(Originally posted on Facebook, intended for the general audience)
Out of my 10 years of video gaming, I have never played a Christian video game. Even just hearing 'Christian' and 'video game' doesn't sit well in my stomach. Why so? From what I've seen, the games are unappealing to play. How is it possible that two of the finest ingredients in the world could make such a bland meal? Granted, I've never played those games, but it will be a long time before 'Christian' and 'video game' can be accepted together within the gaming community.
Which brings us to The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance. Will it whet the appetite of the hungry Christians and non-Christians? Will it be sweet manna, or wine vinegar? (Sorry for the food references, I was eating my lunch while I was typing this.)
Starting off, The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance is an massively multiplayer online role playing game where you interact with the world of Aethasia by completing quests and battling robots. The story is very simple; Lucky has taken over the world, and the Scarlet Man leads a resistance to take it back. Christians would smile at the references, and on that note, non Christians too. Who wouldn't stop to Hammer Time? And no Sims fan worth their salt wouldn't know how to Reticulate Splines.
Starting off my adventure as Mr. Umbrella Porridge, my eyes met upon the gorgeous world of Aethasia. Seriously, the art style is the best point of the game. Every texture, from the lush grass of the forest to the dreary steampunk village, is pleasing to look at; it just oozes with charm. While it never pushes the graphical boundaries, the game runs smoothly, even when multiple characters are in a fight. The NPCs themselves have their own unique personality and the music perfectly blends in with the environment, making Aethasia a captivating world to immerse yourself in.
There are quite a few quests that'll keep your hands full right up until you hit the pay wall, which can take about 2 hours. Having things to do always resonates with me well, so I got to work gathering materials and defeating enemies, much like any MMO. It was a fairly enjoyable experience...
...but that's when I saw the cracks in those pretty backdrops.
First of all, to the developers of this game, make your quest objects obvious! In one example, you're supposed to put out a fire. With a tin can in my inventory, I knew I needed water. I spent a long while looking for it; I even went to the ocean, thinking I could get water from there. But no; it was from a water pump that could be easily mistaken as a decorative background object. From every search quest after that, I experienced frustration, having to resort to furiously mash click everywhere in sight.
In order to gather good materials, you need to battle the machines. It's simple; select a weapon and bash the scrap metal out of it with a timed hit. Aside from enemy immunities to certain weapons, it never gets any more complicated than that. There's no class system, no skill mastery, no exp, it's just that shallow. The rewards are random drops and are enemy exclusive, so if you need rare materials, looks like you have gears to grind.
One more issue is the lack of fast travel. You have to constantly backtrack to the hub to complete quests after a trip out of town and backtrack to an out-of- the-way alley to craft your equipment. Why not put the crafting bench in the hub, and make a 'return to hub' button? In that way, the shortened time would be pushing the 'Is that it? I want more!' button in those kid brains of theirs.
As much as I look like I'm ripping the game apart, I must admit it's a step in the right direction for Christian video gaming. A kid willing to spend a weekend afternoon is going to enjoy this; it looks pretty, the combat is easy to grasp and it keeps them busy. Though to say if it's a Christian video game is up for debate; throughout the entire playthrough, I've only seen one quote in the entire game: Ecclesiastes 1:9-10, and even then that's taken out of context. Although I do still hold some skepticism, I am cautiously optimistic that in due time, 'Christianity' and 'video game' can be accepted as a cultural norm.
+ Gorgeous Art Style
+ Characters and Music enhance the world
+ Perfectly accessible to kids
- Quest objects are frustrating to find
- Combat is boring and shallow