Game: Metaverse Keeper
Genre: Action, Rogue Lite
System: Nintendo Switch (also on PC, PS4 and Xbox One)
Developer|Publisher: Sparks Games | CIRCLE Entertainment
Age Rating: EU 3+ | US Everyone
Price: UK £13.49 | EU €14,99 | US $14.99
Release Date: November 12th, 2020
Review code provided with many thanks to CIRCLE Entertainment
Enter the Metaverse
Metaverse Keeper is a top-down dungeon crawler style game with rogue-lite elements. It’s a style and genre that within this year alone has become a familiar territory and quite crowded. With stiff competition does Metaverse Keeper have what it takes to stand out from the crowd?
A great cataclysm has shaken reality creating the Metaverse. A varied bunch of heroes have boarded a space ship called the Bastion with the goal of uncovering the secrets of the cataclysm. This translates to playing through a variety of dungeon style levels taking out the baddies, the big boss at the end as well as upgrading as you go. It’s a rogue-lite game so no playthrough is the same. Levels, enemies and boss fights are randomly generated avoiding repetition and encouraging the player to adapt as they go. You get to choose from five heroes (some of which require unlocking) each of which looks kinda like Rayman’s long lost relatives. Their hands sorta just float in mid-air. The graphics have this comic book feel to them which is colourful and endearing.
Search and Destroy
An element that stands out in this game is that you begin each level with a randomly generated weapon. These weapons tend to be either melee or ranged based and are often wacky in design. You could have bowling ball fists, a chainsaw, a sword and shield there’s quite the variety. Each weapon has a secondary ability that you can activate and recharges after a set period of time. Such as a special move or maybe a totem that covers an area on the floor that will damage enemies that enter it.
Even if you encounter the same weapon twice the abilities are not always the same. If you’re not fond of your starting weapon it’s often not long before you encounter another. The dungeons are fun to explore, often encouraging the player to search every inch of the level for secret portals discovered by destroying crystals with bombs. Every level concludes with a boss where the difficulty absurdly spikes. Some runs I felt like I had a decent build to my character, only for the difficulty to just suddenly rocket upwards bringing an unsatisfactory end to a playthrough. Between runs, you can spend cassette tapes and upgrade various perks to make future runs more manageable. But as I’ll discuss later it feels like a system that isn’t fully working at the time of writing this review.
The controls are responsive with some mild issues. When holding the attack button your character will hone in automatically on the nearest target this applies to ranged weapons and melee. It’s an effective style with the latter as often you’re up close and personal with a target and the convenience of not having to aim does make things a little easier. But if you want to go ranged, things get kinda messy. When trying to aim from a safe distance it feels like your character just guesses where to shoot. When things get cluttered with various enemies on screen your character seems to struggle to decide who to focus fire on. It feels like this game would have benefited from a control system similar to a twin-stick shooter. You can tweak the auto-aim feature in the options menu but it didn’t seem to make a lot of difference to the experience.
The game was ok alone but the experience felt like it really came alive when playing together. It seems this was intended by the developers as some of the upgrade abilities are tied to co-op play like the ability to revive teammates quicker. When a run ends you also get bonus cassettes playing online co-op, which seems a little odd. You can play locally or online with up to four players, a rare sight in a rogue-like game. Despite hanging in online lobbies for hours I was only able to find one online game with a nice player in the Asian territory who was quite the sport.
This feels like a fun game to dive into with random folk or friends online but sadly the player base isn’t there yet. Fortunately, there’s always local. What I liked about the co-op is any money and ability orbs you collect is given to each player individually with the only things you sometimes have to decide on being weapons, secondary items drops and computer chips which upgrade abilities. Playing together is no doubt what makes Metaverse Keeper stand out from other games in the rogue-lite genre.
The game has come to Switch while still in early access on PC. While it appears the Switch release has been updated it didn’t stop me encountering multiple bugs which certainly hindered my enjoyment of the experience. When playing in local co-op it was common for one of us to get stuck in the doorway entrance to a new room. To become unstuck the other player had to hover close by to release them. The most obvious issue was when upgrading, abilities just didn’t seem to activate. I put points into various new abilities like-new items for sale at the shop, like the ability to recycle items yet on re-entering the game none of these had activated. When I entered a few boss fights the game slowed down to a crawl sometimes even freezing. It did seem to eventually unstick itself but it wasn’t desirable.
Holding Out Hope
In its current state, it has decent rogue-lite elements. Not so much fun alone but the experience really comes alive when playing co-op locally or online.
With patching, Metaverse Keeper would make a welcome addition to fans of the rogue-lite genre. But in its current state, I would advise approaching this with caution.
Final Verdict: I’m Not Sure
I’ve contacted the developer about the bugs mentioned in this review and will update this article in the future when I hear back!
Sadly the developers never did get back in touch with me but I have monitored Metaverse Keeper now and then. Around December 2020 I noticed the game have been patched with many of my issues mentioned in this review addressed and fixed. Upgrades actually work now and the game feels like is in a much more playable state. The online is still a dead zone on Switch which is a shame and not sure that is going to change anytime soon, fortunately local co op is a feature. The game is now in a state I would happily recommend to rogue lite fans who particularly want to play in co op.