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Review – Slain: Back from Hell (Steam), Raging On and Off Screen

I stood up, controller gripped in my white knuckled fist, ready to hurl the accursed thing into the television, the ground….anywhere that might produce the catharsis that comes from rage-induced destruction. Then, as I calmed myself, I looked back to the screen where I faced the bold, bloodstained lettering I would come to know so well while playing Slain: Back from Hell, which simply read:

Slain: Back from Hell-TiCGN
Slain: Back from Hell-TiCGN

So, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to Slain: Back From Hell:

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Story

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The story in Slain: Back From Hell is fairly simply gore pulp fare. You are a heavy metal viking all-around awesome warrior brought back from your restful, almost eternal slumber to once again vanquish the evil that has risen in the lands. You would rather just sleep, but the fates have determined that would not be so and as such you are determined to take out your frustration on said evil…and maybe even do some good while you are at it.

Often juvenile yet humorous, Slain  doesnt try to pretend the game is something it isnt. It is quite simply an over the top tale being told around equally over the top gameplay. In this regard, Slain carries itself well. Despite simplistic and (at times) intentionally bad writing which features a lot of “I’m the best”, “nah-ah, I’m the best” sort of banter, it works well given the intent and presentation. I would give the story an 8 out of 10. Could it have been better? Possibly. Should it have been? Probably not.

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Gameplay

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Gameplay is really the heart and soul of a game like Slain. So, how does the gameplay actually stack up? Quite well, as it turns out. This is not a game for the faint of heart. You will hack, slash, and cast spells on a path of gory destruction to the backdrop of chunky, guitar driven metal riffs. You will also die. Often. Like a lot. Probably every minute or two. Maybe even more frequently than that. It can be rage inducing without a doubt but when you finally calm down and get back to it,  you end up persevering and that comes with a definite feeling of satisfaction. This will be a rinse and repeat scenario however, so as I said before, Slain is not for the faint of heart.

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Combat is handled in simple and yet effective fashion. You can attack, block, cast an attack spell, jump, and dodge left or right with the simple push of their respective buttons or trigger. There are also power attacks featured for both attack and spell casting which require you to hold down the proper button or buttons for a charge up. The spell will automatically discharge once it has charged. The power attack must be charged and then released with a timed second push of the button. Everything else related to attacking is simply based on judging space and terrain.

Slain also features light platforming such as jumping over traps and onto elevator platforms, jumping to trigger certain events, and of course jumping to avoid or better position yourself against enemies.

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There is a fairly wide variety of enemies from your basic skeletons to spectral wolves to ghostly women with knives, gigantic bats, and so on. Each area features its own unique set of beasties and bad guys. There are also a fair amount of mini-bosses and each area also features an actual boss fight as well. Learning their patterns is essential to success although even having done so, you then must also execute your moves, sometimes flawlessly. I have found that sometimes after having died 20 or 30 times to a single boss or scenario, that often the best solution is the most basic. Increase your level of aggression and go for it!

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Each enemy also has a weakness. For some, basic physical attacks or spells are the thing that will do them in quickly. Others require something extra such as spells. Fire, Ice, and so on. These spells become available one by one as you finish sections of the game. For example, you will receive a fire sword early on and an ice axe a bit later. These can be switched at will via the right thumbstick on your gamepad (and while I’m thinking about it….use a gamepad for this game. I can’t see wanting to play this with keyboard and mouse).

There are light puzzle aspects to this game, mostly centered around finding switches or defeating certain enemies to unlock new areas. There are also some secret areas you can find and unlock as well.

All told, gameplay was completely solid and highly intuitive in Slain. I think a 9.5 is the perfect rating for this.

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Graphics

As you can see already in the screenshots I have provided, Slain hearkens back to an older style of graphics in gaming. A bit muddier, a bit less distinct, but no less compelling and evocative. You are travelling through nightmarish realms and the graphics in Slain absolutely help to put you in the proper frame of mind.

I found the graphics to be ideal for this game. 8 out of 10

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Sound

The soundtrack in Slain lives up to its billing as, and I’m quoting here,

 the most metal soundtrack you’ve ever heard.

Awesome. 10 out of 10. In fact, if you look at the screenshot below, our hero agrees. He does the Megadeth hair spin represented below after each boss fight.

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Verdict

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The initial release of Slain: Back From Hell saw a lot of criticism for some broken gameplay and being  a general buggy mess. Since then, the developers have diligently continued to improve and polish the game until it finally saw what amounts to its re-release. I can affirm that the game offered today is a superior experience and one of the better games on Steam at this moment.

All told, this game earns 8.9 leather clad, long haired, metal loving, sword and axe swinging, viking warrior guys slaying their fill of banshees, hell hounds, and bone-eating madmen on their way to retribution out of 10 possible.

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