Hands-On With Karnage Chronicles, an Epic New Co-Op Action RPG

by David Jagneaux • March 13th, 2017

The biggest problem with a lot of fantasy roleplaying games (RPGs) is that they seem to struggle to stand out. Most of them all have bow and arrow-wielding archers, sword and shield carrying warriors, magic channeling wizards, and clerics, but few of them find interesting ways to make those classes and archetypes fun again. That’s where Karnage Chronicles comes in, an upcoming cooperative multiplayer RPG from Nordic Trolls that we had the chance to go hands-on with at the 2017 Game Developers Conference (GDC) earlier this month.

What Karnage Chronicles does to stand out isn’t a matter of simply letting you do all of these things in VR, but rather the production values and polish afforded to the experience. I started my demo at a hub world and got to pick between either a warrior or an archer. The warrior featured a sword and shield as his primary weapons, with a crossbow that could be toggled as a backup. The archer was focused on the bow and arrow, with two tiny daggers as secondary weapons. The mage and cleric weren’t available at the time of the demo.

As you can see in the footage above, each of the four classes combine together to create a compelling team-based dynamic, but my demo was only a single player example. First I played as the warrior since a sword and shield felt like the most accessible of the two options. Movement was either teleportation based (point and click) or full locomotion. However, the full locomotion option moves painfully slow and was only intended as a way to maneuver during combat for the most part. Hopefully that gets sped up in the future.

When I faced my first enemy I immediately noticed how fluid and tactile the combat system felt. The goblins I fought seemed smarter than melee enemies I’d seen in other VR games and they actually tried to move around and dodge my swings. I’d have to raise my shield and block their blows at the right time while reaching out from behind my guard to make swipes.

Poking and wagging my wrist wouldn’t do anything, as I have to use the full breadth of my arc to create enough force for damage. It felt satisfying and when combined with the size and beauty of the environment, it was like I had really been sucked into the adventures of a fantasy world.

karnage world statue

Once I reached the end of the level, I was faced with a small army of mages that appeared on raised platforms to the sides, forcing me to switch to my crossbow. Unfortuntaely it only holds three shots before needing to be cranked again, which can take a while. This way I at least can shoot back, but it prevents the warrior from being too overpowered as a class.

It doensn’t take long for me to get overwhelmed at this part and I’m quickly struck down since I didn’t have any allies by my side. I decide to switch things up and tackle the same level as the archer this time around, hopefully with better results.

Perhaps all the hours spent in Holopoint and The Lab’s Longbow have payed off because the new set of equipment immediately felt more comfortable to me. I was dropping enemies before they even knew I was there and the large chasms between myself and lines of enemy archers didn’t slow me down. Soon, I had racked up six headshots in a row, which felt like an impressive number.

By the time I reached the end again, I was ready. I trained my gaze on the spawn points of the enemy mages that materialized and dropped them before they could even fling a single fireball. After mowing down the last few straggler enemies on the ground, I was victorious, and vanquished the last of my enemies in the level.

karnage world mine

Even though my demo was brief, getting a taste of each character class really showed how diverse the gameplay styles are. I noticed a few hints at potential puzzle-solving elements as well, which would add much-needed variation to the gameplay. Playing with a full compliment of four people in levels would be chaotic and exciting, so I can’t wait to dive back into the world of Karnage Chronicles soon.

You can find more information about Karnage Chronicles on the official website. The game is expected to release in Early Access for Vive and Rift on Steam in the first half of this year, with PSVR to follow afterwards at full release.

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