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Tevi review

written 2023-12-07

Tevi is a bullet hell platformer metroidvania that I played in 2023/12. I had very high hopes because I played the demo before and loved it, but the full game disappointed me. A lot of the things I liked about it turned out to be misconceptions that I had because I didn't play far enough into the demo (I only played the first area because once I thought I was going to love it I didn't want to get too far in before full release).

I played switching between Hard and Expert difficulty. I at first planned to do a 100% playthrough and did a lot of optional exploring, but once I got disillusioned with the game I started doing less of that.

Combat

The combat system is way too complicated. There's an in-game dictionary of status effects with over a hundred entries, a move list with a few dozen, tons of sigils (equippable upgrades) with complex effects like "when combo counter is below 7, using basic ground combo II will be followed by basic air combo II; additionally, basic air combo I and basic air combo II attack speed +40% and both become a 2-hit attack". That's verbatim one of the sigils you can equip! And in late game I have more than 50 sigils equipped at once. There's no way I can possibly remember all these effects.

The game's fundamental mechanics are also too complex. Late in the game I spent a very frustrating half hour trying to figure out why my invulnerable dodge moves only sometimes worked. There's some kind of dodge meter that gives you a status effect that makes the next use of certain moves invulnerable. I really thought I'd learned from experience that some of them were invulnerable without that status, but maybe not? I'm honestly still not sure. And I don't know what the difference between knockback and blowback is. And I don't know the full rules about what gives you orbitar crystals. And I can never remember the 6 different modes I can switch my ranged attacks to, so I mostly only use 2.

Oh yeah, and the game often pauses itself during boss fights to explain new mechanics it's introducing on the spot.

Attacking is boring because your melee attacks hitstun enemies and lock you into an animation, so you're basically just mashing the X and Y button until the enemy starts to resist hitstun then getting away. As for those dozens of combos I mentioned? I have no idea how you'd even go about determining which one lets you do damage the fastest; the damage of each hit seems to be wildly different every time and could be being affected by a dozen sigils. So you'll probably just end up button mashing like I do. And even if you did figure out that maybe repeating X-X-X-A is better than repeating X-X-X-X, how's that any more fun?

The hitstun rules are bad. Your melee attacks inflict hitstun on enemies only if they haven't already started an action, and aren't in the dominant state (shown by a red outline); this sounds fine but the problem is that an enemy can start an attack at the same time as yours, avoiding the hitstun you thought you'd inflict and leaving you not enough time to react. This is effectively simultaneous turns, like in pvp fighting games.

Enemy design

Normal enemies can usually be stunlocked to death so their designs don't matter much because they never get to do anything once you start hitting them.

As for the bosses, I'm really impressed with the size of their movesets. Actually, I think Tevi is the only game I've seen that goes *too* far in this direction... bosses have so many different attacks that I can't really learn them; sometimes on my 3rd try at a boss I see an attack I've never seen before. And there's a significant amount of trial and error in their telegraphs. Overall though, the bosses are pretty good.

Trial and error gameplay

Exploration

Exploration in Tevi is much less enjoyable than in other metroidvanias I've played, for several reasons:

Structure

Tevi has a crafting system where ingredients are gathered by grinding. One of the main things I liked about it during the demo was that it seemed to be a rare RPG without grinding, alas, it's just money that isn't grindable. There's also a character leveling system which I didn't get any hint of in the demo - there's no experience meter or anything that I can find, levels seem to just get awarded at random. The game says they come from exploration and bosses, but I feel like I've seen it come from fighting mooks sometimes too. I'm not sure, and it's also not clear what levels affect, other than some items whose effect scales based on your level.

Overall though, most of your upgrades come from exploration, which is nice.

The save system seems to be *mostly* that of a traditional RPG, with saving only allowed at marked points, and returning to a save undoes everything since then, including the use of consumables. But there's also autosaves that happen with no clear notification at certain points, and *sometimes* returning to a save seems to keep certain things I've done since, like crafting items. It's confusing.

The game is very good about giving you checkpoints right before hard parts, and letting you skip cutscenes.

I very much appreciate that you can change difficulty inside a playthrough, but I don't appreciate that you can only do so at Tevi's bed, not from the menu. Sometimes, Tevi's bed can be far away or outright inaccessible until you complete an objective.

Story

First thing that bothers me about the story is the glorification of monarchy. Of course, glorifying monarchy is hardly unusual for fantasy stories, but Tevi's case is worse, since it not only portrays monarchic rule as justified but also the queens as cool, beautiful, and likable people; and a past "rebellion" was supposedly the worst thing to ever happen to the world and characters can't stop talking about how bad it was and how the police fought so bravely to crush the rebellion; and at least twice it uses the word "anarchy" in connection with this rebellion, a word which actually refers to just the lack of belief in a cult of violence that most people in real life happen to believe in.

Why you should be an anarchist

Now, let's move on to less ideological complaints. Tevi, the protagonist, is unlikable for the first half of the story. She's over-glorified, being the best at everything she does and the coolest and the bravest, and often praised by other characters and herself, and she never suffers. And she's a jerkass: she often shits on other characters, including her dad, who've done nothing to deserve it. She gets better in the second half of the story, but that doesn't make the first half any more enjoyable.

The plot is meandering and usually lacks stakes or pathos. It feels less like a cohesive story and more like the random adventures of our wish fulfullment girl with bunny ears. And it often doesn't make sense logically. For example, there's a part where you find out that the #2 person in charge of a seemingly good organization has been doing eugenics, abducting and murdering the unfit (don't ask me how this was kept secret for so long). You do a boss fight against him, and then... you let him walk away. And go back to his position of power. You don't even report this to the #1 person in charge. You later find out that the #1 person was on board with it, and... she's still treated like a benevolent figure after that. You later seek her out as an ally. The writers haven't forgotten, because Tevi brings it up in the meeting with her. It's just like the characters considered that not enough to render her a villain.

Overall, the story is so bad that I started skipping some dialogue around halfway through, just skimming and reading the objective marker descriptions afterward.

There's also this conspicuous gender trend. Basically every male character is either a villain, a doofus, or often both. All the cool, glorified characters are female.

I do like the way angels and demons are portrayed: as two societies of human-like beings, not actually good and evil, but with the *aesthetics* of good and evil, and the culture of good and evil as seen by puritan morality. Demons being into debauchery while angels consider themselves too noble.

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