Minoria – The bad kind of déja vu – Review

Gare – Wednesday, September 4, 2019 1:44 PM
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“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” goes the saying, and while I’d love to say that it applies to Minoria, the latest title from Momodora developer Bombservice, I… well, I can’t. 2016’s Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight was a charming, if somewhat forgettable title that didn’t really try to reinvent the wheel and played things extremely safe, but was still moderately enjoyable, all in all. Unfortunately, its spiritual sequel does nothing to iron out the flaws of its predecessor or change the status quo – if anything, it makes things worse by being content to be almost exactly the same game as Reverie Under the Moonlight, albeit with a different coat of paint and notably weaker gameplay mechanics.

Story

Minoria stars two agents of the Church – Sister Semilla and her partner Fran – on a mission to stop the witches from conducting a heretical ceremony, but frankly, if you’re coming to this game primarily for the plot, you might as well turn around now. It’s a story about the Inquisition mercilessly hunting down witches who may or may not be evil, and unfolds the exact way you’d expect a story like this to unfold, to the point where you can pretty much see the ending coming a mile away. There are also a couple dozen collectible journal entries that attempt to flesh out the world, but these end up mostly talking about people and places with barely any presence in the game, and ultimately mean very little to the player – similarly, none of the NPCs (read: bosses) you meet during the plot really stand out, because you literally kill them within five minutes of meeting them.

Gameplay

Gameplay-wise, Minoria is nearly identical to RutM, with two notable exceptions: 1. you no longer carry a bow and 2. you can now parry attacks, Metal Gear Rising-style. Essentially, you press a button before an attack or projectile is about to hit you, and Semilla will not only deflect it, but also automatically dish out a counter-attack and deal a moderate amount of damage in the process. It sounds good on paper and can be useful in a few specific situations, but still ends up being more frustrating than fun. In order to explain why, there’s one thing you need to know about Minoria: the enemies in this game hit HARD. How hard? Well, most of them can kill you in two hits. That is not an exaggeration, by the way. Now imagine that you’re trying to learn a regular enemy’s attack pattern to make sure you bust out your parry at the right time. Chances are you’ll eventually mess up, and when you do, you can kiss half your HP goodbye. If you mess up twice, you’re dead as a doornail. It doesn’t help that hacking away at a monster means your sword’s flashy attack animations will end up covering part of their character sprite and thus make it even more difficult to determine what they’re doing and when they might counter-attack. The bottom line is that the parry mechanic seems cool in theory, but aside from a select few situations, you’re better off not using it too much – due to how deadly the enemies are and how fragile Semilla is, trying to rely on parrying just puts you in unnecessary danger. Especially when there’s a better – and generally safer – alternative to exploit.

What do I mean? Dodge-rolling. That’s right. You should dodge-roll all the time in this game. Dodge-roll like your life depended on it. Hell, your life does actually depend on it. So, here’s what you should do: when you see an enemy, wait until it begins its attack animation, then immediately roll forward and through said enemy to get behind it. Then, while it’s still busy doing its attack animation, you start hacking and slashing. If the enemy in question doesn’t die from this, repeat the above until it does. That’s it. That’s all you need to do to thoroughly conquer Minoria’s enemies, bosses included. This means that boss fights provide almost no actual challenge, and that the battle system largely comes down to well-timed dodges and endless button-mashing, which is – for the nth time now – a lot like how Momodora: RutM worked as well. Do be careful with your dodges, though, as the game – frustratingly – features contact damage, so if you don’t space yourself properly, you’ll end up dodging into an enemy (instead of through them) and take unnecessary damage. In a game like this, where you die in literally two or three hits and every bit of HP counts, that’s kind of a big deal.

Spells

The Incense system should also feel familiar to fans of Momodora: RutM. To put it simply, you’ll be able to equip Semilla with three active spells (Incenses) – most of these are for dealing damage, though some of them are used for healing or curing status ailments. However, you can only use one at a time, meaning you need to cycle through your three currently equipped Incenses by pressing the corresponding buttons whenever you want to change to another one. This may seem like a simple press of a button, and it is, but in a game where a single mistake can potentially kill you, taking your eyes off your enemy for even a split-second (your currently equipped Incense is displayed in the top-left corner of the screen) to check which Incense you have enabled can very easily spell your doom, making this entire system feel rather limiting and cumbersome.

Exploration in Minoria is rather monotonous and unsatisfying. Essentially, all you’ll be doing is collecting keys and pulling levers to open locked doors in order to progress. You’ll sometimes find a journal entry or a hidden passage with some coins that can be used to purchase new Incenses, but other than that, Minoria is mostly devoid of interesting or surprising elements that would motivate the player to look through every nook and cranny of its world. Similarly disappointing is the art style, which feels like a definite step back compared to RutM, the painful lack of enemy variety (you’ll mostly be fighting faceless, training dummy-like creatures, knights and skeletons) or how trivial most of the boss fights are.

Final thoughts

With its uninspired level design, forgettable enemies and button-mashing combat, Minoria just feels like a less polished version of Reverie Under the Moonlight that mimics its spiritual predecessor in almost every single aspect, and is perfectly happy to make all the same mistakes as that game. It might be worth a shot for hardcore fans of RutM who aren’t discouraged by the idea of getting an inferior version of the exact same thing, but for everyone else, Minoria just doesn’t offer anything its genre peers haven’t already done significantly better.

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