You'll love it if:
- You enjoy indie passion projects
- You like overcoming arduous combat arenas
Not for you if:
- You're looking for a triple-A open world RPG experience
- You need a fully immersive gameplay experience and story
Metroidvania games have always had a special place in my heart, and I always try to play them when I can. When I was approached to write about this new game Testament: The Order of High Human, I was very intrigued to read about their inspiration from the genre of Action RPGs and Metroidvanias. This especially interested me after coming off the latest Metroid Prime release. That, along with inspiration from other action RPGs and even their proclaimed souls-like combat, I just had to give the game a try.
Before diving deep into the review, I do want to mention that Testament was created by Fairyship Games, a small team of 15, and is their first major project. Testament is available on PC, PS5, PS4, and Xbox. While I do have some issues with the game, I will strive to give constructive feedback and discuss some design choices and aspects of the game I felt were not meant for me.
That being said, Testament as a whole is interesting, and you can tell there was a lot of passion put into the creation of the gameplay experience. Now let’s dive into the review for Testament: The Order of High Human.
Testament: The Order of High Human is an interesting passion project that shows a lot of character but is a bit rough around the edges. The gameplay is fun for a while, but the combat loop can begin to feel tedious and sluggish toward the end. The platforming is quite interesting and a nice touch to the game. This is a solid project for a small 15-person studio but may not be an enjoyable experience for everyone.
The Story of Tessara
Testament: The Order of High Human takes place in Tessara, a post-apocalyptic fantasy world. Its design is similar to the usual high-fantasy with some grim undertones. Placed throughout the game are also sections with more advanced “technology” that are explained throughout the story, serving as the former advanced civilizations.
In Testament, you play as Aran, the usurped king of the High Humans, a race tasked with overseeing the realm by the mysterious Seekers. The game begins immediately after Aran’s brother, Arva, has taken all of the former’s power and Aran is being tended to by a mysterious creature. Meanwhile, Arva is campaigning to destroy the land after betraying the High Humans and is creating monsters and spreading darkness throughout the land.
When it comes to the overall story of the game, the story follows Aran across Tessara while he rediscovers artifacts to build up power and eventually take down his brother. The story of the game itself is quite interesting, and there are cinematics after various puzzle chambers and sections that help flush out the narrative.
The main issue for me in Testament: The Order of High Human is that the delivery of the story can be quite a bit awkward at times. In essence, the dialogue, the general writing, and the voice acting all seem to be just a little off. The word choices don’t line up with how you’d imagine people would speak, the voice acting feels a bit strained, and conversations feel bland and lack emotion most of the time. The content of the overall story is there, but the delivery and execution are lacking and make it difficult to really get invested in the lore of Tessara.
I believe the biggest gripe for me is Testament’s main antagonist, Arva, popping in to give an awkward speech and immediately leaving. The voice acting is rough, and the dialogue is a bit generic in my opinion. Additionally, Aran rambling to himself about the history and setting of new areas isn’t the best way in my opinion to detail the lore of the game. It’s very much a tell and not show method. I wish the information was given to us in a less obvious manner. It doesn’t help that the voice acting really doesn’t do the lore justice.
Before going into the combat loop and general gameplay of Testament, I feel it’s important to first go over character and story progression. Testament’s standard progression is as you level up as you complete missions, kill enemies, and solve puzzles. As you level up, you get stat points to put into abilities on a skill tree. Certain abilities and progression on the skill tree are gated behind story progression, similar to weapon upgrades. This is more of the Metroidvania design element shining through.
The skill tree abilities work in two different ways. As you unlock abilities, they not only grant you skills to utilize but also increase your power in the set branch of the skill tree. The branches of the skill tree are sword mastery, bow mastery, and magic mastery. The skills themselves are quite interesting and add some fun elements to combat such as combo attacks and enhancing your dodges and magic abilities.
In terms of equipment, this isn’t a game where you pick up dropped weapons and customize your build. Like true Metroidvania fashion, in Testament, you unlock your weapons and weapon abilities through progression through the story and dungeons. Notably, some of the ultimate abilities on the skill tree are unlocked through optional mini-bosses.
Gameplay and The Combat Loop
Based on the features presented, Testament has a lot of potential for engaging and exciting combat. While the game begins as such, towards the mid and endgame combat begins to turn into a bit of a slog. I will go over this in more detail in a moment.
