Indie Quickie: Akaneiro: Demon Hunters

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

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What is it? An action-RPG adventure where the fairytale Little Red Riding Hood collides with Japanese folklore, as only an American McGee game can.

Who made it and where can you get it? American McGee and his Spicy Horse riders put Akaneiro: Demon Hunters together with the help of Kickstarter. It was first released on SpicyWorld and Kongregate in January as free-to-play for PC/Mac, but more recently has joined Steam Early Access in a Starter Pack bundle for $9.99. While the game is considered to be in a “launch state” and is fully playable, it still has the feeling of a game in open beta.

How much did we play? Got my hero up to level 9 and completed 10 different mission areas on Easy difficulty, another two on Medium, two more on Hard, and again two more on Overrun, just to get a feel for the difficulty curve. The average mission took around 10 minutes, so my total game time so far has been about three hours or so.

Any technical concerns or hardware requirements you should know about? As an in-ongoing-development game, Akaneiro does have some rough spots. I have encountered a fair share of glitches with enemies stuck outside the borders of the map or suddenly spawning out of thin air. Elements of the interface also lack clear explanation and basic features like full-screen resolution options, camera adjustment and the help index are not available. But overall performance has been solid and the base system requirements are accessible.

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Why should you play it?

    • Chase, Chop, Loot, Repeat: Akaneiro ticks off all the important action-RPG boxes. You create an avatar and gather loot to customize his or her stats and appearance. You point a mouse cursor across the screen and click to move, open chests, crack open pots, talk to NPCs, and hack apart enemies. There’s a skill system with different weapon/armor masteries and special abilities based on the three main “class” discipline trees (Prowess, Fortitude, and Cunning). None of it is particularly ground-breaking (missions so far all fall within the “kill X number of creatures and then slay the boss” style of objective structure), but it definitely scratches that chase-and-chop itch that makes the genre so grindingly addictive.

    • Free-to-play Fun: I’m what you might call a free-to-play skeptic. Not that I don’t appreciate the model and enjoy the opportunity to dive into a game without any upfront monetary requirement, but all too often F2P games limit important features, bombard players with microtransaction ads, or make it so the only way to win is to pay up (or sometimes all three in the worst of cases). Given some of the negative impressions I’ve heard about Akaneiro since its release early this year, the F2P skeptic in me braced for an intrusive, limiting experience. The reality has been anything but. The economy of the game is based on a currency of Karma which can be purchased using real money in bunches of $5 all the way up to $100. Karma Shards, easily obtained by completing quests and selling off unwanted loot, are the common form of money used for basic needs like new abilities and basic shop goods, or for hiring AI party members and pets. Karma Crystals are far more rare and precious, but are only necessary if you plan to purchase equipment from the rare gear vendor or want to shorten the cooldown timers on completed mission areas (which never seems necessary since there are more than enough stages to pass the time while others cool down).

    While I have been playing from the Steam Early Access version, I purposefully avoided using the starter kit perks to first get a clear idea of what the true “free” experience is like, and not once have I felt disadvantaged. You’re almost always given multiple options on how to use your in-game currency. Upon death, for example, you have three choices: 1) return to the village hub at no penalty beyond losing mission progress; 2) pay a small Shard fee to revive on the spot at a loss of 15% of your current mission earnings; or 3) use a special scroll (purchased with Crystals) to revive without a death penalty and with temporary invincibility. How you choose to manage currency is important, but for me hasn’t been a prevailing concern. That’s how a free-to-play game should work.

    • Getting Better All the Time: While there is still plenty of room for growth, I have been impressed by how rapidly Akaneiro has improved seemingly each time I’ve logged into the game. In the short time I’ve been playing since the Early Access release, the game has introduced an additional mission area, a crafting system, and a stash box in the hub village for storing materials and loot currently not needed on person. Helpful tweaks also have been made to the death system (the three-choice system wasn’t initially in place) and the UI has gradually improved with more clearly defined information. With major features like co-op on the horizon, the game only looks to get better and better from here. I only wish the game had more narrative substance as the Okami-meets-Red Riding Hood art vibe is all for show and really doesn’t seem to materialize into a story of any significance.

Parting Thoughts: Although rough around the edges and a bit light on depth, in its current state Akaneiro is a solid experience offering fast combat, appealing music and visuals, and short bursts of that addictive action-RPG draw you expect from this style of game. Is it worth paying into the Steam Early Access? I’m inclined to say no, unless you’re 100% committed to participating in the game’s ongoing development and already plan to spend real money for Karma bucks ($10 on Steam does provide $30 worth of in-game valuables). But in its true free-to-play form Akaneiro is worth checking out, and with managed expectations I think you’ll have a fun time.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!