Publisher: Reverb Triple XP
Release Date: May 1st, 2014
Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One
Reviewer’s Note: I played this game on the PlayStation 4. There may be differences between versions.
I always keep an eye on shoot ’em up games, despite my general mediocrity at them. Games like Raystorm, Ikaruga, Sine Mora, and Velocity 2x continue to be games that I have greatly enjoyed. Project Root is an all new shoot ’em up that tries to separate itself by allowing the player to explore a large area rather than keeping them on a track. Yet is that enough to be worth it, or should this project have gotten canceled?
Project Root may have a story, but I was way too distracted to understand it. I could sorta figure out that I was a guy named Lance Rockport who was part of some mercenary company that was trying to stop an energy company called Prometheus because they were doing some shady shit. Beyond that I have no clue. The problem is that the story plays out almost entirely in text boxes in the corner of the screen during the action. With no chance to take my eyes off the action to actually read the text boxes, I had to basically ignore the story because I didn’t want to lose any lives. Honestly, it didn’t really seem like much worth paying attention to anyway.
Each level begins with a vague objective and a general idea on where to go. The game always has a mini-map in the corner in case I needed to check, and an arrow near the ship points in the direction of the correct objective. Yet the stages are all large enough that there are plenty of side objectives tucked into various corners of the map. Some exploration should be worth it to find them, yet the problem I have is that the rewards for completing these side objectives basically seems to be a pat on the back. As I defeat enemies I received XP that can level me up and get me stat boosts, but the XP reward for killing enemies is so low that its never worth it and I never noticed any kind of significant XP boost for completing side objectives. Instead, almost all the XP I got was for completing levels, which sometimes dumped enough XP on me for multiple level-ups. Despite being billed as a SHMUP with the ability to explore, there’s no real reason to do anything other than beeline to the end.
Yet beeline may not be the right word as the slow pace at which everything moves still makes the game feel like its taking forever. The ship I controlled in Project Root always felt like it was a glob of molasses. The slow pace is also a problem with the game itself, as it felt like everything in the game was just drawn out. Most SHMUPs are well organized and fast paced, but in Project Root it feels like enemies just sort of wander in whenever. This means the game is constantly toeing the line between being overwhelmingly boring as nothing happens, or overwhelmingly difficult as the amount of enemies onscreen becomes absurd. When it comes to a SHMUP I never realized how important the organization is and how much is needed to compensate for it when you take that away, and Project Root simply doesn’t have enough to replace it.
Occasionally I was thrown into boss fights against larger enemies, which is always something I tend to enjoy when it comes to SHMUPS. The problem with Project Root is that it only has a couple boss fights that it cycles between. I hope you liked fighting the one big laser shooting airship, because you’ll do so about four times in the game. Another large shielded airship and an enemy bomber also both overstay their welcomes. The game’s last boss is an utter disaster, so anticlimactic that I honestly thought it was just the first phase in a longer fight (and in a better SHMUP it probably would be.) Project Root’s eight levels lasted me about 6 or so hours, which is at least pretty lengthy for a SHMUP, but when I wasn’t enjoying the game I found it hard to see this as a good thing.
Project Root tries by opening up the levels and allowing the player to explore as they wish. Yet without much making the game worth exploring that feature falls flat. With so little to pick it back up, Project Root shows that some roots aren’t worth straying from.