Back in my younger days, I loved the Strike games, Desert, Jungle, Urban and have wondered why they have never really been seen again as a popular genre. Sure, there was Renegade Ops, which is absolutely sublime, but the ‘Strike’ sections were only a part of a much bigger thing.
There have been other games too, but many of them have failed to deliver the experience I enjoyed when I was a kid. I could emulate, or find other ways to play those originals again, but having played so many duds I feared I was remembering with rose-tinted glasses.
So when Project Root came along, I was interested, but wary, it looked to have the same core style as a Strike game, but it was all future modern sci-fi types and I have been burned before.
I really shouldn’t have had those fears, because after a session with Project Root, I had finally found a game to satisfy my needs, it isn’t a perfect game and I do have some issues, which I’ll come to in a moment, but for the most part, I could pick it up and play it like a Strike game and have a lot of fun.
You take on a mix of airborne and ground enemy types, which need you to use your different fire buttons depending on who you are aiming for, there are a mix of missions, which usually result in going here, destroy this, kill them. It is pretty standard stuff and for the first few times I was playing I was really enjoying myself.
Then the problems started to hit, unlike a Strike game, it didn’t feel like there was any point to what I was doing, the progression is there, so you can do upgrades and things like that, but I didn’t feel any need to want to push on and in the end felt like I was doing so just so I could play enough for the review.
The reason for this is that it is hard and I don’t mean that good type of hard like in Ikaruga and Dark Souls or that sort of thing. No, this is a lesson in frustration when it comes to difficulty. It is little things, like being attacked by off screen enemies that you are yet to encounter or even see, bullets that chase you, but home in too accurately and for too long. It is inevitable that you will die, because the game wants you to, but not in that way where you learn from it and go again. It really is very hard to concentrate on your task ahead or defending your ship when you are playing a guessing game of who is attacking you and where from.
Now this really is a shame that these two things let it down, because engaging the enemies you can see, both ground and air based is a joy, the fire-fights with them feel well balanced and like they are giving you an actual battle, rather than being annoying cannon fodder.
Another thing I felt, was that the upgrade system didn’t actually do much to turn the tide in my favour in the long run, which got to the point where I felt it was unnecessary and the game may have been better off without it. It’s not just a fault of Project Root, it is a modern gaming thing, where unless there are upgrades or skill trees, then there must be something missing, which isn’t the case at all and developers need to stop shoehorning it into games, it isn’t always needed and Project Root is a case in point.
Had Project Root focused on creating enemies that will give you a solid battle and built the game purely around that, then this could have been a special title, as it is though I came away feeling underwhelmed and frustrated, having played a game that just didn’t live up to some wonderful potential.