I'm in the Twilight World taking on Venetica's third boss, an African princess who transforms into a flying, winged nightmare that fires a deadly beam of light. I frantically dodge the beams, unsure as to what do to...because a sudden onslaught of video-game code has replaced all of the text, turning the on-screen feedback into strings of nearly microscopic 0s and 1s.
Venetica is an action-RPG set in 17th century Venice, but its bugs would do more to define my experience than the setting: bugs that caused the game to crash on saves, bugs that prevented essential events from spawning, and bugs that kept me from enjoying what could've otherwise been a fun game.
The premise is strong: you play as Scarlett, an orphaned child living with her aunt in a small town outside of the city. The love of Scarlett's life, the warrior Benedict, is about to leave to seek glory when a group of assassins attack the town. Benedict is killed in the ensuing battle, and his death teaches Scarlett her true heritage: she is the daughter of Death, and it's up to her to destroy the Undead Archon, an evil necromancer and de facto ruler of Venice.
As the story plays out, Scarlett moves from sector to sector in a beautifully rendered facsimile of Venice, full of towering buildings and criss-crossing canals (the characters are more cartoonish than their surroundings). The city's size is impressive, and you can explore almost all of it, from the streets to the rooftops. It can be difficult to find specific locations; the map shows where you need to go for your current quest, but you can't mark the locations of shops and smithies. The game's side-quests help boost your reputation among the Venetians; a certain reputation level is vital for some of the later quests.
As the game's story unfolds, the player makes decisions based on Scarlett's motivations for her actions: is she out to avenge her murdered betrothed? Is she seeking peace and justice for Venetians? Is she just trying to do what's best for the world? In my playthrough, I started out thirsty for the blood of Benedict's killers, but as Scarlett grew into her powers I found my desire for vengeance replaced by a crusade to free Venice from tyranny.
Venetica's fast-paced combat is fun. The Moonblade, a scythe-like sword, may be Scarlett's primary weapon early on, and while it's essential for taking out certain enemies, you find a few other tools of death along the way: swords, hammers and axes, and spears and shields. Venetica's combat system is pretty basic: You time your blows to score bigger hits that produce flashier animations. It's not fancy, and certainly isn't as deep as Devil May Cry or God of War. It's also fun to fight with axes and hammers: While slow, these weapons do massive amounts of damage, and skills associated with these heavy hitters knock foes to the ground.
I did have fun with Venetica; at times, a lot of fun, but I can't forgive its bevy of bugs. I lost several hours whenever the game froze during saves. And, of course, we've got the problem of crucial text dropping out for lines of miniature 1s and 0s during a boss fight. I'd love to give Venetica a higher score, but dtp entertainment should'n't allow a game to reach the market in this state. If I wasn't required to finish the game for my review, I would have put it back in the box after a few hours.
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