Cast Of The Seven Godsends – Review

Title   Cast of the Seven Godsends
Developer  Raven Travel Studios
Publisher  Merge Games, IV Productions
Platform  Windows PC
Genre  Action, Adventure
Release Date  July 20, 2015

Cast Of The Seven Godsends is a game with its roots firmly planted in the past, a homage to all of the retro games that came before it, presented for a new generation. While the effort is certainly commendable in itself, the unfortunate truth is that everything about those games of yesteryear has been recreated – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Cast Of The Seven Godsends makes its intentions known right from the off – very little dialogue, some quick cut-scenes depicting a stolen baby, the death of its father, and a bunch of bad guys dressed up like the rejects from a David Bowie concert.

You play the recently-deceased-come-recently-resurrected father of the child who has been captured for some evil god resurrection, very much in the vein of Ghostbusters II. It’s not the most original story, but then you aren’t necessarily playing this game for the plot. What you are interested in are the six worlds and twelve bosses you’re going to have to conquer using a variety of weapons and magical spells. However, despite what sounds like a solid offering, the frustrations of sticking too closely to a well-tested formula begin to show early on.

First and foremost, the gameplay is a mixed bag of tricks. On the positive side, the action is fairly fast-paced, there is plenty of activity on the screen, and I was never once left without something to shoot or deal with. You start off capable of taking two hits from an enemy before you die, unless you pick up a suit of armour, in which case you can take four. Should you, by some chance, make it to another area without losing your armour, you’ll be given the opportunity to randomly gain access to some enchanted armour, which will make you pretty darn powerful. Accessing this array of weaponry is, in my opinion, the highlight of the game because these magical suits (the embodiment of the spiritual beings that have risen you from the grave) allow for some pretty cool special moves and allow you to dish out a lot of damage quickly.

The problem is getting them and holding onto them – even with your super powers, two hits will send you right back to being a pretty bog-standard mortal, with a fairly irritating weapon set. Your initial daggers are weak but at least you’ll know which direction’s they’ll go in – up, down, left, right (there is no diagonal shooting here, kids). The weapon drops you get for your mortal character are as random as the magical suits, but at least the magical suits are pretty kick-ass. Some of the weapons follow suit but others are downright frustrating.

The mace and hammer, for example, are thrown in an arc, which is great for all those fucking flying assholes that you’ve been struggling to hit for the last couple of minutes, but now you have to strafe around trying to hit the thing right in front of you. By level two, I was just spamming the fire button (my Alt button hasn’t seen that much action in years and he sits next to that big whore, Spacebar). I’d probably forgive this decision if the weapons weren’t randomised, or if there was some sort of choice, but there isn’t.

The difficulty spike is a real gut-punch, too. I understand the history of these games, hell I grew up playing them, but there is a reason why they were so good then and very hit-and-miss now. Why is it that we only hear about the Shovel Knights of the modern age and not the Cast Of The Seven Godsends? It’s because Shovel Knight was locked down tight; every element of it was exactly how it needed to be, to find that balance of reward and difficulty. The same can be said of Super Meat Boy, except the premise and mechanics on offer are so much less, and because of that it’s actually easier to contend with. Cast Of The Seven Godsends isn’t unplayable; it just sometimes feels unfair. Why am I button mashing by level two? Why am I using continues on the first level? Lovers of the game might tell me it’s a skill thing – in reality, it’s because it’s heavily mimicking Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins, just without the glassy eye of nostalgia to make you forget that you’re constantly banging your head against a brick wall. Shielded enemies on the first level? No save system? Slightly under-sensitive movement controls? No thanks, I’ll pass.

If your gameplay isn’t going to be of the highest value, you’re unlikely to get by on your graphics and audio mimicking this particular era. The graphics themselves aren’t offensive, just simplistic. I will say that they are certainly colourful, and plenty has been done to jazz up the screen when you summon the almighty strength of the magical powers. Aside from this, though, it’s nothing to write home about – I’ve seen better-looking games from this era and chances are that better will follow.

The audio is, unfortunately, pretty forgettable; the same tunes chirping along despite any repeated deaths, increase in any numbers, or change in scene. The music changes for boss fights and between levels, and I suppose we should be thankful for that much. The boss music does ramp up the tension a fraction, so at least that is something to look forward to. The only downside of that is knowing you’re going to be listening to it a lot if you die once, because you’ll be re-entering the fight as a very weak human and not the magical badass you possibly entered as.

As much as I could promote the lack of a save system as a positive note, I really can’t. It riles me something chronic that in an age where video games are so popular and there is so much content out there, that developers think we just want to play the same thing over and over again. Call of Duty gets away with it because it’s multiplayer and because of the array of content. The Binding of Isaac gets away with it because it’s a roguelike and some aspects of your progress are saved. Cast Of The Seven Godsends wants to get away with it to… up the difficulty? Fuck that. There’s a challenge and then there’s pointless time-sinks. If you die at any point in the adventure, you’ve got a heavy bounty of continues to carry on from that point, but if you use them all up it’s back to the start with you.

This is basically the crux of the problem for Cast Of The Seven Godsends. It’s not a bad game in the sense of what someone may deem bad. It’s just baffling design decisions that make it not much fun to play. I call these decisions baffling, and yet they’re not surprising in the slightest because the developers wanted to mimic a different era. The problem with that is that they literally wanted to mirror it rather than modernise it, and for the most part there are better older games that have been modernised to allow you to enjoy them, minus the frustration. With a save system and a few gameplay tweaks, I have no doubt that Cast Of The Seven Godsends would go up two, maybe three points and knowing that is a real shame.

  • Fast paced action
  • Cool magical powers
  • Randomised weapons aren't always a great idea.
  • A really painful learning curve
  • No save system

Cast Of The Seven Godsends is a game that is trying to invoke a sense of nostalgia, but all it does is stand out as a beacon of how much video games have changed and how much we don't need games that are still treading these same paths. I'm a kid of the late eighties, early nineties, so I grew up playing today's 'classics' - this mimics them all too closely. Sometimes it's a good thing and sometimes it's not, and unfortunately in this case, the rough edges are extra rough and the smooth parts are all but non-existent. Grab it if you like your games really old school, however there are plenty of other titles of the same nature to enjoy that do it just a little bit better.

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