This review contains mild spoliers.
A few weeks back we previewed a compelling stealth-mystery game called Majestic Nights, and to our delight it was an 80s’ inspired acid flashback that proved just as enjoyable as it did incomprehensible. The prologue episode had you play as Cardholder, an enigmatic secret agent who has had dealings in a great number of high-profile mysteries. As the Chapter ends, it becomes clear that Cardholder has gotten himself embroiled in a shadowy conspiracy, perhaps too deep to get himself out of. Having disclosed its introductory chapter to the public developer, Epiphany Games, has finally dropped the first of six episodic chapters that are sure to inform and confuse in equal measure.
Covert Genesis doesn’t pick up from where Sunset After Dark left off though, instead it has you playing as a different protagonist, called Cal. A private investigator of sorts, Cal has an advert in the back of the newspaper and picks up work from it, until she is approached by a mysterious gentleman known only as The Suit. Unlike her usual dealings, Cal is offered a particularly lucrative job from The Suit; he wants her to track down Cardholder for him.
This shift isn’t emulated in any of the games other aspects, you’ll be doing almost exactly the same tasks as you did before. In order to find Cardholder you’ll visit his house, check out his old haunts and try to pick up some intelligence on him along the way. This time you can choose which leads you want to follow-up, and in what order, which adds a dash of much-needed variety.
By following your leads you’ll eventually wind-up sneaking through Area 50, avoiding armed soldiers, and secret agents, and picking up clues that point to Cardholder’s whereabouts. In some locations you will find yourself massively outnumbered, encouraging you to observe enemy movement patterns to find an opportune time to strike with your katana. Other situations call for some problem solving. For example, exploring a particularly populated area reveals an operations manual, which when repeated over the intercom will instruct soldiers to relocate to another area, allowing you to pass through undetected. Or, that would be the case if the objective wasn’t bugged. Instead you’ll have to painstakingly kill every soldier and avoid being killed by strong, shotgun-toting, agents; which is no easy feat given the game’s ludicrously broken gun mechanics.
The real-time run and gun action remains mostly unchanged, but some of the drawbacks we mentioned previously are much more pronounced this time around. Foremost amongst these issues is the finicky, almost aggravating gunplay which can become infuriating unresponsive in the middle of a shootout. Not only that, but your gun will catch on the edges of walls and doors as you hide behind them to protect yourself. The imprecise nature of Majestic Nights’ combat makes it a real chore to play its trickier sections, and we almost threw in the towel minutes before the credits rolled.
Episode Zero’s seeming lack of A.I also makes a reappearance in Episode One, but things aren’t quite so bad. Certain enemies will still be indifferent to your presence, allowing you to stand beside them and pump them full of lead, but doing so will now alert nearby guards to your presence, causing them to investigate the source of the disturbance. Gunfights with enemy agents still feel somewhat half-baked though, and they will still fire endlessly into a hallway despite you having taken cover – which is something enemies still cannot do. So, while it is clear that Epiphany Games is addressing some of the issues highlighted previously, they still have a long way to go.
Covert Genesis continues Sunset After Dark’s tradition of being utterly confusing, and you’ll find namechecks for almost every major conspiracy theory inside. Whilst it might be too early to ask for some resolution we do hope that Episode Two picks up the pace a little. There’s only so much we can play, whilst knowing little about what’s going on, before it becomes tiresome. In that sense. Majestic Nights is treading a fine-line, a little mystery can be positively tantalising, but too much can make things uninteresting
Majestic Nights Episode One: Covert Genesis has all the hallmarks of a promising episodic game. Its developer, Epiphany Games, is committed to refining the game’s mechanics and clearing up the bugs that are currently present, and we hope they keep the pace up. Tightening up enemy A.I and shooting will make things much less aggravating and much more enjoyable for all, but above all else they need to quicken the pace if they are to keep us engrossed. Yet, despite its drawbacks we still find ourselves drawn in by Majestic Nights, whether its the goofy plot or its bright neon 80s’ world, we don’t know. There’s just something very likeable about it.
It’s much too early to cast definitive judgement on the series, but it comes with our recommendation, if you can look past its issues.
Majestic Nights is available on Steam.