Ultra Age is a game I’ve been looking at ever since its wild-looking combat trailers started appearing on YouTube. But aside from the Devil May Cry-looking sword-slinging, I didn’t know much else about it. We’re at a point in games, especially out of Asian developers, in which “indie character action” is totally a thing. Ultra Age is exactly that, which is just astoundingly impressive just as a concept. And while it has some obvious problems, Ultra Age has several distinct ideas that help it stand out on its own.
Ultra Age Review
The thing about this game is that you have to understand it isn’t a AAA action game, despite how good it looks. The visuals are totally solid, with lots of shiny Unreal Engine 4-ness and tons of cool lighting and particle effects. The finer points, such as facial animation and especially voice acting, is where Ultra Age trips up. Age is like if Dante was a bland nerd who talks like Dick Tracy for no reason and has no emotional consistency.
So yeah, you won’t be gripped by the story or anything, but the point here is fast and over the top sword action. And for the most part Ultra Age nails what it sets out to accomplish here. Not only is the game’s performance (on PS5) super smooth and responsive, there are some interesting mechanics such as various cooldown-based techniques, a bizarre time travel gimmick that makes pickups respawn, and the marquee feature: weapon breaking.
Weapon breaking in a character action game sounds like a person shooting themselves in the foot on purpose, but the way it works in Ultra Age is fascinating. After a bit you have access to four different weapons, each one having a specific purpose (basic, better against robots, beasts, etc). You can swap between weapons on command, but a small meter of sorts drains via use. Eventually the weapon will break and Age will grab a new one if available, but in the moment before it breaks you can use a special move and discharge the weapon itself in exchange for some big ol’ damage.
It’s weird because Ultra Age isn’t particularly interested in scarcity. If you need a specific weapon there’ll usually be some materials nearby, and you can keep several of each sword type in stock. This system seems to largely be in place for affect, giving a sort of extra oomph to the idea of swapping weapons in the middle of a scrap. It feels like something I’ve never run into before, and just altered the way I was thinking about otherwise familiar action combat situations. I just wish I liked the core combat more.
While Ultra Age has that Devil May Cry vibe all over it, the combat is more akin to Musou with a grappling hook. There’s light and heavy swings, and pressing light some number of times modifies the heavy in ways that are identical to Dynasty Warriors. Now I love me some Musou, but it doesn’t fit this context well. Especially since the timing for combos feels weird.
By weird, I mean the one, two, threes of light attacks don’t blend together very well. There can be a strange delay, where it feels like the game can’t decide if I’m pressing buttons too fast or two slow. I felt forced to step way off the gas in a way that seemed at odds with the full room combat situations. It also made things like using the Devil Arm-like grappling hook for aerial combos super fumbly. I was able to adjust and do well of course, but in my hands Ultra Age feels at odds with its animations and visual style versus what the buttons actually do.
The good news is that Ultra Age only sticks around enough to show up, do some cool stuff, and take off before it overstays its welcome. The story is around five hours long, and there’s plenty of action and campy storytelling to fill that time. Any longer and perhaps the game’s eccentricities would’ve worn a little more, but as it stands Ultra Age is one of the most impressive small-scale 3D action games you can get a hold of.
- High shelf visuals
- Intriguing, distinct mechanics
- Combat design feels confused at times
- Voice acting
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.