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Tallowmere (Wii U) artwork

Tallowmere (Wii U) review

"Serviceable and okay at best, this roguelike lacks the depth and scaled pacing of its counterparts."

Tallowmere is a strange sort of game, in that it emulates an early-generation console title. Most pertinent information on enemies and weaponry is provided right up front, in a series of menu tabs, which is a bizarrely helpful approach for a roguelike that regularly tries its best to murder your character. Even with that information readily available, though, the experience quickly devolves into a muddled, mindless mess, courtesy of growing enemy counts and level layouts that are more irksome than they are devious or dangerous.

In general, Tallowmere can be described as a 2D action roguelike with procedural generation. That might imply to some that there is a system of staggered progression, however, and there actually isn't; nothing is carried over upon death, save your own personal experiences and any lessons learned. Defeated adversaries drop coins and souls. The former allows you to buy potions and equipment, whereas the latter can be cashed in at set increments to increase character stats such as health, attack, and various resistances.

Merchant stock is randomized, but that doesn't matter a whole lot because most of the best gear is located in treasure chests. Some of those chests are easy to find and open, but others are guarded by elite, resilient enemies with comically large heads. Both the merchants and the chests are vital because your starting equipment gets you virtually nowhere (though shields do a good job of negating most damage, if you position yourself properly).

Tallowmere (Wii U) image

The game's risk-and-reward system comes down to the decisions you make about whether to pursue enemies for the money and souls they hoard, so that you can obtain better gear and power up your character, or simply seek out the key that will let you pass on to the next room without a confrontation. The latter approach is tricky, since enemies level up over time, even if you don't.

Some strategy does come into play, because differing degrees of rarity imbue your equipment with a variety of attributes. However, the game's random nature prevents this from working out as well as one might hope. Building up good resistance to fire won't do you much good if you then encounter a group of lightning-throwing foes, for instance, or a large squad of knights who deal physical damage. The only attributes that dependably matter are those that relate to health and damage output, since death always ends your run and you want to prevent that from happening at all costs.

Floaty controls do no favors for your efforts to achieve longevity. You'll quickly find that you can jump like a champion, but you move too quickly and abruptly. Holding up your shield helps a little, since it hampers jump height and movement speed. What winds up happening is an odd, airborne ballet. You jump around danger and try to defend yourself until you find an opportunity to counterattack. The resulting gameplay is at first a test of your dexterity, and then a smorgasbord of projectiles and nonsense as the difficulty and enemy count increase.

Tallowmere (Wii U) image

Quite frankly, there's little strategy required as you work your way through the later stages. All you really need are a ranged weapon, a safe angle and the ability to mash the attack button without blowing yourself up (a possible and unfortunate outcome whenever you are equipped with grenades or a rocket launcher). When you are armed with the right assortment of gear, you need only fear flying monsters who damage and drag your character, or ogres that throw heat-seeking stun bombs the length of the screen.

There are two types of potion available. One restores health and the other reduces the impact of stuns, a benefit that seems like it must have been included specifically to counteract the aforementioned ogres. You will learn to despise those creatures in swift, due time, because even if you successfully deflect their projectiles with your shield, the explosive charges might loop back around and do their damage, anyway.

Traps are another source of potential frustration, especially the spinning blades and the gas nozzles that spawn in narrow corridors that make them nigh-impossible to avoid. That's especially true when the former are set to a high speed. Although you can find and take advantage of portals to return to the main hub and heal yourself or do some shopping, you might then return through the portal and find that a trap is positioned directly next to it. That's likely to result in a cheap hit that you can ill afford.

Tallowmere (Wii U) image

To a point, Tallowmere suffers from "roguelike luck," meaning that your success is too often defined by the items found, not player skill. I've had runs end early in, thanks to poor gear drops. In another instance, though, I quickly got my hands on a decent ice wand and ax that allowed me to pretty much laugh my way to a good run. Even then, when I was twenty levels in and regenerating health with each kill, tossing grenades at a group of hapless foes trapped in a pit, I didn't have much fun. It's much too easy for a well-armed player to use sheer brute force and explosives to smash his or her way through the game, which all but eliminates any sense of satisfaction that might come from clearing a room.

Finding great gear and mowing down waves of enemies may provide a fun time for some players, but I was personally hoping for something a bit more involved from Tallowmere. The 2D roguelike concept had potential, especially with an unconventional aesthetic that mixes medieval environments with flamethrowers and such. But the experience as a whole is too uneven to get off the ground. The time it takes to go from a fragile new character to a club-bashing badass can be jarringly swift, thanks to soul upgrades or lucky gear finds, and even then you might lose everything if you trip over your laces and are slain as a reward for your carelessness.

Tallowmere is a serviceable game. At times even be enjoyable, but ultimately it lacks depth and it becomes mindless in a hurry.

Dinoracha's avatar
Freelance review by Lucas Goulding (October 03, 2016)

Dinoracha is a world-renowned internet famous Let's Player, voice actor, writer, reviewer, e-sports competitor, masterful stream host and man of the people. These may or may not all be gross exaggerations.

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Nightfire posted October 03, 2016:

It looks like a mess and it sounds like it also plays like a mess. I'm surprised you were kind enough to grant it three stars. I'm not sure why anyone would play this over better games out there, like, say, Rogue Legacy...
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Dinoracha posted October 04, 2016:

Oh GOD there're so many better things than Tallowmere. Just I could see the appeal in it despite actively not having much of a good time.

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