I've been getting the impression from developers, and the general gaming community, that all this next-generation hooplah is not really about making better games, just better looking ones. No one really cares if Resident Evil 20 or Tekken 9 innovates in the gameplay or story department, so long as there are reflective bump-mapped textures and it roars at sixty frames per second. It's pretentious for me to try and speak for gamers in general, because I know a lot of you out there (especially ones who frequent this site) want more from the next-generation of games than relentless amounts of eye candy. But from reading some message board threads and reviews on certain gaming sites (especially about this game), it seems like more and more gamers are becoming complacent in settling for style over substance in their future software purchases.
Adrenium Games, the makers of Azurik: Rise Of Perathia, nearly prove the point by keeping with the "more of the same, only with snazzier bells and whistles" philosophy of game development. Adrenium obviously wanted to capitalize on the boom in action/adventure games and their popularity, and the end result will give you the feeling that jumping on the bandwagon was their only motivation for creating Azurik. Rather than try to introduce anything fresh to an overly stale genre, Adrenium decided to stick to a checklist of ingredients that go into this kind of game. The catch was it would be in a prettier package, courtesy of the new, powerful Xbox. Sometimes this can make for a decent game if it's executed well. Azurik is not one of them.
What drives me to play action/adventure games is a mixture of solid controls, tight and logical level design, and a sense of purpose. Azurik included none of the above. Its controls are near unforgivable, and made me wonder how any tester (or developer, for that matter) would have thought them acceptable. The game fails to underline any urgency in your quest, and even if it did, the design of Perathia is so confusing that you wouldn't care. A lot of time is spent constantly running in circles in a haze of confusion, unsure of what to do and where to go, even though the ultimate destruction of the world hangs in the balance. The whole experience gave me the feeling that any vision and ambition that may have existed at one point and time for this title was ultimately lost halfway through development.
But does Azurik succeed in creating style over its lack of substance? Hardly. My eyes were constantly assaulted by over-saturated colors, mediocre character animations, and boring environmental interaction. Toss in Azurik, a long lost ancestor of the Smurfs, and it becomes hard to take this supposedly serious game seriously. Definitely not the kind of imagery that one would expect from a professional game developer.
Even though developers have the latest and greatest console platform available at their disposal, their focus should always remain on the "game" part of "video game". Adrenium's strategy was to push as many jaw-dropping screenshots out before the games release as they could (which are very misleading), and rely on that to sell their software. One question should have constantly been presented to everyone involved in Azurik's development: Is it fun? The answer is no.
Maybe (and hopefully), future games in this genre will learn from the past. Developers should study the more successful classic titles that melded imagination, aesthetics, originality and quality into a seamless and enjoyable experience. Just as important as learning from good examples is looking at the opposite side of the coin and recognizing why games like Azurik are destined for the bargain bin: Tired ideas, lazy execution and frustrating design.
I think Azurik: Rise Of Perathia can be summed up by my experience in selling the game. Upon handing it to the clerk he quipped, "not so good, huh?" I agreed, and watched as he added it to a stack of about seven other used Azurik cases. "This is just from today," he said. Let's just hope that Adrenium is listening.