In Oblitus, you are a mask-wearing warrior, armed with only a spear and shield, traveling across the dangerous world of Parvus. Fortunately, the there are various power-ups and weapon enhancements (like torches that light up your spear) scattered around the world. The trick is in reaching them without dying. Yes, you'll probably be doing a lot of dying in this 2D platformer, since in addition to featuring a beautiful art style, the game can be extremely challenging.
One Life to Repeat
Players only have one life. If you should die, you have to start the game all over again. All the progress you made has to be redone, and perhaps you can reacquire some of your lost power-ups. I say "perhaps" because Oblitus has procedurally generated levels. The maps remain the same, and key elements like bosses and Harbinger Souls (to replenish health) will always be in the same spots. But the types of enemies you'll encounter, and upgrades, and their locations change each time you die and restart the game.
However, I noticed that there are limits to the randomness. Each time I entered an area, I knew which monsters would definitely be there, like a giant bird that swoops down to on to eat me the minute I step foot in a certain area, or a line of giant carnivorous plants that were always in the same spot, no matter how many times I revisited the area. While the game is still enjoyable, I would have liked to see a greater mix up between the creatures. After replaying a level a handful of times, there would be very few surprises left to discover.
Oblitus features a wonderful setting, and some truly creative creatures and boss monsters, which helps set it apart from other action platformers. Players can use lunge the spear at nearby creatures, or throw it and be left weaponless for a few seconds until it returns. Skilled players should also learn to use the shield, which is something that I never managed to master. Between dodging creatures and throwing spears, the shield is something that's really easy to forget.
Big World, Big Monsters
The game also has tremendous scope. At one point, I started to wonder if I would be climbing up forever, or if there was actually an end to the mountain level. The large levels turn out to be very useful when trying to avoid enemies, because I could lure them off cliffs. However, they necessarily die when falling from great heights. There were plenty of times, when I missed a jump or had to backtrack, where I was surprised by an enemy I left behind and forgot about. Then there are the giants that roam the world, that want nothing more than to crush you into paste.
Although enemies are pretty straightforward and mindless, they are numerous and quite tenacious. They very keen sight lines, and will stay on you as soon as you're spotted. They'll run, jump, and chase you all across the level if they can. They'll lose interest if you manage to drop them off a platform or otherwise manage to escape them, but you always have to be aware of them. Especially creatures like the spiders, which will jump and attack from off-screen. Getting hit suddenly like that does feel cheap sometimes, but it does fit into the game's sense of challenge. There are also a number of cleverly hidden monsters that took me completely by surprise, and figuring out how to defeat them (along with the game's bosses) is a test of skill, observation, and perseverance.
Where Oblitus goes a little overboard is in how there are no save slots. If you intend to beat the game, you have to do so in a single sitting, and hope that nothing goes wrong - like the game crashing. Otherwise, you have to start again from the very beginning, which I think is a lot to ask of players, even for a game where constant restarts is part of the gameplay.
Death is a New Beginning
In spite of soul crushing feeling of losing everything due to a sudden death, or quitting the game, Oblitus has a allure that keeps calling me back. Although the game is very challenging, and I never made it to the final boss, at no point did I feel that the game was impossible to overcome. Oblitus's dark atmosphere and artwork also offer incentive to soldier on, just to see more of world, even after restarting the game a dozen times over. If you don't mind the Sisyphean struggle, Oblitus is definitely a game worth checking out.
This review is based on a PC code provided by the publisher. Oblitus is available on Steam for $14.99.