The last additions to the classic Battle Network series, Mega Man Battle Network 6: Gregar And Falzar, released over a decade ago in 2006, not counting the spinoff Mega Man Starforce series. In the meantime, while some fan games have sprung up, fans of Battle Network‘s brand of grid-based, deck-building combat have had little else to scratch that particular itch. However, that is changing. The new game, One Step From Eden, available for PC and Nintendo Switch, pays tribute to Battle Network‘s formula.
Originally funded on Kickstarter, this game was developed by Thomas Moon Kang and published by Humble Bundle as a spiritual successor to the long dormant franchise. However, while it does follow the basic gameplay that Battle Network established, fans of the original games should be warned: One Step From Eden pulls no punches.
Battle Network started each battle with the custom screen, allowing players to see the battlefield, their opponents, decide the order in which chips would be used and prepare for combat. One Step From Eden doesn’t offer this respite, meaning players have only a brief warning that combat is commencing before they must dodge, aim and return fire with their spells and weapon. The initial character, Saffron, has four spells at her disposal and a rapid-fire sidearm. She also gets a starting artifact that allows her to revive from death once per run.
Saffron’s artifact may sound like it makes OSFE too easy, but once the game thrusts the player headlong into combat, it’ll be clear why it was included. Enemies have split second tells to warn when they’ll attack (and some attacks will even display where they will hit), but the fast-paced, bullet-hell-like frequency of many attacks means that not even this generosity will be enough to spare a new player several messy deaths. However, like many rogue-likes, even death can give some benefits, and players will unlock new spells, characters and alternate versions of current characters for future runs.
As in nearly every rogue-like imaginable, a major facet of strategy boils down to “don’t get hit.” The Battle Network series offered players who couldn’t dodge a plethora of ways to recover HP, from healing items to simply exiting the cyberworld to give the Blue Bomber a break. But in OSFE, healing is far scarcer, with even HP restoring campfires only restoring a small amount of HP — that is, if a player is fast enough to grab the fast-fading healing items it spawns and are willing to make the detour to a camp. Other opportunities to replenish HP are few and far between, often meaning players will have to forfeit chances to get a new spell or upgrade in order to heal.
Money is also scarce, and (unlike Battle Network) choosing to grind out battles for the sole sake of acquiring loads of cash is rarely an option. The Shopkeeper will offer Pacts that give more challenges and detriments in exchange for money, but choosing between upgrades, removals and new spells means that players will have to be judicious about impulse buying.
Battle Network encouraged players to get chips at every opportunity, with those not immediately used in a 30 chip folder filed away in storage. One Step From Eden allows players to choose from several spells after most successful battles, with no apparent limit on how many are in a deck. However, most spells cost mana (a finite but regenerating resource that tempers how often players can use spells) with more powerful spells costing more mana. Not all spells will fit into a given player’s strategy, and some might lose their usefulness over time.
The ability to remove spells from a deck is treated as a limited resource only available at shops and though certain events, so decks can become cluttered quickly with subpar spells that don’t mesh together. Some spells require specific strategies to use effectively, with spells like “Volley” (which fires shots from all structures) requiring a deck that can create multiple objects.
Sometimes, the best option is to choose nothing at all to prevent a deck from becoming too cluttered and making it hard for players to come up with and stick to a strategy.
Aside from the occasional mystery data appearing on a battlefield and the odd trap object, Mega Man Battle Network players didn’t have to worry about stray shots. One Step From Eden has “Distress” points the player can visit, in which one or more noncombatants will request help. Depending on which side of the battlefield they’re on, players might have to aim attacks around them or block incoming enemy shots with their own bodies. Protecting them will result in rewards such as cash or much-needed healing. The shopkeeper also holds her store on a battlefield, and while players can have a benign interaction with her by opening their deck and browsing her wares, attacking her — deliberately or not — will result in a fight that will end badly for all but the most prepared and determined.
On top of that, bosses will put players through their paces. When they finally drop to their knees, it may be tempting to finish them off, but sparing them will result in a substantial amount of healing, the boss coming to aid future battles and, potentially, becoming a new character to try out. Additionally, there are dozens of traps that react to attacks with retaliatory barrages that can bring a good run to a quick end, and some have enough HP and defense to ensure a player will be defeated if they insist on attacking recklessly.
One Step From Eden has a steep learning curve. The game requires players to hone their reflexes and plan what kind of deck they want to build for each character with little margin for error or lapses in concentration. However, the addictive combat and satisfaction from learning better ways to combine spells and strategies is an excellent tribute to the Mega Man Battle Network series that will ensure both fans newcomers alike will be willing to take one more step towards another punishing run.
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A new take on an old formula, One Step From Eden offers fans of Mega Man Battle Network's combat a new, face-paced and merciless rogue-like.