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Estencel Review

Estencel Review

Developed and published by a single person named Rone Vine, Estencel has some semblance of a story. You play as a faceless protagonist that — with the guidance of a cellist and a “long, cool woman” doll in a yellow scarf — is trying to get to the other side of each map. Impeding you are an assortment of enemies, ranging from lantern-wielding people to quadrupedal mechs. Along your travels, you’ll be spoon-fed lore by the people you meet which unfortunately doesn’t entirely make sense in regards to why everyone is a doll or where exactly they are.

To best describe Estencel is to imagine playing Bloodborne’s tech demo. The map is filled with low-textured dark buildings, dimly lit roads, and enemies that look like placeholder figures — they just look like the protagonist, with the same featureless face and monotone outfits. The controls are smooth, dare I say, slightly better than most Souls-likes. Even the soundtrack is an orchestral score that could have been from Bloodborne, which was written and composed by the developer himself.

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As the developer most likely was inspired by FromSoftware’s library of games when making Estencel, the combat is nearly indistinguishable from Bloodborne. For those unaware, to defeat enemies in these types of games, you have to land well-timed quick and charged attacks — as well as dodge incoming strikes — to whittle down their health bars before they do the same to you. Where Estencel differs is your quick and charged attacks are done with one button (tap for light, hold for heavy), all equipment is cosmetic as stats are built up by leveling up or finding items that increase your strength, your character is not limited to a set amount of healing potions, and, finally, magical abilities are found rather than unlocked.

Also, to differentiate Estencel from the other games in the genre, you can employ friendly NPCs to fight alongside you. Known as “partners”, they’re identical to you — from your loadout to your appearance — and follow you anywhere you go, like your own personal bodyguards. In combat, the AI almost acts like veteran players, making opportunistic attacks while dodging and keeping their distance. The only negative I have is the partners are too headstrong; charging into every single battle including when creatures are fighting amongst themselves. You can also play co-op with another person which gives the same effect.

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However, if I were to judge this game from what I’ve seen and played without knowing the developer spent three years working on it, I’d say it was made for a quick buck.

I’m not saying that making videogames is an easy task — especially in today’s market where they’re becoming better and better alongside technology — but at first glance, Estencel looks unfinished at best; rushed at worst. However, I can assure you that behind the mediocre graphics and voiceless NPCs is a well-made game that needs more time in the development oven. For example, during the first boss fight with a giant wolf creature, you'll have a challenge fighting it off; stuck in a small arena, with only a few health potions, and all my partners dead, just so that you could get that far. Throughout my time in the fight, I could only wonder why I was fighting a cartoon wolf skeleton inside a fabric storm. Eventually, however, I began to have fun playing this game after I’d cleared the first few enemies and rooftops.

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There’s a lot of potential in the developer’s skills and the future for his games that emanates through Estencel’s ability to emulate, because that’s what Souls-likes do, they copy those games like the Doom/Quake clones decades ago. Only a few use the material to make something unique and original like in Star Wars: Fallen Order, and I believe this game could be one of them if the developer smoothed some of the edges graphically, and brought in some more comprehensive world-building, voiced dialogue as well as a better UI for keyboard.

All in all, if you’ve finished Bloodborne or games like it and you don’t know what else to play, Estencel is a quick fix. If you want to play a longer, more finely detailed game, look somewhere else.

6.00/10 6

Estencel (Reviewed on Windows)

Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.

Estencel is stuffed full of those identifiable and unique gameplay mechanics that makes Souls-likes so fun to play. However, visually speaking, it’s lacking some much-needed detail.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Bennett Perry

Bennett Perry

Staff Writer

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