The opening scene of Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection is fairly fantastic and is deliberately stylized to look like a PS2 game’s CGI opening scene. Rocking music introduces our protagonist, Ragna, with fiery red hair that matches the color of his steampunk aeroplane. A dragon rider engages, attempting to knock the mechanical contraption from the sky. But Ragna is an ace pilot, and a dragon vs aeroplane dogfight ensues with Ragna quickly displaying his best Han Solo flying skills. Except the dragon rider is a humanoid cat. And there were two dragons and the other rider was mysteriously hooded And Ragna gets shot down because, like a typical anime trope, Ragna recognizes the hooded rider’s face in a short glimpse causing him to hesitate his killing blow against the duo. Zwei embraces oddness like all good JRPGs do. The dragon vs aeroplane dogfight makes that evident. However, it tends to falter where many JRPGs before it have: with long-winded dialogue, a tendency to grind, and no real innovation. This is our Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection review.
Dungeon Delving Without the Treasure Hunting
The opening scene has nothing to do with the base mechanics of the game itself, which is unfortunate. Zwei is an ARPG that is heavy on the action and light on the RPG. It plays like Zelda mixed with Diablo, two thematically polar opposite games. But what those two share, and what Zwei employs as its own combat, is spammable yet smart button mashing. That’s not to say it’s not fun. Stun locking a cardboard box centipede (they call is a golem but sure, okay) is fun, and there are combos for players to choose that accent their playstyle. Technically, players control two characters, Ragna and Alwen. The two act as one mechanically. Ragna is the forward character for physical attacks, Alwen for magical abilities. The characters switch automatically with the press of the different attack buttons, making each one feel more like an animation change rather than the characters having any real, well, character during combat.
Dungeons have a moderate range of replayability, though nothing near so expansive as Diablo. Zwei keeps its dungeons squarish and doesn’t attempt to hide their labyrinthine quality. There are sporadic puzzles that utilize different equipment in very Zelda-like manners. The Anchorgear (imagine Ivy’s whip crossed with Link’s grappling hook) can pull giant objects or burn them. Alween has a typical assortment of elemental magic. You can pair these together in different combos and special attacks. There is a limited amount of equipment in the game and progressing is usually tied to specific items.
You Are What You Eat
The leveling system necessitates revisiting lower level dungeons. Monsters drop food. Food is used as both health restorative as well as the only way to gain experience (if only real life were like that). Killing monsters doesn’t actually net players anything. The food and coins that drop are the only reward players receive. Giving players control over their own leveling with the use of food is a double edged sword.
Players have more control over when to level up, but since these items are also the health restoratives, players may wind up hoarding food in anticipation of difficult encounters. Encounters are unique and boss fights are both challenging and enjoyable to figure out, with each boss usually having several different stages that change the fight up. The primary concerns with these is the impact enemy attacks have. Many times I would die in a boss fight, not realizing how low my life has gotten. Not only do attacks not register in a noticeable way indicating that the player has taken damage, but there also is no warning for low health. With enemy attacks and player abilities often intermingling, damage indicators need to be more obvious.
Conclusion: Characterful and fun
Zwei: The llvard Insurrection does not lack for character. The voice actors for the English version are spot on fantastic, Ragna specifically. The game’s quirkiness adds to the game’s atmosphere in a very Zelda-esque parade of characters and creatures. However, this does little to keep players interested in the plot or those very characters. The doldrum dialogue is often long-winded, unnecessary and frustratingly unskippable. So much so that I found myself mashing the proceed button while binging Netflix, trying desperately to get to the heart and the gem of Zwei: the combat.
Note: Our copy was reviewed on PC with a code provided by PR.
COMPARE TO: Zelda: Ocarina & Mask progression and combat, Diablo combat
FINAL SCORE: 7/10
- Combat is fun and smooth
- Quirky characterful setting
- Dragons vs. Aeroplanes
- Long unskippable dragging dialogue
- Hard to tell when the player takes damage
- Dungeons are static