By Evan Norris 26th May 2020 | 1,902 views
After spending only a little time with Resolutiion, a 2D top-down action-adventure game designed by Monolith of Minds, it's easy to see why publisher Deck13 decided to shine a spotlight on it. There are significant similarities between Resolutiion and Deck13's own experiments with the souls-like genre, Lords of the Fallen and The Surge, including deadly combat, exhausting boss battles, stamina management, shortcuts, and non-linear gameplay. At the same time, Resolutiion borrows ideas from Hyper Light Drifter, the original The Legend of Zelda, and a bunch of Metroidvania titles. The end result is a double-edged sword: a game that both benefits and suffers from its steep difficulty and cryptic nature.
The story in Resolutiion is intentionally fractured and shrouded in secrecy. Even as you watch the end credits roll, you might understand only a fraction of what just happened. Everything takes place in the Infinite Empire, which spans a suspended Metropolis called Cloud City and a ruined world below. You play as Valor, an amnesiac assassin guided by a mysterious AI called Alibi. As you explore, fight, and kill, memories emerge and paint a violent picture of your past. Are you doing the right thing? Are you on the right side? Are you even in control?
Resolutiion's narrative is emblematic of the entire game. It's frustratingly cryptic. NPCs speak in riddles, waypoints are few and far between, items and side-quests go unexplained, and it's exceedingly easy to become lost in its wide-open world not knowing where to go next.
Paradoxically, this is the worst and best quality of Resolutiion. On one hand it detracts from the experience, since it's not much fun to wander aimlessly or bang your head against a wall attempting to decipher a sliver of information. The game's map is probably the biggest offender. A disorienting collage of circles, dots, and lines, it's borderline useless.
On the other hand, its opacity adds to the joy of discovery. When you finally solve a puzzle, unearth an upgrade, or piece together the victory conditions for a side-quest, you'll feel brilliant. The only issue: will you stick around long enough to fight back the frustration and unlock all the game has to offer?
Outside of exploration, which is a major but mostly optional part of Resolutiion, the game focuses deeply on combat. There's a definite souls-like flavor to fighting, with hard-hitting enemies and a stamina bar that, once depleted, makes Valor exposed and vulnerable. You can attack with a basic three-hit melee combo or mix things up with a scattershot projectile, bombs, etc. There's also a dash move, which is essential for weaving in and out of contact with more powerful foes.
While fighting with the rank-and-file of the Infinite Empire is engaging, clashes with bosses are even better. Bosses come in different sizes and shapes and attack with unique patterns, forcing you to stay alert and studious. Some attempt to bludgeon you, others specialize in projectiles, and still others adopt a fighting style that would be at home in a Cave "bullet hell" shooter.
As a result, Resolutiion is a demanding, punishing game. It will take many efforts to defeat some of these bosses and lots of untimely deaths to learn how and when to attack certain enemies. Just as the game rides a narrow line between mysterious and baffling, sometimes leaning too far into the negative, it attempts to find a space between challenging and infuriating. The final boss especially falls into the latter category. Pro tip: search out health and power upgrades before attempting the climactic battle; it will make life much easier.
Resolutiion features a distinct pixel-art style with some very provocative imagery. While some of the set pieces and models are perhaps a little too pixelated and abstract, they're undoubtedly memorable. Not many games can claim to have a giant sand cat, a sunken god, a stadium filled with pulsing, bloody tendons, and an enormous beating heart in the middle of a forest. The cyberpunk soundtrack, by composer Gerrit Wolf, matches these eclectic visuals quite well. "Rise of the Infinite Empire" is a dreamy, otherworldly track, while "Entity: Blue" has industrial rock vibes, and "Strawberry" boasts a twangy, slide guitar sound.
Due to its opaque nature and punishing action, Resolutiion will appeal mostly to fans of dangerous souls-like combat and abstruse exploration in the vein of the original NES Zelda. Fully understanding its secrets is probably impossible — like closing your hands around smoke — but if you put in enough time and energy the game will find a way to reward you.