Apparently, there are two sides to everything in life. Well, this is certainly true for leading man Ashe, in Jordan Scott's Arbiter, an action packed single player game about mastering the mystic art of transformation, as you juggle the powers of both light Ether and dark Umbra. An age old war has raged for centuries between the demonic spirits of Ether and Umbra, encompassing all in the destructive wake of war. Humanity has found itself in the middle of this devastation, but through the gifts of spiritual power granted to one, known as the Arbiter, there is still a chance for survival and peace. Join Ashe, the successor of the Arbiters, on his quest to defeat and seal away the dangerous beasts that seek to rain down havoc, and restore balance. Wielding the might of both Ether and Umbra, the flow of battle is in your hands.
Fastest finger first!
No time to lose, the demo is all about learning as you go, starting straight away with a couple of enemies to fight and focusing on combat education over anything else. In fact, it is a little way down the line that the player is told they can even dash. The core of this title is in the transformations, a tap on the left bumper switching Ashe between light and dark. No pausing for any snazzy cut scenes or sequences, the change is instant and as the game progresses it is very clear why. Each enemy you take on will embody either or Umbra, and if Ashe is attacking an enemy that is the same type as himself all offense from both sides will have no effect and simply be absorbed. However, should Ashe be the opposite type to his opponent, the sparks will fly!
Thinking with spirits
I found the controls to be relatively straight forward, although getting my head around the right bumper being dodge was a bit of a stinger, there isn't a huge amount to pick up. What brings the challenge is the speed, early enemies are small and pretty helpless to practice on, much like Shadow Heartless from the Kingdom Hearts universe. But as you progress, the difficulty curve is steep. Button mashing and hoping for the best will not cut it, you have to gauge the enemy attacks, but even dodging isn't enough. Much like thinking with portals, this takes some getting used to, and the mastery of knowing when to switch is the key to winning. It is tough, but very satisfying when you've got it. Ashe also controls very nicely, smooth and responsive, I never once had to shout at him for not doing what I asked.
Not so black and white?
What the game lacks in color, it makes up for in the design. Due to the light and dark theme of the main character and monsters he faces, there is a lot of black and white, but there is plenty of subtle shading to bring out the definition in the models, plus the vibrant yellow eyes everyone seems to be sporting. Each spirit is reflective of its' difficulty level, in that the smaller less detailed creatures are more common and easier to disperse, ramping up to larger beasts with longer and sharper claws. But we also have the promise of some very unique bosses to come, squaring off against Wolf in this demo who is actually a dual wielding spirit like yourself, only the cracks of light in its' Umbra form are very striking, suggestive that perhaps it is forcing this power that doesn't belong?
Can't keep me down!
Initially, I was drawn to this game from the concept of transformations, and dual power wielding. It shakes things up to transform and opens up a lot more possibilities in terms of unique move sets. I didn't see any of this in the demo, as both Ether and Umbra played identically, but perhaps this is something to come, there is definitely mention of customizing your moves so maybe. This demo through was a huge challenge for me, I struggled with the speed in which the player was needed to progress, and died a number of times against the boss. But my pride stood tall, and I persevered, trying different tactics and strategies until I began to understand the core mechanics of battling in this world. The feeling of victory was incredibly satisfying, because I really had to try in order to earn it, and I loved feeling accomplished.
So if this has captured your interest, or even just to prove that I am bad at the game, please head on over to the Kickstarter page for Arbiter here, where you can try the demo for yourselves, and learn even more about what this game will offer. I recommend giving it a whirl and seeing for yourself!
In your hands you hold the powers of light and dark, for you are the savior of this world, the only one who can save humanity, the Arbiter!
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