Hello, everyone. This is Michael Cox, also known as “Arylos”, and today we’re going to look at the upcoming indie game Neorj.
So, for those of you who don’t know me, I grew up on games. I lived, breathed, ate, and slept video games. I think back on the good old days playing on the GameBoy Advanced (not the SP model; no backlight) late at night using the street lamp outside so that way my parents didn’t catch me late at night. I remember playing the Game Cube and SNES with my step siblings and friends. I envied the new DS lite and was so excited playing Pokemon Ruby when I was younger, so much so, I preordered Omega Ruby as soon as it was annoucned and wasn’t disappointed.
So, safe to say, I’ve grown up on classics. The original and good classics that everyone knows and loves. And one thing I love in games is taking inpsiration from an original or classic and modernising it. No, I don’t mean make and old platform with microtransactions. I mean do what the Super Marios Wii did where it wasn’t overly overhauled, but just updated. Just a minor modernisation that updated the graphics, smoothed out the gameplay, and remained true to the tried and true style of the old Mario games. Those kinds of games are what make me excited.
So then I hear about a little game called Neorj and I hope you by now would understand my excitement. I heard so little of the game but whispers, but it seemed pretty decent. And then I get my hands on the demo and I must say, I’m in love.
So, let’s talk about Neorj.
Neorj is a 3d platformer developed simply by NeorjDeveloper. I wanted to actually find the name of the developer, but that’s all I got. I also don’t know much of the story as of now so I’ll try to sum up what we know and what I infer from gameplay. In Neorj, you play as a girl Heli in this fantastic world and with the aid of one of the nurturing spirits of this world, she must release the other spirits in order to stop a dark creature seeking to end it all. The game takes form as you traverse the world to release these spirits as they increase your strength to take on the oncoming darkness.
Now, I can be horribly wrong about what I think so far so please feel free to correct me. But with that right there, if that’s what it is, I like the story. It reminds me a lot of Shadow of the Colossus in a way where Wander wants to resurrect Mono after she was sacrificed due to her “cursed fate” and Dormin offers to help so long as you defeat the 16 Colossi, which are actually pieces of him. Granted, this is a stretch, but you can see where I’m going with this a little. Knowing this, let’s be honest with ourselves; who didn’t love the story of Shadow of the Colossus? Anyone? By applause? If you’re nodding or clapping right now, you know where I’m coming from and seeing Neorj go down this path for story is very touching and makes my inner self scream in glee. And we all know how Shadow of the Colossus ended so if the developer takes a page from it, the ending will be just as touching.
In fact, Heli and the Dragon remind me a little bit of Wander and Agro, now that I think about it.
The only real problem with the game is the camera. It’s different, but that doesn’t mean bad. In fact, I think it works out very well. It gives the feeling that the game is staying true to the 3d platformer style, but being true 3d. I think that’s an interesting take and even though I personally think it would work better with a third-person view, I think this also works nicely because it allows you to really soak in the environment and direct the player’s attention. It also enforces a behaviour of scanning your environment and even taking a leap of faith, which is something I respect in many games.
The GUI is also very nice and clean. The spell tree is also very pretty to look at and I like the way it works that you have x power, but it’s up to you as to how to use it and when. Instead of playing all of the cards, it allows you to pick and choose what you want to do and, even better, if you get stumped on how to complete a task, it’s a good time to remember that you have a toolbox, not a toolbelt. What I mean by that is that it breaks the behaviour of going off of what’s on your toolbar and makes you think a little more. Think of the Evolution of Combat from RuneScape. Sure, you can resort to just general abilities, or you can customise your damage rotation based on your preference with a variety of abilities in your ability menu. You’re not even locked into using only the ability bar.
In RuneScape on EoC Revolution, you get a yellow bar on your action bar that indicates anything that is a “basic” abilities (does not use Adrenaline) will be performed automatically if not on cooldown. If on cooldown, it will move to the next ability in the rotation. (Adrenaline is basically mana. It’s the yellow bar by the red bar. As a battle goes on, you gain Adrenaline for every time you attack. After 50% Adrenaline, you can use Threshold Abilities, which are 90% of the ones greyed out. They also remove Adrenaline when used. at 100%, you can use ultimates, but ultimates consume all Adrenaline.) In a set up like this, you have your damage rotation and a small amount of thresholds and maybe one ultimate, but you have all of your abilities layed out on the GUI, allowing you to use any in any situation. For example, I rarely use the ability “Debilitate” in normal situations, which reduces enemy attack power, except I also use a curse that does that over time so I rarely use it. However, in cases of some bosses like Gregorovic, Telos, Arraxor, and Vindicta, I will use that ability since they can use a high damage attack every once in a while. Instead of just having them taking space on my toolbar, I can use them from the ability menu.
Now, that’s not the exact case of Neorj, but it does act in a similar way where you have these tools you can use and you’re not limited to your setup. I like the way this could pan out in different levels and could make puzzles really fun and thought out.
Throwing in the option to control the dragon is also cool where you can use it to scout as well as help clear paths and complete these puzzles in different ways. It reminds me of Tale of Two Brothers which I absolutely adore. I would love to see if there’s more cooperation between the hero and the dragon, it would be even better.
And finally, just look how pretty the game is. The developer has already made clear what engine he’s using and I must say, the sheer beauty of the game is really backed up by the engine.
Nature can be a beautiful thing and the art style really backs that up nicely. The temples are stunning, the effects are so clean, just everything about how the game looks really fits well with what the engine is capable of and fits extremely well with the style of the game. I mean, you’re dealing with spirits and powers of nature, so you should see all of that majesty and the magic of nature itself and I really want to personally congratulate the developer for nailing down the theme. It’s just so stunning to look at. It reminds me of Hellblade and how beautiful that game looked for being a small project.
Now, if you have overwhelming feelings of want and need, that’s commonplace. I really want to see this game do well and I really want to play more of it. Sadly, the developer isn’t expecting it to be done until next summer (July 20-25 to be exact). However, Neorj is currently on Thunderclap and preparing for a Kickstarder campaign September 25th! I’ll add the Kickstarter link once it becomes available, but for now, spread the word and support them on Thunderclap.
You can play the demo yourself now and get a feel for it for yourself.
And to the developer, you made a guy very happy just by showing off this game and I look forward to playing the final game!
Michael “Arylos” Cox.