Covenant: Project Zero by DENT Studios
Covenant: Project Zero is a space opera adventure set in a dystopian future where mega-corporations control a sprawling human civilization across an interstellar setting. Featuring a diverse cast of characters, an array of mini-games, and a well-developed world (thanks in part to a detailed codex filled with interesting information), Covenant: Project Zero promises a star-spanning journey delving into ancient mysteries and the dark underworld of the galaxy.
Covenant doesn’t feature a tutorial, nor does it require one. Instead it opens with a relatively peaceful segment onboard the titular character’s cargo ship. We meet John Covenant, a trader and courier. His ship is loaded up with cattle for delivery at his next destination, the first of many moments that evoke Firefly’s wild-west-in-space aesthetic.
As the ship nears its next port of call, John attends to various tasks across the vessel, speaking with the eclectic group of characters that make up his crew. I found this to be a pleasingly calm introduction to the core cast and setting, supported by by serene ambient electronic music. I was reminded of the sense of home provided by the Normandy in Mass Effect.
Many tasks in Covenant involve applying the correct tool or item to the problem at hand, while others require a little more finesse in the form of a minigame. Some of these are quite engaging while others are little more than an animation, such as a door that opens wider with each click of the mouse, representing the force of a crowbar.
A Gunfight at the (Space) Opera
Most combat is handled through top-down shooting, and while this has great potential, it currently leans a little too heavily into the bullet-hell genre. This certainly offers a challenge, but it’s a little immersion-breaking in an otherwise rather grounded setting to watch enemy pulse weapons split into dozens of smaller projectiles that flood entire rooms. Friendly fire must be a serious issue in this world!
Smaller fights are sometimes handled through a more restrained timing mini-game that actually feels a little more appropriate to Covenant’s setting; John and his opponents take cover before popping up to take shots at each other. This looks far better than the bullet-hell combat and feels in keeping with the sometimes wild-west vibe of the story. The tempo could be dialed up a bit, but I feel this is the direction Covenant should be pushing its combat.
See You, Space Cowboy
Covenant is rough around the edges, but it’s clearly striving for a sharp, engaging sci-fi epic. Music is used to great effect to plant this adventure firmly in the space opera arena, calling back to some of the greats. The visuals, meanwhile, use pixel art to good effect; an overhead camera gives a wide view of each area whilst characters are provided simple portraits for dialogue scenes.
The writing of Covenant still needs some refining; characters can be rather transparent vectors for mission objectives, and sometimes the order of events in a quest can be a little perplexing. I was rather bemused to find that Captain Covenant prioritizes repairing automatic sliding doors over helping unconscious crewmembers to healing pods. Hilariously, the Captain didn’t even bother to help them himself when the time came; he sent the onboard robot to scoop them up.
Covenant has all the ingredients of an excellent sci-fi adventure. There are a lot of rough edges at the moment – the writing, dialogue, and combat in particular need some polishing – but it’s clear that these edges are being lovingly sanded down, and a real gem could be hiding under them. Covenant: Project Zero’s development will be worth following for fans of adventure games and space opera epics alike.
Watch the trailer for Covenant: Project Zero below: