Testament: The Order of High Human is a First Person Action RPG with lite souls and Metroidvania mechanics. When I first learned about this game, my initial reaction was, of course, I want that. This was further solidified when I played the steam next fest demo and was smitten with the impressive visuals and look of the game. Sadly, this is a case of Beauty being skin deep.
Let us start with what is good. The visuals and graphics are very impressive for a game that is said to be made by a small team of 15 people. The character designs seem akin to something from an A24 movie and look damn near AAA. Some areas of the game utilize very cool lighting that really pops in the puzzle sequences.
Controlling the character for exploring and solving puzzles felt great and similar to playing other first-person puzzlers like The Witness, except here you can climb ropes, jump and clamber, and even wall run. I opted to play using an Xbox controller, which felt good for the most part. Some of the button assignments felt weird, and I never got quite used to them, especially during heated combat. This may be more of a design flaw, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The story of Testament revolves around Aran, a fallen king of the High Humans. In a very Metroidvania way, you awaken as a mortal, having lost all of your godly powers, and now you must regain them. You learn your brother Arva has turned to darkness and used it to overthrow you, leaving you for dead in the mortal realm. All of this is delivered via dialogue and some cutscenes as you explore the game’s first few hours. I appreciated this unique story set in a universe I do not know or understand yet.
No Es Bueno!
Now for the not-so-good. I played the Steam Next Fest demo for Testament and knew it was geared to be challenging and souls-like, so I opted to play on easy for this review. I am no stranger to challenging games. As a massive Ninja Gaiden and Dark Souls fan, I enjoy a good challenge. So when I tell you Testament is neither, please believe me. Playing on easy, I found myself getting through most combat scenarios with little stress and felt I had made a mistake. Early boss fights felt challenging but not impossible. However, at a point in the game, there was quite a spike. Enemies became ruthless hordes that gang up on you. Combat mechanics begin to fail. Basic enemies become damage sponges. At this point, I realized how flawed the combat mechanics truly are.
The game tries to present itself as giving the player choice in combat by using the sword, bow, and/or magic. At the best of times, you can utilize all three in a symphony of destruction that is immensely satisfying. This is so rarely the case. Most of the time, you will be forced to use the sword in a desperate attempt to stave off the assault of enemies. If you attempt to use your bow at this point, at least one foe will rush you with an unblockable attack, effectively punishing you for even thinking of using the bow. Early magic does little to help (later magic does get better), so not a great option. There are sections where some foes will be protected from damage by an invisible floating eye above them that you can only see when you activate Aran’s Instinct sight. The only way to remove the eye is to shoot it with your bow, which leads to you being rushed, as mentioned before. See the problem here?
To top it off, in the fashion of a souls-like, you can only carry up to 4 healing crystals to use; unlike a souls game, they do not refill, and there are no rest points. Which means you are always smashing boxes in the hopes of finding more. There is some stealth allowing you to sneak up on enemies and perform a takedown. Most basic enemies can be picked off with the bow, so you can thin the numbers or clear an area outright this way. Here comes the but. You can only carry so many arrows, and the mechanics are hit or miss. Enemies will seemingly at random be ever unaware of your presence. Then suddenly, every monster in the verse knows where you are, and like Liam Neeson, they will find you, and they will kill you.
I do like a lot about this game. The overall experience of combat and puzzles with Metroidvania-lite design was very appealing to me. I thoroughly enjoyed the pure puzzle sections (except the maze that had glitches and death walls), which for the most part, were simple get from point A to point B platforming, hitting switches along the way. There are some clever light-reflecting puzzles for doors and chests to solve to mix it up. I think the game has a lot of potential but fails in so many regards. The biggest glaring problem is the incredibly unbalanced combat. This reminds me of Darksiders 3, which tried to be souls-like but lacked proper balancing making for a terrible experience.
The back half of the game also feels very rushed and incomplete, leaving a bad taste in your mouth. With all that, it is very difficult to recommend this game to anyone who doesn’t want to waste money. Unless the developers at Fairyship Games put out some game-changing updates in the near future to fix most of the problems, it’s hard not to think this game was meant to lure players in with the shiny graphics but not a complete game.
I’m going to hold out hope that it may get fixed as I think it has a lot of potential, but until then.
I give Testament: The Order of High Human a 5 out of 10