Standards have certainly gone up in the indie gaming space. With every passing year, the games get more ambitious and more refined, reaching higher and higher vistas. It makes for a rough road for aspiring developers, but it's great for people like me who get to show these games off.
Testament: The Order of High Human is one of those highly refined titles. Produced with a relatively small team of fifteen people, it features gameplay and polish that you rarely see outside of the AAA space.
Tessara is a realm watched over by the High Humans, a group of demigods granted miraculous powers by a mysterious group of overseers known as the Seekers. The High Humans are tasked with protecting the realm from the corrupting power of darkness, as well as attending to the usual squabbles that can engulf any domain. You, the player, are not merely a High Human but their king, the unquestioned master of Tessara.
At least, that was once the case. You have awakened in a daze in the realm of the mortals, badly injured but not yet dead. You can vaguely recall what came before - Arva, your brother, became corrupted by the forces of darkness and turned against the High Humans. It was not a fight you could win, and now you are lost in the jungle, shorn of your magical gifts and your immortality. But this isn't the worst of it - Arva is on the verge of growing the Tree of Darkness, which will mean the end of everything.
The player's goal is simple: fight through the wilds of Tessara, recover your divine powers, defeat Arva and destroy the Tree of Darkness once and for all.
Testament is a first-person fantasy game centered on swordplay and magic, and as such one can easily draw comparisons to the Elder Scrolls games. There are certainly mechanical similarities, though the overall design deviates a great deal, being closer to seventh-generation console action titles or more recent 3D indie fare.
The gameplay loop consists of passing through a series of action setpieces, punctuated by puzzles and lore. The player has access to various means to defeat enemies, including a sword for melee combat, a bow for ranged combat, and a range of spells unlocked through an experience system. Stealth is also an option, and the player will acquire a range of buff-granting items that can be crafted at will once they've been discovered.
Testament's mechanics accommodate a range of gameplay styles, but flexibility is critical. The player character is very skilled with a sword, eventually acquiring a range of powerful combos, but he is also fairly fragile. This makes stealth (whether taking out targets with up-close stealth kills and magical traps or using the bow to pick off isolated enemies) very desirable, but it's not always an option. Sometimes heavy combat is unavoidable, and in those situation the player needs to rely on a mix of tactics to survive.
By and large, the combat in Testament feels fair. Everything works fine - even stealth, which is risky business in non-stealth games, is made very intuitive with the aid of the player character's Arkham-like ability to see enemies through obstacles and pick out their weaknesses. Boss fights are tough, but a player who avoids combat most of the time can always make use of items to even the odds in a tough encounter.
Testament is a very nice-looking game. Honestly, I have a hard time believing that this thing was made with just 15 people, because the world is just so lovingly rendered. I shouldn't get carried away (it's not Hellblade pretty, but what is, really?), but it is, if you'll excuse the pun, a testament to what an indie studio can accomplish with limited resources. The areas are big and detailed, with lots of real estate to make use of the player character's parkour talents.
Personally, I found Testament to be a fairly hard game, though one has to keep in mind that I don't have a lot of hands-on experience with games like this one. For someone with more experience with console action titles, Testament will likely be a reasonable challenge. And while we're on the subject of console games: While this is (as of this review, at least) a PC exclusive, you might want to play it with a controller, as the keyboard and mouse setup is fairly awkward.
Overall, Testament is a superb action game that will have a lot to offer just about anyone. Even if you are (like me) someone who isn't so keen on action titles, it's still at least worth a look.
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