from and the old favorite, grenades. Combat in Relic Hunter is incredibly fun and rewarding if you play it smart. You have a dash in combat that lets you slide around like an action star, also an aim feature that enhances your damage for landing precise shots. Enemies get progressively tougher as you get into deeper zones. Coming armed with better weapons, shields, and even grenades that most of the time one shot you. As you play through Relic Hunter more and more, you begin to unlock more of the armaments to bring into combat from the beginning. So in a way this gives Relic Hunter a form of progression. You are likely to die before you even reach the Commander and when you do reach him, probably die as well.
Replayability is a key feature of the game. Now one could say that it is more reminiscent of a grind then actual replay value but I define grind as monotonous activity. I never got bored of Relic Hunters gun fights and levels. The level design may be repetitive but most of the time I was to focused on getting cooler guns and making head shots that I never really noticed that all that really changes is color and enemy type. On occasion between levels you are allowed to spend your currency on unlocking more guns and even buying relic pieces. So no matter what, even if you don't find relics at the end of levels, you are going to progress in some form.
The look of Relic Hunter is again a jaw dropping moment when you realize this game is free. The game honestly reminded me of higher quality titles. Yes, it's all pixel art, but each character, blast, and effect looked very well done. I laughed gleefully as enemies turned into a pile of bones as I put a bullet in between their eyes. I felt like an utter bad ass when I slide dashed right past an enemy group and unloaded on them from behind. Could it look better? Sure, but it gets the job done and is quite stylish, in my opinion.
Other areas of the game stand out as well, such as the music. The soundtrack for Relic Hunters is a fantastic blend of retro inspired music. It never got dull or grating on the ears and actually kinda kept me wanting to keep fighting faster. The sound effects match suit with satisfying explosions and the sound of bullets bouncing off my enemies shields.
So lets talk about extras. Relic Hunter already being a replay focused game, includes multiple characters to choose from. Each character has his/her weaknesses/strengths. This makes the games Co-op feature really interesting as two players have different strategies. I shouldn't fail to mention also that the games source code is completely open for all you modders out there. Giving this free to play game possibly intent updates depending on the community.
While I could go on about how much I enjoyed the game such as controller support, rebindable keys, Steam cards, and an upcoming Endless mode. I think you get the idea. Relic Hunters does plenty of things right in a crowded genre and I am honestly shocked that nothing is being charged for it. You could easily slap a five to ten dollar price tag on this game and it would completely worth it. One issue that I do have with the game is that it really doesn't bring anything new to genre. We've seen games like this before to be honest but for the price tag(Which is zero, don't forget) and quality, Relic Hunter is easily nearing the top for me and I highly recommend it! Oh and best part? No Microtransactions!