I played Malicious quite some time ago, and though it’s a game I’ve not thought about in a while, it still stands as one of the more interesting, thought deeply flawed, downloadable titles I played in the last generation. I always had this feeling that there was some truly untapped potential in this game, and although some of it was realized in the second iteration, Rebirth, it never quite hit that mark, until now that is, which is the first time this game can really show us what it’s made of.
Malicious Fallen is the third game in the series. While not a true sequel, it contains the content of the previous two games as well as a new scenario and challenge mode. The entire game is, by all accounts, an elaborate boss rush mode. Each stage has the boss present from the get go, but going head first into the foray will more than likely result in your demise. There’re a few rules governing the flow of each stage. While the main focal point is undoubtedly the giant boss, there are also smaller minions that appear throughout the level. While they pose little to no danger, their main purpose is to help you accumulate what is known as Aura.
When killing smaller enemies, you’ll gain Aura, which is what you’ll need to properly damage the boss. Aura actually has 3 main purposes. You can expend it to augment your attacks, allowing you to chain kills together, and further increasing your net gain of Aura. When you take too much damage, part of your body will start to disappear and you can use it to heal yourself as well. The final function, which buffs up your attacks enough to do damage against the boss, is the Aura releasing. When activated, your pool of accumulated Aura will begin to rapidly deplete and you need to use this time to launch a full on assault. So it becomes this interesting game of managing your Aura and deciding when to effectively use it, adding a nice layer of strategy to the otherwise frantic action.
The highlight of each stage is the actual showdown against the various challenging bosses. For the most part, you’re required to use everything at your disposal in order to take them down, and you really have to think about how to tackle each one of them. I did find a few occasions where it’s really easy to cheese your way through a fight, but fortunately it doesn’t happen too often. While these skirmishes are most definitely fun, it’s not always a fair fight. Some bosses have some really cheap moves that only act to frustrate the player rather than challenge them. This is made even worse with a terrible knockback/knockdown system, and I’m talking Ninja Gaiden levels of frustration. You’d often get knocked out of an attack as well as knocked down, rendering you completely immobile for a few seconds while still taking damage and you’re unable to do anything about it until a recovery animation kicks in. It happens far too often and really brings down what is otherwise an enjoyable combat system.
Upon defeating a boss, you’ll gain their power, granting you access to new abilities, weapons and combos. While the combat is not overly complicated, it is a ton of fun. You take control of a human-looking vessel tasked with eliminating a malevolent force known as the Malicious. Controlling the character feels weird at first as he/she (depending on which gender you choose at the start of the game) levitates above ground, giving off this really ‘floaty’ feeling, but you get used to it fairly quickly. The vessel dons a mantle which morphs into different weapons. As you acquire more power from defeated bosses, your arsenal will expand. You initially start off with a projectile and a standard fist type melee weapon, but you’ll soon get a lance and a sword which in turn gains further transformations. I really enjoyed the combat system in place, and although there’s not much depth present, the fluidity of your attacks in conjunction with responsive dodging and movement, made for an enjoyable experience, an experience that the previous games just couldn’t provide.
I actually reinstalled the original Malicious on my PS3 just to see how the game had changed as even though I remember enjoying it somewhat back then, I don’t recall having this much fun with the combat. As it would turn out, the differences really are worlds apart, but not mechanically, rather in terms of pure performance. It cannot be overstated just how much the power of the PS4 has helped this title. I couldn’t go back, or rather, I couldn’t even stomach the game on PS3 now as it was just too slow and sluggish. Granted, the Vita version, Rebirth, was much better as well, but even then, the game still struggled sometimes. I cannot help but feel like more processing power was the key to realizing this game’s potential. If only the added power could’ve fixed the bad camera, which unfortunately hampers the experience far too often. Still, despite some of the flaws present, the core combat feels really good.
I do have to commend Alvion for the wonderful work they did on the game’s backstory and lore. It’s not as extensive as other games, but they crafted some truly fascinating and often dark and twisted stories, fleshing out each of the game’s bosses. I loved the lore in the game and even though it’s presented as a large wall of text, I still enjoyed reading through it and ended up craving more.
Malicious Fallen doesn’t have all that much to offer and could easily be completed in less than 10 hours and although the gameplay has some issues, and it may have taken three games to get here but it’s finally at a place where it deserves to be played. It might frustrate you at times, but if you can look past all the blemishes, you’ll find a great action game underneath it all.