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Zodiakalik (Switch) artwork

Zodiakalik (Switch) review

"The stars definitely aren't aligning for this one... "

Zodiakalik (Switch) image

Zodiakalik begins with little fanfare or fuss. No cutscene greets you, no opening passages establish a premise or build the world in which you live. Instead, you simply appear in a cottage in a fantastical realm. You immediately assume full control of your character, guiding him to one of the two women in the room with you. You think there ought to be a long, important conversation to establish the protagonist's personality or get your quest moving. However, one of the ladies simply tells you that it's time to go defeat the Red Dragon Emperor. And that's that...

Get used to this severe shallowness because that's the game rolls. You exit the house and embark on some simple fetch quests so you can see a king. The monarch gives you a brief, forgettable speech and then sends you on your journey in earnest. If you've played your share of RPGs, you might dismiss these early, lackluster events as nothing but introduction fodder. Sadly, Zodiak is perpetually stuck in introductory mode. Eventually, you advance to a hub realm filled with gods, with doorways leading to different worlds ruled by various Greek deities. Entering these realms always entails the same thing: fetching an item as if you're constantly completing early-game tasks...

Every campaign beat plays out in the same way. You need to enter a certain place, such as a different realm, a god's temple, or a dungeon. However, a guard blocks entry, telling you they'll only step aside once you show them an event item. In other words, the entire campaign is a huge string of fetch quests. And that's not even the hell of it: you find some of these goods by searching a town, and some of them are literally just lying on the ground. Others are freely given to you or secured by defeating bosses.

Meanwhile, zero story progression occurs. You find items, you show them to people, your party occasionally makes empty comments on the Red Dragon Emperor, and that's it.

Zodiakalik (Switch) image

Even the trip to any kingdom provides nothing but the most basic roleplaying experience. Upon entering a new area's portal, you appear in a field filled with enemies you can easily avoid, sometimes dotted with items to pick up. There are no turns, corners, side avenues, or anything. You just walk from one end of a large, open field filled with few details to the other. Worse, the gateway to the next screen is sometimes a nondescript piece of land, leaving you to press up against an invisible wall until you happen to trigger the exit.

The most you could hope for as you progress from one city to another is new equipment to upgrade your troops. Unfortunately, fresh weapons and armor become rare finds, and some towns don't even possess shops. When you do locate a store, you find that it might have a whopping one item you can give to your units, providing only a meager boost in a single statistic. So no, you don't even get to look forward to outfitting your party with new duds and toys regularly.

Not that any of that matters anyway because combat is similarly dismaying. Any time you bump into a foe, you enter a simple, turn-based battle screen. Your best strategy for success in any fight is this: have your party at high enough levels. Each combatant only receives a small helping of skills or spells, and there are no custom builds or anything. Since you rarely acquire fresh equipment, your only hope lies in grinding long enough to pile up money and pack on levels, which grows exhausting when you realize every altercation consists of selecting “fight” from you in-battle menu repeatedly, only stopping now and then to toss a potion at someone or cast a healing spell.

Zodiakalik (Switch) image

And speaking of spells, even those are fairly unbalanced. Your protagonist learns one early on, but doesn't possess enough magic points to use it. Even when you gain enough MP, the cost is so steep that you'll spend a fair portion of the campaign only using the spell once before needing to use a magical restorative or sleep at an inn. Other magic, such as offensive blasts and temporary buffs, either deal so little damage or provide such meager aid that they're not worth wasting a turn to use.

And then you have dungeons... Don't even get me started...

The first one shows some promise, even though its kind of cheap. Its not so straightforward, showcasing hidden teleportation points that you often stumble across and a boss encounter that leaves you reeling. Truly, this is the title's high point. And it's the first dungeon. Think about what that means for the rest of the campaign...

After that first boss encounter, the rest of Zodiak's challenge factor holds back. In the beginning, you come across but one enemy type: a poison bat. You think something else will eventually take its place, but it ends up becoming a mainstay adversary for many dungeons and fields. Eventually, the thing vanishes, but by that point you're already so overpowered that it doesn't matter. Bosses fall with minimal effort, and campaign beats fly by.

Zodiakalik (Switch) image

Honestly, the poison bat overstaying its welcome isn't the worst of the game's balancing woes. At one point, you take on an ice dragon as the boss of a dungeon. Two stages later, you find that ice dragon has been demoted to a standard enemy, and the boss at the end of this trip is a plain dragon who's significantly weaker than the frozen variety, and it gives you a mere tenth of the experience and cash when you defeat it.

One dungeon later, you face another ice dragon as a boss with nothing added or subtracted from its stats. In fact, the last few dungeons hold either an ice dragon or a devil as villain, as if the developer ran out of assets.

At last, you reach the end of your journey, and you witness an actual cutscene, and you can't help but groan at its ridiculousness and cringe factor. You played through the whole game for this? The final segment plays out, you take on the main antagonist, and the credits roll. You could feel cheated at playing through what felt like the skeleton for a passable RPG, or annoyed that you spent so much time investing in such a weak experience, or disgusted at how lackadaisical the finished product turned out to be, but instead you feel relief. You're done. You don't have to suffer through this one anymore...

I feel kind of bad tearing apart a game that was developed by only one person, but just the same, there's no denying that the title doesn't offer any of the kind of material I would want in a roleplaying piece. With very basic rule systems and mechanics, wonky balancing, and a thoroughly dry and underwhelming campaign, you can safely skip Zodiakalik.

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (April 13, 2024)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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hastypixels posted April 13, 2024:

Thanks for this review. It seems to point to the overflow of titles and lack of oversight on the eShop. Steam, in contrast, has its challenges, but at least its ratings and comment system help people to find what they’re after. Now that Nintendo is nose deep in games, perhaps that will consider doing the same, lest that bubble bursts.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted April 14, 2024:

Yeah, eShop would definitely benefit from user reviews and an consensus of some kind, as long as they're monitored for review bombing. Of course, it would only work if the game attracts enough attention to receive a consensus among players. If you look at this game's Steam page, it says it only has one review, and it's not viewable.

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