Nothing is wholly original. Whether it be a movie, a book, a piece of music, or a game, all creative works build on those that came before. From Halo to Call of Duty, every modern FPS owes a lot to the original Wolf 3D for kickstarting the FPS genre. Similarly, Mortal Kombat, Tekken, and every other fighting game were built upon the extensive combos and gameplay mechanics that Street Fighter 2 established back in 1991. Hell, ever since a certain game came out in 2011, “it’s like Dark Souls” has been a mainstay phrase in reviews or discussions of pretty much any game that bears even the most remote resemblance to it.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. Good art potentially inspires even better art. However, more often than not, good art also inspires a large number of carbon copies. Implementing elements of another game is entirely fine, but unapologetically recreating the same game only to slap a filter on it and calling it a new game is blatantly disrespectful, not to mention disgustingly lazy.
As soon as I saw screenshots of Resolutiion on Steam, the cynical part of me wasted not a nanosecond before accusing it of being a straight ripoff of one of the coolest games in recent memory, Hyper Light Drifter. The hopeful, optimistic part of me though was definitely intrigued and wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt. So, is Resolutiion a glorified HLD skin or does it merely take inspiration from HLD while standing on its own two feet? Let’s find out.
Story & Narrative
From the start all the way to the very end, the story in Resolutiion is incredibly vague.
All you know for sure is that you play as an old soldier, a veteran in some war perhaps, who has since been cybernetically augmented so much that he’s more machine than organic. Oh, and he conveniently suffers from amnesia, so he’s as lost as you are. You soon find an AI companion and figure out that your objective is to escort it into enemy territory so that it can dismantle the terrorist’s network from within. In order to do that, you’ll have to rediscover some of your own memories by beating bosses (duh).
Everything – the world, it’s history, your objective, all of it – is mysterious and cryptic, and it’s constantly hinted at that there’s more going on than you’re privy to. The story-telling is almost entirely environmental, except for a few documents you might stumble upon that provide short vignettes of historical events. The NPCs spout almost nonsensical dialog and only leave you more confused than before, and even your AI companion, Alibii, has almost nothing to say about anything. There are also hints of philosophical ideas about societal hierarchy – how the rich treat the poor – and about the dangers of technological progress, but none of them are explored at all or lead anywhere interesting.
Why is there a giant, beating heart in the middle of a dark forest? What’s with the giant desert cat that’s intent on devouring you? Why are the bosses named after colors, and why is there one just called ‘God’? Not spoon-feeding the player is fine and dandy, but I‘d argue that in Resolutiion not only are we not spoon-fed, there is in fact no spoon or cutlery of any sort, nor is there any food other than a few unidentifiable morsels on the ground that seem vaguely edible. The various narrative threads come across more as a mish-mash of random half-baked ideas rather than the cohesive philosophical dilemma it wants to be.
Also, the tone of the narrative itself is all over the place: The general music and visuals portray a bleak, hopeless dystopian futuristic world, a once-great world in ruins, but the writing is randomly comedic at times – NPCs also break the fourth wall in a few instances – which takes away from the sense of atmosphere I described before, leaving me confused and wondering if the narrative was supposed to be taken seriously or if it’s all just a joke.
Gameplay & Mechanics
Resolutiion is essentially an isometric hack ‘n’ slash Metroidvania game. You have your basic melee slash attack, and you find more weapons and items to add to your repertoire as you explore and progress through the map. Most of these items serve the Metroidvania aspect – allowing access to previously inaccessible areas – more than the combat. The combat is sadly, pretty shallow. Apart from the basic slash, you get a shotgun of some sort early on, and later a sort of explosive. That’s pretty much it. To make it worse, the shotgun (obviously) isn’t long-range and is so slow to aim that I rarely even used it.
The most enjoyable gameplay mechanic, by far, is the metered dash. Unlike most games where you press a button to dash a predefined distance, here you hold ‘A’ to dash as much or as little as the situation warrants as long as you have the stamina. This, combined with how satisfying the dash looks, makes for some really fun movement and fast combat, especially if/when you find the stamina upgrades.
The enemy variety is pretty good, but none of them really pose much of a challenge, especially once you get used to the dashing mechanic. In fact, I think I only died once outside of boss battles. The boss battles – that I encountered anyway – were more challenging, (especially before you obtain an attack upgrade), but didn’t have multiple stages to them as I’d expected (like Furi).
Outside of bosses, you can choose to either kill, spare, or completely ignore enemies, just dodging past them instead. Killed enemies stay dead when you return to the area, they don’t respawn like in most games of this type, which is pretty novel and ripe for story-telling in direct consequence of gameplay and player agency. So you can choose to either play as a pacifist (which can be frustrating as it’s very easy to accidentally kill things) or do a genocide run where you kill anything that moves. However, this has no effect on the narrative at all, and again, it just felt pointless.
The map design is horrible and makes no sense. There are so many instances where you head through an exit at the top of the screen only to find that you’ve entered from the top in the next screen, which makes no spatial sense. Also, the map itself, with the confusing markers and icons, is difficult to decipher and I had no idea what the symbols meant for a long time. Panning across the map is agonizingly slow. Some paths are easily missable, a few times what looks like a dead-end leads into the next screen, so that resulted in me wasting quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to get to where I needed to go.
Moreover, the game claims to have a 20-hour playtime but it took me only about 8 hours to beat. Sure, I missed a few items and upgrades but a 20-hour playtime is still very misleading.
Visuals and Music
Finally, we get to the good part. Resolutiion has some absolutely amazing pixel-art and is super stylish in its environments as well as the character animations. There’s a lot of personality in the character’s idle animation alone. Yes, overall, it’s clearly very inspired by HLD in its visual aesthetic: the detailed pixel art, the isometric camera, the neon colors, and geometric shapes, etc. but it pulls it off so well it’s hard to be upset about it. Pixel art lovers will find a lot to love here, no question about it.
Plus, the game world features a good variety of environments – from ruined archaic skyscrapers to a barren desert to a mysterious lost forest to even an underwater level. This provides for a great visual variety as well, and so just traversing this world and admiring it is, in and of itself, rewarding and worth playing for.
The catchy electronic music doesn’t disappoint either and does a great job of creating a sense of atmosphere. Though most tracks serve the game very well, they’re not something I’d listen to outside of the game except for one standout track in particular, which was particularly Doom-like. Also, Resolutiion has a couple of neat audio tricks up its sleeve which serve the gameplay incredibly well: the beat ramps up when in combat and slows down when not, and – I especially loved this clever addition – the music distorts and warps, becomes more high-pitched and fast when your health drops to dangerous levels. That was a really cool idea and it was implemented perfectly, and made for some fun, tense moments.
There are some really cool ideas at the heart of Resolutiion. It’s oozing with style both in its beautiful pixel-art as well as it’s clever music. It has a great sense of mystery and hints at some great world lore and intriguing philosophical ideas. However, these are never truly explored and remain mere hints, and this lack of direction, combined with the strange tone, frustrating map design, and shallow gameplay prevents Resolutiion from reaching its potential and succeeding in being the truly great game it sets out to be. Still, it’s worth playing for the visuals and music alone.