Slain: Back from Hell (PC Review)

Heavy metal is a rigid form of music I’ve never really understood. People screaming aggressively into a microphone generating incoherent noises that could mistakenly be taken as someone desperately trying to clear their throat never really clicked personally. But hey, that’s just me. I can see its appeal though, in certain scenarios. The aggressive nature of heavy metal riffs and the destructive banging of drums can have a profound effect on a movie or a game’s overall tone and setting the right tone is just as important as character/story development. Slain: Back from Hell certainly wouldn’t be the same without it. Slain is a heavy metal inspired 2D pixel side scroller with a murky development cycle, one with problematic unresponsive controls and lackluster gameplay to boot – resulting in the original title Slain being pulled from storefronts. Thankfully the cycle has came full circle and Slain has returned in the form of Slain: Back from Hell – nifty title, eh?

Gatekeeper SlainWith the emphasis on heavy metal it would be silly for there not to be any content that isn’t dripping from head to toes in blood and dread. The story of Slain is just that, an ill fated warrior, Bathoryn, who is struck with the impeded destiny of slaying lord Vroll and his demon army. Unwillingly resurrected from the dead, you must battle your way through hordes of demons set before you. You’re guided through these unforgiving, brutal lands by a gruesome looking, otherworldly wayfarer which lead character Bathoryn can only describe as a “Fishwife”.

Slain DemonAs you travel through Slain: Back From Hell’s Gothic landscapes you’ll be faced with many worthwhile challenges. Enemies spawn in large numbers and like to come at you from all sides. Combat can be a bit of a nuisance as your sword swings can easily be interrupted by the slightest touch from either side of you and unfortunately enemies don’t stagger on hit- as if they are sturdy as rocks. Blocking would be an effective countermeasure to these overwhelming attacks, with a slight drawback. Blocking allows you to mitigate a portion of the damage, but you are still forced to take some damage. If you are skillful enough then you’ll have no need to fall back on the block mechanic much as a well timed block will initiate a parry of sorts, stunning the enemy and opening them up for a deadly blow. And mastering the parry is essential if you wish to get far in Slain: Back From Hell.

The art of a good parry will save your life more times than not, but you still need to know what type of attacks to use and when. Bathoryn has the ability to charge up his attacks and create a deadly riptide of death in front of him, good for slaying meager groups of foes or intrusive obstacles. Luckily, Bathoryn has more than his trusty sword to rely on. With mana reserves a plenty, Bathoryn can cast magic in the form of a forward firing missile that, on occasion, can penetrate multiple enemies. Holding a charge burst of mana allows you to perform a charge shot or an almighty powerful, area clearing shockwave. Be wary though, mana reserves can only be replenished from critical kills (parry, and attack) and checkpoints, so don’t go spamming that stuff. As progression is made Bathoryn’s trusty compatriot the “fishwife” will bestow him with enchanted weaponry in the form of fire and ice. Each form offers its own strengths against certain foes; fire deals well with lycanthropes and vampires and ice deals with heavily armoured foes. However, your basic steel sword is the most versatile weapon you’ve got, as it deals with most scenarios the game throws at you and it’s combos are the fastest. So you’ll want to stick with that for most occasions.

Slain BossAttaining these elemental attributes is not an easy feat as they’ll often require you to have made a fair amount of progress, one which bosses tend to hinder. Bosses are Slain: Back From Hell’s standout combatants, as most enemies are simple palette/skins swaps of one another, so developing strategies for these weaklings will becomes second nature. The bosses are a different question entirely. Some will require quick movement to avoid their onslaught of attacks whilst other will require you to deflect projectiles back at them. Some require you to deal with a multitude of demons simultaneously whilst deflecting projectiles back at it all whilst flying through the air…some bosses we simply wish not to repeat. If the normal denizens were more varied and more like the bosses you faced at the end of each chapter then Slain: Back From Hell would be far more entertaining than it already is.

This Gothic nightmare does well for itself with its goreish imagery and unsightly sights of intestine covered walls and grotesquely designed architecture – a Bram Stoker tribute with a flair for heavy metal. Spanning from countryside hills all the way to subterranean sewers back up to mountaintop castles. Every vista is weeping with frightful scenery. The open countryside is full of pitfall traps and dreaded spikes lying in wait for a clumsy adventurer. Sewers are filled with acidic nasties and metallic crushers and castles are littered with guillotine like traps and giant mace like wrecking balls. Surviving all of this is no trivial task and the trepidation of it all sinks in rather quickly. The score of heavy metal doesn’t help calm the nerves either, with constant shredding of electric guitars amping up the pace of your inevitable death. The only recess you get out of all this is after slaying a boss and praying to the two horned metal god that you came out the other end in one piece.

Slain screamSlain: Back from Hell has certainly proved itself worthy of Beelzebub himself. I thankfully managed to dodge the bullet that was Slain’s initial release but there seems to be nought wrong whence it came back from hell. Unable to make a comparison I’d still say that Slain: Back from Hell does itself proud and that developer Andrew Gilmour should be to. Playing to many strengths of the side scrolling genre by avoiding encumbering the player with story and keeping the action moving, I tended to often overlook the repetitive palette swapped monsters; though unique in design they still proved to be pretty predictable. If you’ve had you’re eye on Slain: Back from Hell then now would be the best time to pick it up, polished and bug free.

Slain: Back from Hell

8

Overall

8.0/10

Pros

  • Brutally Realised Artstyle
  • Complimentary Score
  • Bosses Are Well Designed

Cons

  • Some Palette Swapped Creatures
  • Difficulty Can Change Drastically.

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