For the longest time, I had a bit of a strained relationship with the top-down RPG genre, or more specifically, isometric RPGs. There was something so alien about them that made me shy away from their often meticulously crafted worlds.
Whether it was the density of the systems on offer in games like Fallout 2, Pillars of Eternity, and Divinity: The Original Sin, or the impenetrable fortress that was making sense of online MMORPGs of old like World of Warcraft and Neverwinter, there was always something that kept me from embracing this game format.
Even when MOBA games came along and added high-octane multiplayer combat to this format, minus the RPG aspect, it did nothing to sway me.
So when the opportunity to review Adore, a game that takes this format and offers dynamic creature-based combat, and the promise of a lush and rich world to explore came along, I jumped at the chance to further expand my isometric gaming favorites list.
Well, in hindsight, I really wish I hadn’t bothered, as Adore, while interesting as a premise, is little more than a glorified mobile game with dull combat, dated visuals, and a story that is to fantasy what James Corden is to television.
That being said, it isn’t completely without merit, and for those that want to give this game a fair swing, stick around. I’ll give you the skinny on what this game does well, and what it fails to do rather miserably too. Here is IGC’s Adore Review, conducted on PS5.
Gaterdrik It In
We begin with the visuals of Adore, which are inconsistent, to say the least. Beginning on a positive note, when the player is playing the game from an isometric point of view, which thankfully is most of the time, the game looks the part.
It feels very similar to Torchlight in many ways, offering a more rubbery and cartoonish isometric setting, albeit with more of a focus on watercolor visuals and more vibrant locales. You could go as far as to say that it takes a lot of notes from Hades as well, but I think that’s being far too kind.
When playing through quests, or loitering around the hub world, the game looks its best. Animations are smooth, assets are eye-catching and colorful, and the game gets to show off its wealth of creatures.
However, all this work to curry favor is undone when the game employs cut scenes or set pieces, as the visuals on show in these sections wouldn’t look out of place in a World of Warcraft gameplay showcase from 2005.
Clunky animations, rubbery models, and even occasionally, some layered static images in lieu of actual cutscenes. Redfall didn’t get away with it, so never should Adore.
Then, even with the more positive visual offerings, I still have a bone to pick, and that is because each level blends into the next. Yes, the five regions are distinct, but the quests have you return to these cookie-cutter areas often, and it all becomes stale pretty quickly.
Perhaps if the environments had environmental hazards, or there were more points of interest, I wouldn’t be so critical, but the simple fact is, playing through missions is boring, and the repetitive environments play their part.
Then just quickly on the sound quality, the soundtrack was pretty good for a game of this stature, and while it had similar issues with repetitive tracks, at least the tracks were well composed.
My only audio hangup is that there is no voice acting within the game, and I feel that because the story is so generic, vocal performances might have allowed players to connect with the characters more. Plus, I wouldn’t have had to squint to see the text on screen. Honestly, would it kill developers to add accessibility setting that up text size?
What’s a Kid to a God
A semi-obscure and paraphrased Frank Ocean reference for those wondering. I’ve crowbarred that in awkwardly as Adore sees you play as a young boy who finds out that within him is the essence of Draknar, the god of creatures in the land of Gatordrik, long assumed dead.
So the fate of the world inadvertently falls into the hands of Lukha, a budding Adorer who must use his bond with the creatures of the region to restore Draknar, quell the evil, and restore balance to the world. On the surface, that sounds okay, right? A good starting point from which to build upon.
The only problem is that the game stops there. No more interesting lore, no more intriguing plot devices or twists.
It’s essentially quests that involve you completing busywork, collecting animals, and building up to a fight with a boss that, by the way, fled when you beat him very early in the game. So the game doesn’t exactly pose the big bad as this supernatural, insurmountable challenge to overcome.
The game fails to bond the player with any of the characters or the animals they capture. The characters serve as simple quest givers; the creatures are like fodder who fight in your place rather than companions you care for, and the player character is a bumbling kid who just mindlessly goes from task to task with the occasional ‘huh’ or ‘umm okay’ to show that he’s still paying attention.
I just feel that the writers had no idea what they had to work with here. This chosen premise allows you to create bonds with your creatures, write in sections where you play on themes of sentimentality by making your first creature captures special, and formulate a world where creatures and humans co-exist in harmony and build out the lore from there.
Yet instead, the game creates this endless grind of capturing non-descript creatures, doing mindless tasks for pitiful rewards, and completing missions that never really push on the narrative, because the narrative boils down to ‘let’s find the bad guy and fight them.’
I would love to tell you why being an Adorer is such a rich and noble profession, or anything special about literally any of my creatures, but the game didn’t tell me, so how can I tell you?
Gotta Adore ‘Em All
Hasn’t got quite the same right to it, does it? I need to discuss the creatures of Adore, as this seems to be the mechanic that has attracted so many to the game, and I’m here to tell you, it shouldn’t have. From marketing alone, I can understand the appeal.
The ability to tame and collect animals, care for them, and use them in a WoW battle-style format where you employ them and retract them as and when needed. It’s a novel concept; no one is arguing that.
However, through poor implementation and the simple fact that this RTS battle format is just plain dull, Adore fails to deliver on the promise of being the next prominent RTS creature battle title.
The first glaring flaw comes in the form of the battling itself. The game will have you capture creatures, then use an action button to send them out, attack an enemy, and then return to you. Meanwhile, you desperately attempt to maintain a safe distance.
This essentially means that you are a vulnerable bystander who must administratively release and recall your beasts to progress.
I can see what the game is going for here, but it’s a problem that many established turn-based games have run into when adapting their formula, creating a format between turn-based and hack-and-slash where no one is particularly happy.