To sum it up, you have access to your sword, your bow, and your magic abilities at all times. You swap between these much like how you would swap between different weapons in your typical first-person shooter game. The combat is akin to a hack’n’slash game that is trying to keep the action going. In my opinion, however, in the later portions of the game, it seems to choose quantity over quality.
In combat, your sword has a light attack and a heavy attack, and chaining these in different ways generates combos. More advanced combos can be unlocked through the ability tree. In most scenarios, sword combat feels weightless in that enemies don’t really react to what you’re doing. While heavy attacks and the second light attack will cause a stagger, it does not do more than that. Outside of combat, sneaking up on enemies can lead to killing blows or surprise attacks, but this feature becomes less prevalent later in the game. This is however a very nice inclusion.
Some combos will push enemies back or shoot an arc of fire, but doing so often has you taking damage from the enemy. The game does have a parry mechanic, however, in the later stages with large combat arenas, you are often better off swinging twice with light attacks and dashing away. Testament’s combat system has interesting ideas, but the execution turns the late-game arenas with mobs of enemies into more of a slog and a chore than an exciting experience.
The weapon you’ll be upgrading most will be your bow. This weapon is also used for solving puzzles, and you can use consumables to buff your arrows as well as other abilities you have. When roaming through the game, you can use your bow to hit weak points on enemies to do massive damage and even kill them instantly.
During combat, you’ll use your bow to also hit these invisible floating eyes above enemies, though you’d need to use a special detective vision to make them visible. These eyes are needed to be destroyed before you can damage the enemy they protect. Using the Bow in combat is a bit finicky as even with the increased draw speed upgrade, you often find yourself unable to fire off the bow in the heat of combat.
Lastly, you have your magic. In this game, your magic can be used to prevent damage, stun enemies, and drain health, but mostly to do damage. Magic uses your MP, and it can drain quickly. The highest-level spells can be unlocked by beating optional bosses throughout the game. For the most part, I really enjoy how magic is utilized, and you can equip one spell to each hand, allowing for really good utility.
Overall Combat Impression
Testament: The Order of High Human classifies itself as an action RPG, with the combat lightly inspired by the Souls series. The combat itself has a lot of interesting mechanics, and there’s a lot of potential. You can tell that a lot of effort went into making the combat system. The problem I have with it is that the setup of the enemy arenas makes it difficult to use fully.
The boss fights are interesting where you can use your magic and bow in duels. However, the massive health bars mean you end up having to revert to sword slashes and dashing. The combat gets a bit repetitive over time, and the lack of weight behind the swings makes the experience to be less than satisfying. I understand the system behind the melee combat, but I feel it can be tweaked to stagger enemies more and make the parry more rewarding.
My favorite part of the gameplay had to be the various platforming and puzzle sections of the game. While many I have discussed the game with dislike the break in combat and feel the puzzles are tedious, I for one enjoy the move stages and light barriers.
Additionally, there are various light puzzles in these dungeons to progress. These also appear in the “overworld” of the game that holds key items to increase your health and mana potions. In fact, I wish that they would implement more platforming in the overworld as part of the exploration. This was by far my favorite part of the game.
Testament: The Order of High Human – Final Verdict
Fairyship Games put a lot of passion into this game, and it shines through the faults that are present. As it stands Testament: The Order of High Human is on sale on Steam for only 30 euros. I want to stress that while this game is interesting and has a lot of unique ideas, it is not something that you should compare to games from triple-A studios.
The set design and combat mechanics are interesting and have character, but the combat loop turns into quite a slog and can be frustrating at times. For 30 euros I would say the game can offer you a good time, and you can have fun, but you need to be prepared for what you’ll experience.
Testament: The Order of High Human does what it set out to do. It’s an action RPG with difficult combat encounters, has interesting platforming mechanics, and leans into the Metroidvania genre with its progression system.
I personally had a good amount of fun at the start, but as I approached the midgame, I almost had to force myself to finish the game. Testament: The Order of High Human has charm, and I don’t want to discourage Fairyship Games from making more games in the future. There are a lot of good ideas here, just with some poor execution. The game overall is interesting, and if indie games are in your wheelhouse, I’d say you would do good to buy Testament: The Order of High Human while it’s on sale.
This review was made possible by Fairyship Games, and we want to thank them for allowing us to review their project.