We played the final version of Ultra Age, a particular action inspired by Devil May Cry for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
In recent times we have seen the presentation of ambitious oriental projects in development at studios composed of numerous developers and with a budget that has nothing to envy to the large western triple A productions (to find out more, here is our preview of Black Myth: Wukong) . Even in those parts, however, we find smaller studios that with few resources and even less workforce try to make their dream come true: among these there are Visual Dart and Next Stage, two small teams that in recent years have worked on Ultra Age, an action that blends a series of original mechanics with others already seen in other exponents of the genre. After completing the adventure of Age on PlayStation 4 we are ready to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of this particular indie product.
The Sword Collector
We are in 3174 AD and Age, a young explorer, has only a few days left to live when he is sent with his trusty robot Helvis to retrieve an object aboard an old abandoned spaceship. The expedition, however, turns out to be more insidious than it seemed and sets off an adventure that leads the protagonist to face a long series of dangers with the aim of saving the entire human race from extinction.
As you can also guess from the premises, the narrative component of Ultra Age is not exciting and is nothing more than a excuse to give a weapon to the protagonist and push him, arena after arena, to cut down enemies. The focus of this production is in fact the combat system, since Ultra Age is a fast-paced action with third-person view who winks a little at Devil May Cry (here is our review of Devil May Cry 5) and a little to Nier Automata, to which he also adds some original and well-thought-out mechanics.
In fact, our protagonist is equipped with numerous swords: when we refer to the number we do not mean only that in the game there are blades with different characteristics, but also that these are disposable. In the course of the adventure we will get our hands on six different types of broadsword (however, only four can be equipped) that can be exchanged smoothly during the combos with key combinations that will activate a unique effect that varies for each weapon.
So far, the description of the combat system may recall what we have seen in many other action games, but what distinguishes Ultra Age from all its competitors is the fact that swords wear out as if they were bullets. Around the game world we will collect dozens of blades: since these will wear out in the fury of the fight, when the durability indicator is close to zero, we will be able to decide whether to continue attacking until moving on to the next weapon or destroy it immediately by activating a devastating ability called the Shattering Blade.
In the case of the claymore, for example, Age unleashes a powerful attack that inflicts large damage on the target, instead the katana unleashes a series of quick slashes that hit anyone in front of the protagonist. To enrich the possibilities offered by the combination of Disruptive Blade, light attack and heavy attack we also find a rope that our alter ego can use both to approach the most slender targets and to project itself towards the enemy and, with the right power-ups, crash on. him with a kind of explosion that inflicts considerable damage. There is also a quick dodge that, if performed with the right timing, slows down the action for an instant and allows the hero to punish the opponent with a combination of slashes.
To show the first signs of failure of the combat system, however, are the six blades available during the adventure: of these, in fact, only a couple are really useful and all the others act as a side element that, in fact, may not never be used except on a couple of occasions for solving trivial environmental puzzles. This means that the player can in fact devote all the resources accumulated in the enhancement of only two swords and be incredibly strong from the very beginning.
Using the Claymore on robotic enemies and the katana on organic ones there is no need to worry about anything else and even any electric shields can be beautifully ignored since the two weapons mentioned are so effective as to put the dazzling blade in the background. This is a problem of no small importance, especially if we consider that Ultra Age does not offer the opportunity to select the difficulty level and there is no way to make the adventure more difficult through game mechanics.
A serious shortcoming for any action fan, not least because the general challenge level tends to be low with the exception of a couple of difficulty peaks that clash with those proposed in the rest of the story of Age. No less annoying is the management of the camera which, even with the lock-on on the target, makes it really tiring to keep the action under control: often you find yourself suffering attacks from behind without the possibility of reacting with the right timing.
To have not convinced us are also some collateral mechanics such as the one linked to the collection of runes for enhancing parameters of the protagonist. The system is in fact poorly implemented and in the course of the game we find ourselves in 90% of cases having to abandon the new runes on the ground as they are less effective than those equipped. Even the system to make time flow quickly thanks to the skills of the robot Helvis did not seem right: using this special power, in fact, you can regenerate the monsters in the area and the crystals from which weapons are extracted.
Put simply, this mechanic does nothing but further simplify an already easy game and for the entire span of the campaign he never cornered us for what concerns the management of the swords, always available in great abundance. The ability to eliminate multiple opponents guarantees enormous amounts of energy with which to upgrade weapons and increase their chances of critical hit, aspects that allow you to eliminate any threat in relative fluency, even when it comes to bosses or mid-bosses.
A Platinum within everyone’s reach
Another problematic aspect of Ultra Age is the enemies, which they really deliver little variety both in number and in appearance. In the about six hours needed to reach the end credits we will always face the same opponents, repeated to exhaustion to the point of sometimes making it tiring to progress in the adventure. The bosses themselves propose ups and downs and, although the qualities of the ideas behind the construction of these clashes are evident on a couple of occasions, their realization also disappoints due to the already discussed management of the camera.
To make some sequences of the story exhausting are also the settings and the level design, both aspects of the production that are not well cared for and that in the second half of the adventure force the player to a backtracking within repetitive and visually unpleasant areas. In general all the places that we will find ourselves exploring turn out to be devoid of details, rich in recycled assets and technically behind at least a couple of generations, not to mention the level design devoid of any flicker even in the positioning of the collectibles.
The animations of the protagonist outside of the fight are also uncertain, to which must also be added the facial inexpressiveness of the character sharpened by the weak English dubbing (you can also choose the one in Japanese). Fortunately, the game does not present major problems in terms of fluidity and, apart from a few drops in framerate in the most crowded moments, you are able to constantly keep the 60 frames per second.
The excessive simplicity of the 37 Trophies available in the PlayStation 4 version (there is no next-gen upgrade at the moment) is also to turn up one’s nose. We do not hide from you that we have platinum Ultra Age even before displaying the credits on the screen and, frankly, this is the first time we have had a similar situation. This happens because defeat of the final boss represents 100% completion of the game: eliminated the supreme nemesis this action to the sword literally has nothing more to offer: no additional difficulty, no time challenges or hordes mode.
Ultra AgeVersion Analyzed PlayStation 4 ProIf we were to evaluate exclusively the combat system of Ultra Age we would not hesitate to say that it is a small pearl. Unfortunately, however, we find ourselves having to consider the entire package and it is therefore impossible not to take into account the serious problems of this production, which range from level design to the graphics sector, passing through some very questionable gameplay choices. The result is a poor offer in terms of content even for a product sold for 29.99 euros. In short, the purchase of Ultra Age should only be evaluated by the most hardcore fans of the genre who do not want to miss the opportunity to try the particular combat system on PlayStation 4 or Nintendo Switch (platform on which there is also a free demo).