First impressions are important. So for its first major release, Mexico based game developer Navegante has done everything they can to impress players with Greak: Memories of Azur. Originally launching on PC, PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and Switch a few months ago, Greak has made its way to PS4 and Xbox One consoles so that even more people can play it. Drawing prospective players in with its charming art style, unique gameplay mechanics, and deep lore. There is a lot to sink your teeth into with this one.
After a beautiful opening cinematic, players will take control of Greak, the pint sized titular guy who is a Courine. Courines are elf-esque beings who have lived in the land of Azur for some time now and have helped the land prosper. They have done this in spite of the Urlags, an opposing faction that mistreats the land, resulting in an ongoing war. After keeping them at bay for generations, the Urlags have joined together and unleashed a devastating attack on the Courines. With this violent backdrop, the nimble Greak looks to reunite with his magic-wielding sister Adara and shield-wielding brother Raydel who have all been separated.
Gameplay wise, Greak: Memories of Azur is a mixture of a Metroidvania, Trine, and Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Previously blocked off areas will take the help of a sister or brother to pass, and the main hub alters as quests are completed. Fairly simple platforming and combat mechanics pave the way for more complex (and frequently frustrating) group based travel and puzzles. Most enemies are easily vanquished without posing too much of a threat, but there are a couple of bosses that provide more of a challenge.
The hand drawn art and animations in Greak: Memories of Azur are a real treat. Usually invoking cute vibes, the cutscenes are fantastic, and the pan shots of environments are gorgeous. But the artists do a great job of portraying the darkness as well. The enemies and the derelict buildings are the right levels of scary and haunting. Accompanying these wonderful visuals are equally wonderful sounds. The music is fully orchestrated with catchy melodies and harmonies that perfectly pace with the game.
But there are lots of issues that hamper Greak: Memories of Azur and hold it back from greatness. Minor annoyances like the variable text boxes during dialogue sequences and the lacking amount of fast travel points are noticeable, but not too terrible.
But trying to get two (or even worse, three) characters through the platforming and puzzle based environments can be anger inducing. Even with the ability to join the characters together, one will tend to get hung up on the ground or not clear the distance required for a jump. This leads to unnecessary environmental damage being taken, annoyingly forcing a regroup, or even death.
It is very fortunate that Raydel, the oldest brother with a hookshot ability, is introduced so late in the game. Fortunate because the hookshot is extremely unintuitive and finicky. Raydel is heavy and drops like a lead weight when he’s airborne. Yet he’s the character that is given a hookshot with a very short reach and poor aiming abilities, which is confounding.
The shortcomings of Greak: Memories of Azur are encapsulated in its final couple of gameplay sequences. An overly drawn out and head scratching endless running sequence leads directly to the most annoying dungeon of the game. What would have been fine at a quarter or half its eventual length, the final dungeon is marred by unnecessary blocked paths, teleportation panels, and an obscene amount of backtracking.
Overall, Greak: Memories of Azur looks and sounds great, but it doesn’t play great. Minor issues compile and compound as the game goes on, resulting in a lackluster finish. Hopefully, the developers can learn from the issues and mistakes of Greak for their next game, whether it’s within the same universe or another one.
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