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ANVIL Review: A Potential-Filled Adventure

  • Diverse playstyles with a variety of game modes
  • Accessible for both new and seasoned players
  • Unique blend of roguelike elements
  • Relies heavily on active multiplayer community
  • Long and oft-strenuous boss fights
  • Needs more refinement to reach its full potential

A PC code was provided to ZaaZ for this review. "ANVIL" is available now for PC via Steam.

"ANVIL" — from indie game developer ACTION SQUARE — is a top-down roguelike shooter that tasks you with the mission to uncover the enigmatic "Vault," a hidden gem of galactic heritage, in an attempt to save humanity against hostile mechanical lifeforms. Though the game showcases incredible potential, certain areas need to be improved for it to truly shine.

In its 1.0 launch state, "ANVIL" offers an adrenaline-inducing, strategic gaming experience with diverse player roles and game modes. Despite its potential, however, it may struggle to bring in new players, which, ultimately, may impact its longevity.

At the heart of "ANVIL," you'll find fast-paced, bullet hell combat, intertwined with formidable and large-scale boss fights. Multiple player roles open the door for strategic gameplay — whether you prefer being a damage-absorbing bruiser on the frontline or a nimble attacker dishing out damage from afar. The game caters to a broad spectrum of playstyles, with each one promising its own unique set of thrills and challenges.

Navigating the different game modes

At launch, "ANVIL" has four distinctive game modes: Practice Mode, Galaxy Mode, Season Challenge, and PVP Mode — each one tailored to accommodate different player moods and skill levels.

Practice Mode offers a perfect platform for you (especially as a newcomer) to grasp the game's mechanics, or for a seasoned player to experiment with new Breakers — the name of the playable characters that possess unique abilities and traits. In this risk-free environment, you can hone your strategies and gain a deeper understanding of the abilities of different Breakers to find which one suits your style of play best.

Galaxy Mode presents a sequentially-structured exploration experience. You navigate through different galaxies, unearth and utilize various buffs to increase your power, with the challenge and rewards escalating as you progress.

Season Challenge Mode offers a fresh degree of difficulty. In this mode, you select a planet to explore, attempting to master higher levels of difficulty to earn coveted Challenge Badges — a testament to your skills and perseverance. Bragging rights, if you will.

Lastly, PVP Mode introduces a competitive dimension to the game. Other Breakers, like yourself, engage in online battles, with the first to clinch three rounds declaring victory.

All of these modes are pretty standard fare in the roguelike shooter genre, but "ANVIL" still manages to be a lot of fun as a single-player experience — at least for a few trips around the galaxy. Multiplayer mode, however, seems to be where "ANVIL" should truly shine ... it's just not quite there (yet).

The promise and pitfalls of multiplayer

The potential of "ANVIL" seems to lie within its multiplayer component. The cooperative, team-based gameplay is a fundamental part of the game's appeal, inviting you to partner with up to two other friends or players from around the globe. However, it's worth noting that much of the game's success hinges on the size and activity of the multiplayer community. Presently, matchmaking can be unpredictable, often leaving you with single-player modes as the only playable option.

PVP Mode steps up the competitive aspect of multiplayer. Facing off against other Breakers requires quick thinking, teamwork, and tactical acumen. Still, without a consistent playerbase, there's already a risk of the multiplayer experience becoming stagnant. If that happens, the focus will need to shift back to single-player content — which is fine, so long as adjustments are made to fine-tune the experience.

For instance, boss fights take a LONG time. While the on-screen DPS counter may be displaying heavy damage being dealt by your Breaker, the bosses have plenty of HP to spare, meaning you'll need some solid endurance for these battles. The boss' "rage" forms are thoughtful and fun with their bullet hell and area of effect mechanics, but the astronomical HP values cause the novelty to wear off pretty quickly. And, hopefully, you have a Breaker with a self-healing ability. Otherwise, you're likely in for an even longer encounter.

Still cautiously optimistic

"ANVIL" makes a noteworthy contribution to the roguelike genre, offering a mix of shooter mechanics, strategic gameplay, and cooperative multiplayer. However, the game still needs some fine-tuning here and there before it can become a truly great experience. With its unique blend of roguelike elements, "ANVIL" is a promising adventure for any fan of the genre. If you're new to roguelikes, "ANVIL" also does a great job of introducing you to the basics.

It feels like "ANVIL" is teetering on the edge of something really special, and with some careful refinement, additions, and rebalancing, it could become a truly engaging (and addicting) game. There's certainly potential for ACTION SQUARE to build upon its foundation and create something special that will draw in a steadfast playerbase. For now, "ANVIL" is definitely a game worth checking out — it just might take another update or two before it reaches its full potential.