Kromaia Ω – Review

Title   Kromaia Omega
Developer  Kraken Empire
Publisher  Rising Star Games
Platform  PlayStation 4
Genre  Shoot 'em up
Release Date  November 20, 2015

On paper, Kromaia Ω, the latest effort from indie coders Kraken Empire, sounds pretty good. I’m always up for an arcade shoot ‘em up, and when you add Rez-style aesthetics and the promise of emergent AI behaviour, along with different weapon systems, that’s usually a recipe I tend to like. I’ve got no idea how you pronounce its name, but I was still keen to get my hands on the game.

There is a story of sorts. “The original adventure featuring the multiverse and the journey in search for the final answer. Kyllene system activates your armor and awakes you after your soul calibrates the unit. The year is NaN.

Whatever the fuck that means.

But essentially it comes down to you drifting through four levels on your way to four boss battles (there is apparently a fifth, but the game didn’t actually tell me that or how to access it – you have to beat each level with each of the four weapon systems the game offers you). Each level is an open-space affair full of structures, debris, and enemies. You fly through the levels picking up twenty components that ultimately unlock the boss battle. Each boss battle is different and can require new tactics as you figure out the right way to defend yourself and attack back.

On top of the basic story mode you also have ‘Pure’ mode, which is a one-life-only trip through each level; ‘Score Attack’, which focuses on those scoring mechanics that are never properly explained, and there’s a rudimentary local co-op mode but this just sees one of you controlling movement and the other controlling the weapons systems. You know, the worst type of co-op.

As with any shoot ‘em up it all comes down to how satisfying the game is to play and it’s here where Kromaia Ω lets itself down the most. As this is an into-the-screen type of shooter, your ship is always going to be in the way of the action. Rez was fine because you were really just controlling a cursor and the enemies had an order to how they moved, but in Kromaia Ω you are moving in free space, so everything seems to just get in the way of everything else.

Not that this creates any real difficulty. If you die, the game just puts you back to one of the very reasonable checkpoints, and the key to success just seems to be pointing at the next component and stabbing the turbo button until you get there. Combat is just too confusing to get involved with, and damage seems to come from nowhere, so flight is usually the better option than fight.

That’s not to say that the game is without merit. The movement of your ship in free space is quite nice. Combat isn’t just the usual circle-chase and locking-on that you usually get in dogfights, and navigating through objects and structures tends to be okay. However, you can’t help but wish those mechanics were stuck into an Elite clone rather than this shortlived arcade shooter.

Visually, the game is a bit of a mess. The solid colours and flat textures evoke memories of Rez, but with Rez everything was placed on the screen in a deliberate way. Here it’s just a big mix of colours and flashes. It’s hard to see what you are doing, where you are going, what you are fighting and indeed what’s going on. In the end I can’t help wishing they’d toned it all down, but with gameplay this flat, you can’t afford to totally tame the presentation I guess.

At a reasonable price, this could qualify as an interesting little curio for arcade fans, but at £20 it is shamefully overpriced. There is some fun to be had and Pure Mode offers a tougher challenge for hardcore shooters that is worth a look, but wait until the inevitably soon sale hits on this one.

  • Pretty good controls for a console space shooter
  • Some nice visual design
  • Just a bit dull
  • Screen gets very messy when the action gets going
  • Far too expensive

There's some promise here with Kromaia Ω but with its messy visuals, dull presentation and offensive price tag, you'll be better off buying one of PSN's many better shooters or waiting for this to drop to at least a quarter of its current price.

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