Saturday, May 21, 2016

PC Review #145: Exanima

Title: Exanima
Developer: Bare Mettle Entertainment
Platforms: PC
Price: $14.99
I've been watching Game of Thrones recently, and one of the many things the show does so well is nailing that brutal, heavy, messy medieval combat. Not many games do, but Exanima isn't like many other games. A low-fantasy dungeon crawler, it uses the wonders of physics to turn melee combat into a gorgeous slugfest of glancing blows, crushing strikes, and smart positioning.
Exanima is in an interesting position, being both a full-fledged game on its own while also being a kind of proof of concept for the developer's much larger RPG Sui Generis. Divided between a linear dungeon crawler and combat-focused arena mode, Exanima revolves around its innovative physics-driven combat system that adds heft and weight to every swing.

Using the mouse, you control the angle and speed of your swings, feints, and parries. A fast step forward can add extra power to your attack or evade an enemy's blow to open them up for a counter. With the double-click of the left mouse, you can bring your weapon down in a devastating downward strike that could end a fight in seconds, while the Alt key performs a piercing thrust. Every animation is defined by physics and momentum and your own movement, from careful jabs to whistling hammer swings that can knock your foe to the ground.
All of that combines to deliver combat unlike any other. The clang of blade and blade, the scrape of a steel sword against stone when you miss a swing, the thuds of heavy blows against shields, the physicality of armored foes pushing and striking at each other, the screams and wet impacts when you rend flesh. Strategies such as closing the distance so your long sword-wielding enemy doesn't have the distance to swing effectively, or staying to the side of an enemy so you can slash at the unshielded part of his body.

Glancing blows, stumbles, weapons rebounding off shields and walls, and other physics-driven maneuvers makes Exanima's clashes feel messy and unpredictable and desperate, less like trading attacks in a fighting game and more like steel-edged street fight. You can hone your skills in the arena mode, hiring NPC combatants, engaging in fist fights and multi-enemy elimination rounds, and gaining money to buy better weapons and armor. Or you can embark into the dim torch-lit dungeons and face skeletons and hulking beasts lurking behind closed doors and dark shadows.
Exanima is still in Early Access, and recently received an update that added a massive new area to the dungeon crawler section and improved movement, animations, and other gameplay aspects. Future plans include dual wielding, outdoors regions, a more extensive skill system, among other additions.

Exanima is available on Steam and GOG,

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