The closest example to this formula would probably be Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, where the player must use the stronger, more capable combatants around them to lay the smackdown of enemies.
Yet even still, Starlord still could hold their own and contribute. Lukha, on the other hand, runs around in circles, praying that his Pokemon rejects can keep him out of trouble.
This wouldn’t be so bad if the game was more strategy-focused. I think the game masquerades as a strategy-driven title, but in truth, none of the creatures you collect really offer anything different.
It’s near impossible to tell which creatures offer an advantage in any situation; the game doesn’t help you identify which creatures play well with others, leading to you just throwing out whatever creature has the most health for the most part.
Not to mention the need to recall creatures to avoid taking damage which pretty much always leaves your player character open.
As a result, Gameplay essentially boils down to a grind-fest where players will grind for consumables to keep health high, grind for upgrades in the form of creature traits and capture creatures that they will almost immediately release just for synergy items.
Then to act as the cherry atop the cake, the game is also sort of a roguelike in the sense that you can go and retrieve your lost items. However, in most cases, you die due to unnatural difficulty spikes that force you to grind and upgrade assets.
But the problem is, this locks your resources gathered in an area you can’t clear, meaning you have to grind from square one just to get them back.
It always feels like the game is working against you, trying to keep you on the hook for as long as it can while offering as little as possible, which leads me to my coup-de-grace.
Where’s My IPad?
This game is a mobile game.
There I said it. It has a few more bells and whistles and looks a lot more appealing from an aesthetic point of view, but this game has all the trappings of a nefarious, money-grabbing mobile game. Now, let me add that this game doesn’t include microtransactions or anything like that, thank god. But if it did, it wouldn’t feel out of place at all.
The game has you collect a variety of different, yet largely non-descript creatures. The game has you complete repeated quests in the hope of getting the drops that you need.
The game has you grind currencies to even have the ability to capture creatures, open new slots in inventories, or gain new items, and the game doesn’t provide enough key resources like healing items, unless, you guessed it, you complete more repeat quests to stockpile them.
Building your team isn’t so much picking the creatures you love than just running teams of creatures that aren’t cursed, with the animals that spend the most time in your party becoming the best options by default.
I’ve seen these features before, and they usually come with a timer, and currency you can buy with real cash to continue grinding.
The only saving grace is that you’ll never have to reach for your credit card playing Adore. However, it feels like this game has been built with the purpose of becoming one of those games, and maybe that’s why this title feels dull, hollow, and without any real substance.
I can picture the big wigs at Tencent salivating at the prospect of adapting this game for the small screen. It’s an inevitability.
Before I wrap up and mercifully never have to endure the tedium of Adore ever again, here are some similar games you might get a lot more out of:
- Death’s Door
- League of Legends
- Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
- Persona 5
- World of Warcraft
The Verdict – 5/10
As I walk around my sanctuary and stare at my collection of creatures roaming the paddock, I can’t help but feel animosity toward this game.
Akin to the feeling of hollowness followed by bitterness that comes after spending a culmination of months on a mobile game, building up a metropolis or kingdom, only to take a step back and realize it was all arbitrary and without substance.
Adore has left me with that same hollow feeling, because, despite all the unique creatures in my arsenal, all the exposition thrown at me between cookie-cutter missions, and the ludicrous amount of barrels smashed with forward rolls. I now walk away without a single positive thing to say, aside from those that come with a caveat.
Adore sets its stall out, assuming that its unique creature-taming mechanic will help the game achieve the same success as creature-battling RPGS like Pokemon, Persona, and Cassette Beasts. Plus, I can only assume that they wanted to get a slice of the Cult of the Lamb pie by offering ways to bond and customize your creatures.
Yet the creatures never feel unique, to the point that even now, it’s hard to tell which creatures are better than others outside of higher attack numbers and more traits added. Plus, the capture method is like an even more labored version of what Pokemon Ranger tried years ago, so even that isn’t special.
The combat is also abysmal as it makes the player a bystander in most affairs who must work to stay out of the melee as best they can, while pressing random button combos to unleash beasts periodically.
Seeing as capture and combat are the core mechanics of the game, this means that the visuals, story, and quests need to be stellar to give the game a fighting chance, but these aspects are equally poor, repetitive, and lifeless, compounding the issues.
If this was released as a mobile game, I would sing its praises as it would be a very high-functioning one, but that’s the crux of the issue. It’s essentially a mobile game masquerading as a full-blown video game. A Pokemon killer, this is not.
- Nice watercolor visuals when in an isometric view
- A decent, albeit repetitive soundtrack
- Good variety of creatures on offer
- Cut scenes wouldn’t look out of place in a 2000s MMO
- Combat is dull
- Creatures aren’t diverse enough, and battle systems aren’t deep enough
- Quests are repetitive chores
- Story is forgettable
Question: Is Adore a MOBA?
Answer: Well, it’s not a multiplayer experience, so technically, no. However, the game does share a lot of similarities both in map design and in terms of combat with games of this nature.
Question: How Many Creatures Are In A Team?
Answer: The player is allowed to run with four creatures in their team. One for each action button if playing on console. However, these can be swapped at any time at the sanctuary.
Question: How Do You Make Creatures Stronger?
Answer: You can upgrade creatures by employing Synergies, by visiting Statues of Draknar to unlock traits, and creatures also advance in level through battle experience.
Callum played Adore for a total of 10 hours, mainly engaging with just the main story, with occasional grinding sessions to get over the difficulty spikes presented. Unless every single game on his system corrupts, leaving only Adore in his library, he can’t see himself going through the tedium this game presents again.