It’s a challenge to create a unique third-person shooter. The genre is already saturated, and much of what is coming out is just a retread of what’s already been done.
Caster is the latest foray into the genre from developer Elecorn. Though it shows the fundamentals of a good title–solid gameplay, a creative arsenal of weapons, and a 3D environment that features some interesting manipulation options–it ultimately falls short due to clumsy enemy design and a lack of content.
Caster starts by introducing the young, androgynous title character in a tutorial level. Apparently, some monsters called Flanx have fouled up the world, and it’s this little guy’s job to rid the world of them through a series of fetch quests, extermination missions and boss battles. There’s enough variety to keep things interesting.
Caster features controls that are among the best in its class. Unlike most shooters, there’s no clumsy D-Pad to fumble around, no tiny shoot buttons. It simply divides up the screen into two halves, much like the analog buttons on a console controller. Left moves, right aims. Double tapping engages a dash move on the left, a sustained double tap on the right shoots. Throw in a jump button, which super jumps with a double tap, and you’re in business.
The aim control plays remarkably well in the full 3D environment. By moving your right thumb, you get a full 360-degree, three-axis view of the expansive world, which is broken up into several unique locations. Combined with the smooth movement controls, the simplicity of the system makes for easy navigation.
Combat tends to be a little trickier, though. Enemies are ridiculously tough, with the three difficulty levels of Casual, Normal and Extreme only changing the amount of damage they dish out. Their toughness is clearly problematic on the Normal difficulty level, which will frustrate even the most hardcore of gamers. We can only imagine the torture of Extreme.
Unfortunately, this difficulty imbalance wrecks a truly amazing arsenal, which includes the standard blaster, a pair of terrain-altering weapons, and a few others. It almost always makes more sense to run away, since only a handful of missions require any actual combat.
The maps are bare bones, for sure–although that might be a function of the gameplay, as complex maps don’t exactly lend themselves to massive terrain manipulation. The techno soundtrack might not be for everyone, either. It’s a bit on the Eurotrash side with no iPod option, so be prepared.
And the game is just short — it won’t demand more than an hour of your time. Aside from the cool weaponry, the game has little else to offer.
We can see the outlines of a good game in Caster, but it’s not worth $4.99 at the moment. Still, Elecorn is clearly a talented developer. We’re looking to them to provide the additional content and gameplay tweaks that will make Caster a worthwhile buy.