• Eschatos Review Microsoft Xbox360

    Further cementing the 360’s reputation as the current home for the genre, Eschatos sees publisher Qute taking their best shot at tapping into the limited but dedicated pool of gamers looking for their shoot 'em up fix. Unlike a lot of other titles filling this space, there’s something to be said for the frank simplicity of the title too. There’s no pandering to demographics with pretty anime characters dotted around the menus and on the box; instead, we have a refreshingly simple image with a ship shooting at a larger enemy ship. There’s certainly no room for doubt in terms of expectations.

    The focus on the functional stretches beyond initial impressions too, and despite a 3D engine powering the game, none of the assets being used are of particular note – even the boss enemies remain relatively non-descript, and are best remembered by their attack patterns as opposed to their presentation. Whilst this may be an excusable design choice, far more disappointing is the use of 3D space during some of these battles, where your viewpoint and perspective is spun around in a variety of confusing ways that seems to offer innovation only for innovation’s sake. The game’s score however is delightfully retro, and thankfully without any such bitter pills to sour the experience – if anything the bundled CD soundtrack serves as colours nailed to the mast in contrary.



    The pacing is one of little bloat, where transitions between the game’s numerous quick-hitting areas are identified only with a short break in enemy attacks and a smattering of text appearing on screen, all whilst you remain in full control of your ship. This leaves you with little downtime to lose your focus, but the lack of grandeur or celebration when passing through these may leave some cold. Whilst there is only one ship available, there are three selectable ship speeds and two different shot types; a focused head-on shot, and a spread shot covering a greater area. Pressing both ofthese two together generates a ball of energy at the front of the ship that acts as a shield, absorbing shots and protecting you whilst counting down a strength meter as the hits plough in.

    Whilst there are a number of modes and difficulties to choose from, the biggest distinction is between ‘Original’ and ‘Advanced’ modes. Whilst the former’s scoring mechanism is dependent on a multiplier that is kept up by destroying every enemy in an area - demanding tactical weapon switching as a priority - the latter uses a few simple ideas to generate a much more strategic game. Pivotally, the shots that your shield stops generate score items that increase in value the more you absorb; new collectables become available too, with the option to either ‘power up’ or ‘power down’ your shot power via enemy-dropped items. But why power down? With each increase in your shot power, you shave precious time from your shield’s capacity, meaning that an all-out offensive ship can gun down enemy waves effectively but is left with little defence - or scoring potential - in the face of enemy fire. Despite some minor nuances left untouched, this is as deep as the system gets; those used to playing (and studying) deeper games may unfortunately find this to be an instant turn-off.



    Whilst unfamiliarity with Qute’s back catalogue may be common, it’s to their credit that they have uprooted their two most noteworthy titles from their Wonderswan home and included them as extras on this disc. The first, Judgement SilverSword, is reason alone for many to purchase the package, with this not only being the first chance to play it on non-handheld system, but also without the ludicrous three-figure asking price it fetches on popular auction sites. JSS certainly remains fun, and darting between this and Eschatos’ original mode highlights Qute’s recognition of this – the game structure and shot types are nearly identical, and many enemies seem to be direct clones of those featured here. The second title, Cardinal Sins, also re-uses assets from JSS, but breaks the play formula in a truly unique manner. Each short play sees you pass through 7 stages, with different scoring methods required for each, themed alongside the 7 sins. ‘Wrath’ puts you in the middle of an enemy boss attack and scores you based on your number of deaths for instance, whereas ‘Sloth’ forces you to moderate your firepower by having you collect 1-ups that are damaged by your shots, and ‘Pride’ gives you a constant stream of enemies but only measures kills attained whilst your multiplier exceeds 100. Both Wonderswan games lack polish, but there are some great ideas in here that certainly warrant some time spent exploring them.

    Additional play-throughs are rewarded via a levelling system found across all games, where time spent in-game leads to rewards such as extra lives & continues, new options and the like. Whilst a pleasant idea in theory, the requirement to have reached level 20 to allow download of other players’ uploaded replays on the leaderboard is particularly bizarre.



    The breadth of difficulty presented across all of these titles and modes is surprisingly varied and commendably approachable. Looking at Eschatos in particular, easy mode is just that - even the most novice player can hope to achieve the hallowed 1CC after a few attempts – whereas hard mode challenges sufficiently to put all but the most dedicated players off investigating the locked additional difficulty settings. In a genre where accessibility is often at most an after-thought, and regularly overlooked in fear of diluting the formula, Eschatos is certainly in the minority on this front. As an additional string to its bow, a region-free release certainly opens it up as a potential recommend to those looking for a quick, familiar, retro-style shooter. Those coming across from the more heavyweight shooters on the 360 may find themselves disappointed however, as whilst substance over style is expected, there is variety here but only artificial challenge - not the kind of depth many will expect.

    Pros Cons
    - Wide range of difficulties
    - Bad use of 3D space
    - Bonus Wonderswan games included in package
    - Overly simplistic scoring system
    - Straightforward and clean presentation
    - Lack of visual flair


    Score: 7/10

    Go ahead and buy this from Play-Asia and support more reviews like this.
    Note, as the review states, Eschatos is region free so will play on any region Xbox 360.
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