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Etrom: The Astral Essence

Score: 65%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Stardock
Developer: PM Studios
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Adventure/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:

From a design perspective, Etrom: The Astral Essence looks good, though there is a noticeable lack of direction. Rather than limiting the game’s world to a few core elements, everything is thrown in. You have high-tech weapons, magic, demons and robots all thrown into one game. One minute you’re in a cramped, sterile futuristic city and the next you’re in a dark cavern that looks like something from a fantasy game. There’s nothing wrong with combining these elements, but Etrom does so in such a haphazard way, it is hard to get a sense of the game’s world.

Technically, Etrom doesn’t fare as well. Both the characters and levels are blocky and don’t show off much in the way of details. While designed well, nothing about the game really makes you want to take notice.

Sound is okay, though it doesn’t amount to anything more than the sounds you’d expect to heard in a hack n’ slash game.


Etrom: The Astral Essence takes place in the future where people are forced to live in cramped cities. The governments of these cities have become corrupt dictatorships where only the rich and the soldiers protecting them are allowed any real freedoms. You are a foot solider who finds an artifact that bonds with you and opens your eyes to the true nature of things. Of course, this leads your character to question his loyalties, eventually causing him to leave his duty and live life as a fugitive outside the city walls.

If anything else, Etrom’s premise shows just how much potential the game has. Unfortunately, that potential never comes through. Everything about the game, from graphics right down to control, is a mess and lacking in polish. Even the story has its problems. The above summary sounds great, but I only got that after reading the game’s official website. The actual in-game intro is so convoluted at times that you have no idea what’s actually going on no matter how many times you watch it. After the introduction, it is hard to actually get a sense of what is going on. Much of what is going on is conveyed through text, however there’s so much of it that you’ll eventually grow tired of reading.

From a gameplay perspective, Etrom is aiming for a point-and-click RPG in the vein of Diablo. While the game makes a good attempt at emulating the hallowed series, it never comes close to reaching the same level of playability.

For starters, Etrom faces a host of balance issues. You begin the game with a super powerful weapon that destroys anything it touches. Eventually you unlock other weapons and spells, but by that time, your axe is so powerful that you’ll want to keep using it. It’s cool to start out as a powerful character, but there comes a point where you want some challenge.


The lack of balance leads to less than exciting gameplay. Most of your time is spent traveling through long, tedious mazes and killing everything that you come across in a few hits. Eventually you come across bosses who are slightly more powerful and provide the only real challenge found in the game. Bosses can only be damaged by a certain attack and are usually accompanied by a supporting group of enemies you’ll have to slog your way through. Expect to save often.

Game Mechanics:

Controls are by far the worst problem facing Etrom, to the point where the game is nearly unplayable. Most of these problems are a result of nearly everything being mapped to the mouse in one way or another. Clicking on an area moves your character, while clicking on an enemy causes him to attack. However, you also have to use the mouse in order to rotate the camera, something you’ll do a lot since the camera always manages to get caught up on walls when in a cramped area. Considering most of the game takes place in small areas, most of your time is spent trying to adjust the camera with the mouse, only to have your character blindly running around as you attempt to do so. What really drags everything down is that both of these problems could have been easily fixed by either locking the camera into one spot or allowing for keyboard movement.

Movement and camera are only the beginning. Your inventory is extremely limited and lacks any variety. Most of the items you come across are designated by a number, so rather than trying to balance out your character by mixing certain items, you instead just equip the highest number and leave the rest (and believe me, there’s a lot of it) on the ground.

On one hand, the developers deserve some credit for even getting their game out to the public since developing a game, especially one as ambitious as Etrom, is by no means an easy task. At the same time, a majority of the issues facing the game are easily worked out and have been done better, so there are plenty of examples to work from. In the end, Etrom: The Astral Essence is probably best skipped.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 2000/XP; PC with 1000 MHz equivalent or higher processor; 512 MB of system RAM; 2.5 GB available hard disk space; DVD-ROM drive; DirectX 9.0c; Graphic Card 64Mb compatible with DirectX 9.0c; Sound card compatible with direct sound

Test System:

Windows XP; Pentium 4 1.8 GHz; Radeon 9250 256 MB; 640 MB RAM; DirectX 9.0c

Microsoft Xbox 360 Rumble Roses XX Microsoft Xbox Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers

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