Evertried Review – Cut the checkerboard into chess pieces
Review never tried
Evertried is a rogue-lite puzzle game built with a ’90s twist in mind and designed to cultivate nostalgia points for an era that cultivates our wallets. With old school bits and a punitive level design, the gameplay pokes fun at casual play and leans heavily on the strategic mindset. Having said that, it is a pick-up-and-play type of experience. Several hours and dozens of deaths later, I still don’t know what happened.
Here it looks like old school games have entered a love affair with classic board games. Think of the ladies and the dead cells, and you can’t flip the board. The pixels take your hand for a little dive in time and a return to basics. Basic is the initial description because the first levels invite you to burn this board game. The cards are sterile, the AI is stupid, and you end up brooding over an existential crisis. Then your fingers adjust to the buttons and taste the satisfaction of the fake strokes; the action develops a groove. Several blows of the blade and a boss battle later, the checkerboard evolves into chess; the game becomes fun and all is well with the world.
Evertried is a fun, life-threatening game that is admittedly less cancerous than other titles in its genre. It’s kind enough in that it allows failure to sink in. The turn-based gameplay allows the player to learn and engage at their own pace, facilitating fast-paced or detective gameplay. However, there is a pesky focus bar that slowly runs out. The bar acts as a reward multiplier; for each kill within the allotted time, the rewards increase. It’s supposed to make you act fast, sometimes recklessly. It’s a simple risk-reward system where you have to risk a bad move or lose extra shards. Shards are the in-game currency with which to purchase heals, abilities, and in-game bonuses. And the stakes are slowly rising thanks to hostile environments, dangerous sprites, and monster traps.
Although the speed of progression is everywhere, it’s easy to lose track of time and history. Evertried’s tale collapses under repetitive gameplay and slowly evaporates through analysis and frustration. Each player who is not a rogue-lite master is required to repeat lines of dialogue until the next one becomes an achievement. Nonetheless, the narrative shows a lot of heart and always gives that little guts punch at the end. If you can handle the enigmatic characters and dark discussions, the storytelling is just a plus.
While there is a good ratio between smooth edges and rough edges, there are two notable features that bring this gem out of the rocks. One is the level design. Before the board slaps you with layoffs, surprises arrive. A plethora of traps and obstacles eliminate the overwhelming monotony at the start. As the going gets tough the tiles get boring and positioning is key while abilities are secondary. In this fantastic afterlife, there are bound to be some crazy moves you buy but never use.
It’s cool but is it necessary?
Abilities in Evertried are like killstreaks that perform various functions. Expect everything from cool blades to party tricks that send NPCs into bottomless pits. And every ability relies on charges, which is why I barely used them. Charges are the lifeblood of the player. They are the essential resource to activate these cool movements; they can be recharged via movement and passives available from the merchant. The player can build a maximum of five charges, and the funniest abilities require at least three. Some passive abilities also need charges to function, which is why five never seemed like enough during my game.
More often than not, level design is a better asset than anything you can buy. That’s why I said positioning is more important. A strategic mind can lead the board favorably and disengage it quickly. Sometimes too fast to use these charges, which reset each time a level is crossed. And to illustrate this, I have a scenario: I lured a goblin into a death trap that initiated the goblin’s self-destruction; at the same time another sprite entered the attack zone, at which point i slipped the baster and triggered another self-destruct at the same instant another sprite entered the self-destruct zone of the previous imp and exploded while another sprite charged at the second self-destructing sprite which blocked my path and exploded, at the same time a sprite across the map tried to charge me and ended up falling into an open tile. And that’s how you clean a painting.
I mentioned how the tracks bring out the nostalgia, but this is more true of the music, the second remarkable feature of the game. There was a gap during this review where I wasn’t sure if I had started. the game because I wanted to kill some stuff or listen to the homescreen. The score reminds me of my old marriage to repetitive SNES games. The vibe and the punishment made me feel like I was back in a different decade, rearranging the antennas to play on my big TV. The studio was playing a trick on appealing to the old-school sense of the gamer to make me fall in love with Evertried. A tip, I tell you. The music is so good, and it heightens the atmosphere to the point where the surroundings seem more vibrant. It just breathes old school pixels.
Boss fights engage this cerebellum, but I wouldn’t call them Evertried’s central pillar. The experience really is a deceptively fun way to raise situational awareness, a charming little escape with a hint of addiction. However, it’s not exactly designed for long sessions. An hour after the start of the game, the freshness depreciates. Really, the rogue-lite randomness and small game board levels work when the mood hits. There is no elaborate campaign or page turner, storybook adventure. But if you like strategy and retro rogue-lite goodness, Evertried is a great satisfaction on a whim.
*** PS4 game code provided by the publisher ***
Smart level design
Big old school rocket
Insightful strategic gameplay
Boring early rehearsal
Abilities may be unnecessary
The fight is not that dynamic