Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm Review – Breath of the Mild

Platforms:

Nintendo Switch, Apple Arcade, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac

Game Name:

Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm

Publisher(s):

Cornfox & Bros.

Developer(s):

Cornfox & Bros.

Genre(s):

Adventure, RPG

Release Date:

October 28th, 2020

ESRB Rating:

E10+ For Everyone 10+

Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm by Cornfox & Bros.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well, if anyone at Nintendo has played Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm since its release, I suspect they’re feeling pretty flattered right about now.

Let the Teachings of Old Pass to You

The Oceanhorn franchise has always worn its reverence for Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda series on its sleeve. The first game was a cute throwback to the franchise’s 2D era, but with its sequel, the team at Cornfox & Bros. has attempted something really ambitious. Oceanhorn 2 aims to recreate the look, feel, and gameplay of the massively influential 3D Zelda titles, most notably entries like The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess.

It’s a massive undertaking for any studio, let alone a small indie one, and in many aspects, they’ve delivered in spades. The game truly feels like playing a forgotten entry in the Zelda series, with all the trappings. You have a silent young male protagonist, vast landscapes to explore and find hidden things in, new items that open up access to previous areas, over the shoulder hack-and-slash combat, etc.

Not only that, but it throws in some of its own ideas as well. The game leans harder into its science-fantasy aesthetic than any Zelda game, adding things like firearms and robots into the mix. It’s a captivating world that, at times, reminded me of Final Fantasy, and I say that as a compliment.

The aesthetic is helped by some absolutely gorgeous art design, with lush environments that pop with vivid colors. That it all runs as smoothly as it does – and even features some extremely solid voice acting – is a testament to the level of polish the developers have put into the game as a whole.

It’s Dangerous to Go Alone

So, with so much done well, Oceanhorn 2 should be an easy recommendation, right? Well, for as much as it does well, the game, unfortunately, has some glaring issues.

For how polished the visuals are, the actual gameplay often feels…off. The combat especially feels very imprecise and difficult to control, thanks in no small part to the fact that you can only lock onto an enemy while blocking. The game attempts to mitigate this (and innovate on the formula) by providing you with AI-controlled companions you can order to help you, but the AI is pretty consistently unhelpful.

On top of this, the game in general lacks a lot of the sense of discovery and reward that makes Zelda so compelling as a franchise. For example, hidden treasure chests that require extra effort to obtain often just contain generic health items or ammunition. It’s a small issue, but it personally impacted a lot of my desire to explore the world. It would also be easy enough to ignore this in a game with more of its own identity, but when it tries so hard to emulate a beloved franchise, the weaknesses become all the more glaring.

The flow of time is always cruel

Oceanhorn 2 is a game that manages to be simultaneously impressive but disappointing. A visual marvel marred by often average gameplay, it’s a grand and lengthy effort from an indie studio that unfortunately fails to capture what’s so great about the franchise that inspired it. It may have the body of a Zelda game, but it’s ultimately lacking the soul, and at a $30 price point for the Switch version, you’re better off saving your pennies for the next entry of the real deal.

Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm is available via the Nintendo store and Apple Arcade.

Check out the official trailer for Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm below:

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