Having fond memories of this game from a couple of years ago, I decided to play it again an complete it, since I don't recall beating it the last time I've played it. The game started out so strong and fun, I was wondering what caused me to stop playing. Well, there were numerous things, apparently. I will try not to be completely biased in my review, but there is a large amount of negativity that I want to express concerning Barbarian Onslaught: The Secret of Steel.
The opening animation was quite clever, I thought and put a smile on my face. Not much later, battling the orcs I found it wonderfull how powerfull the character feels. His sheer dominance was right on the mark! I enjoyed the fact how simple everything was. Simple controlls, a simple character with a simple goal, simple, yet fluid sprites, simple attacks, simple attack patterns, everything was all so simple and fun. Even the stages were rather simple. Really, the layout of each stage barely changes, which in a way, is a good thing. That way you're always in familiar territory and can focus solely on the fighting. On the other hand, the game lacks variety this way. Every single level is in a way a last stand level. You're always fighting hordes of several waves of orcs/skeletons/daemons and they seemingly never stop advancing towards your position.
For me, that got old, fast. And towards the later levels it gets ridiculous. Even after you've slain the main chieftan, who serves as a mini-boss, there are more hordes that arise or appear from your left or from your right. They just never stop coming. What was the purpose of this decision? It's unnecessaraly difficult. The only purpose of it that I can think of is that it prolongs the game. It extends its lenght. The game already has enough levels as it is, adding more stuff on the screen made the experience worse for me.
I think removing all those last stand events would improve the game and make the pacing much quicker. I suggest then nerfing the amount of damage the player can take.
There are some neet things in the game, I thought, like grabbing your opponets and throwing them at a group of enemis or to some spikes. I however can never guess the distance I must be at in order to grab the enemy.
I despised the fact that once your character is down, the npcs can just maul him into oblivion. I mean, sure, it isn't bad when one or two npcs are doing it, however, this game's enemies stack up, quadrupling their damage output. You can't always tell how many enemies there are, since they camo eachother most of the time when they aline. You can die in like two seconds this way. This could be remedied if the number of npcs gets towned down or just remove the last stand events.
A thing I don't like as well is that when you're hit, the character turns to the attacker. This is very bad since you can't do anything when the character moves, albeit it takes half a second. When you're surrounded by two huge stacks it becomes lethal. You're already staggered when you're hit, making it nigh impossible of defending or counter-attacking. I think it would be better if it was removed.
Contests are a great idea, however they can kill the pacing of the game, especially in the later stages, when you're up against an enormous amount of hordes. I think this can be fixed, if the last stand events are removed from the game. A metre telling you who's winning the fight would be also nice. I could never tell if I was winning the contest or not. Regardless of me destroying my spacebar at the last boss, I barely ever won them.
I have an issue with several bosses. When you're hit by Granny Summer Camp, quite often you'd find yourself on the other side of the glen/ravine, Granny would then, once passed a certain point, will immediately lock-on your position and hit you just as you get up on your feet. It's annoying as balls. I think she should have an attack pattern, rather than a lock-on ability. The Phantom clone is, by far, the most annoying boss in the game for me. He has more health than the player, endures more punishment than the player, has stronger attacks than the player, and in my case, always wins the contests. The only thing he's lacking is speed. You can beat him conventionally, however that resulted in my health being sapped to almost zero. It wouldn't have been a problem if there wasn't a GIANT GOD DAMN HORDE right after the boss battle ends! The best way I found to destroy the Phantom clone is to just run to one end of the arena and then jump and then hit him via a jump attack. I repeated this process several times and got hit only once, which allowed me to destroy the newly-formed daemon/skeleton army. Kind of a big dissapointment, since this has the potential to be a great boss fight.
Also, I think the bosses aren't placed accordingly. There can't be two main bosses in a row one after the other. The tentacle monster, the Princess and the Hedgehog are useless in my opinion.
I'm not a music person, but I think the music for the game is par-excellence.
The ending kind of let me down a bit. I probably would have laught at it if it wasn't so infuriating to get to it.
In conclusion, this game doesn't have any serious bugs or anything, but some flawed design decisions, which dimmed my enjoyment of the experience. The game has potential, has a simple esthetic and pleasing gore and violent effects and sounds, and a good soundtrack. I'm not good with scores, but I guess I'll give it a 2.5/5.