I can honestly say I never would have expected the ideas of Rhythm Game and Turn Based Combat to go together as well as they do in The Metronomicon, a new title from Akupara Games that we had the opportunity to demo at PAX East 2017.
Not only does the game shine mechanically, but it’s also a bright, neon colored inventive re-imagining of fantasy tropes that brings something remarkably fresh to the table that’s far more than a gimmick.
Packing in a fully-fledged story mode with a colourful cast of musically-empowered heroes and villains, The Metronomicon sees you take control a party of eight newly graduated masters of the “rhythmic combat arts” to wage musical warfare against a multitude of dance-mongering fiends. By switching between four concurrent hero-controlled tracks on-the-fly, you’ll select and activate a wide array of abilities and spells, buffs and nukes, with your performance and timing all-important in ensuring the effectiveness of your moves. In the RPG spirit, you’ll need to improve your characters’ stats, hunt down powerful equipment, and combine a multitude of newly-learned abilities – switching between tanking, healing, buffing, and damage-dealing classes as required in real time
To be quite honest, I was skeptical about The Metronomicon core premise: a team based RPG were you don’t select attacks, but execute them by getting successive streaks in a DDR style rhythm game.
In The Metronomicon, you are placed in control of a team of four characters, each which have a number of abilities you can place in a first, second or third slot (These abilities, as well as your characters equipment, can be switched around in their slots between battles without penalty).
Abilities are activated in The Metronomcion‘s battles by successfully completing a bar of directional cues, usually around 4 or 5 notes in length. Messing up a note will reset the chain, so accuracy is key. However, you don’t have to stop at the end of a bar, and can continue the chain to cast your second ability, or keeping going even longer to cast your third. Making a mistake at that point will cast the last successfully chained spell.
An ability in a character’s first slot will be relatively weak, but only takes one streak to successfully cast, while an ability in the third slot t will be much more powerful, but take more time and greater accuracy to successfully cast.
The trick is that you can only ever have on character actively casting, or dancing, at one time. This means that you’ll need to switch furiously between you mage, warrior, healer and rogue to chain off attacks, heal the party, and provide beneficial buffs to the people that need them.
It’s hectic, it’s loud, and it work way better than it has any right to.
This system end up creating very tense, fast paced game where you have to think on the fly, but everything feels very well paced. Rhythm is everything, and you’ll very quickly start to develop patterns and chains of actions, all while bobbing your head or taping your feet to the music blaring out over the boss fight.
Added to this are the different character’s passives, which might give a random character a small heal after hitting a 25 combo or do an extra chunk of damage after successfully hitting 50 notes. There’s a lot of combos in play and a surprising amount of strategy involved in building your party, ordering their abilities and equipping them.
The Metronomicon‘s soundtrack is incredibly impressive, having a huge variety of songs and style to play with. It includes an exclusive track from Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self Indulgence, an unreleased track from Shiny Toy Guns, along with tracks from YACHT, Perturbator, J-Punch, Dj CUTMAN, just to name a few of the artists who have contributed. With two DLC packs adding chiptunes and indie game favorites, there’s a ton of music to assault your eardrums with.
Visually, The Metronomicon is painted in bright florescent and neon colors that suits the game perfectly. Everything has a bizarre and humorous comic book feel to it, and it’s incredibly imaginative to see how the developers have taken the classic enemies of fantasy RPGs and applied a dance club filter to them.
I never thought I’d see an Owlbear in shutter shades and a tank top squaring off against in me in a video game, yet alone one shredding the dance floor.
The Metronomicon has a voice acted story mode, as well as some incredibly interesting challenge modes I was able to fail horribly at while demoing the game. One saw every note coming down swaying and rotating wildly, making the whole battlefield seem to spin, and making it that much harder to tell which note was which. Another challenge saw you unable to actually hurt the boss you were fighting, but instead hitting notes correctly prevented damage. This was a test of how quickly you could switch between characters while maintaining your rhythm and was an incredibly interesting take on the formula created for The Metronomicon.
I can’t say that I expected it, but The Metronomcion is exactly what indie games should be: a daring and innovative twist on conventional game play, mixed with more style than you can shake a glow stick at. The Metronomicon will challenge you, get you tapping your feet and bobbing your head, and have your grinning for techno-blasted ear to ear.
The Metronomicon is now available on Steam, with the PC version being handled by Kasedo Games
It’s currently being porting to PS4/XBone due out in Q3 2017 by Akupara Games
Want to learn more about the games we saw at PAX East 2017? Check out this page, which lists all the game’s we saw, and we will be updating with links to our coverage as we complete it.