The Legend of Korra Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Microsoft Xbox 360, PC, Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox One
Fans of television series The Legend of Korra may be thrilled to hear it has received a beat ‘em up video game adaptation, but they’re less likely to be thrilled by the end product. M. Night Shyamalan’s film adaptation of its predecessor, Avatar: The Last Airbender, was a low point for the franchise but The Legend of Korra is a real challenge to its crown. This is a video game with all the depth of a paddling pool, a shallow effort with no purpose and no respect for its source material. Loved the television series? Now would be the time to look away.
The eponymous heroine, Korra, is the Avatar, capable of controlling the four elements of air, earth, fire and water. It would be nice to say more about her, but the game’s story is so thin that you’ll never get to know her. Kidnapped and with her powers stolen, she sets out to recover her abilities and defeat the mysterious man responsible. That, unfortunately, is about it; you won’t even find out the villain’s motivation until he pops up at the end of the game and obligingly tells you himself. Furthermore, there are practically no other characters in the whole game. Korra seems to be the most unpopular person in the world; nobody cares that she’s in trouble and she never seeks out anyone’s help.
The story is so senseless that when Korra enters a new area, it’s often for no reason whatsoever. For example, you’ll spend a level exploring an abandoned area of the city, ostensibly to capture an enemy you can squeeze for information – but you’ll beat up several hundred perfectly good candidates before Korra actually thinks to capture one. Furthermore, she regains her element bending powers more or less at random, simply by carrying out exercises to help her focus. How this fixes the “chi blocking” that stole them in the first place is never explained, and her powers are only unlocked when it’s convenient for you to learn some new moves.
Things might not be so bad if the world weren’t so boring as well. The cel-shaded graphics could have been a high point, but the level designs are dull and uninspired. Early levels are like looking at an unappetising school meal, full of insipid greys and greens. The lack of characters doesn’t help, either. The world is weirdly empty, as soulless as a corpse with blank, staring eyes. Korra tends to natter away to herself – often repetitively and, therefore, irritatingly – but there’s no-one to listen and no-one to answer.
The gameplay is undoubtedly the best thing about The Legend of Korra, but it is a long, long way from being ground-breaking. Press one button for a light attack, another button for a heavy attack; it’s a familiar formula but not one which carries much depth in this case. Despite the inclusion of counterattacks, dodges and charged attacks, you’ll spend most of your time tapping the same button over and over until foes go down.
Once you’ve unlocked the different elements, you can switch between them and their differing styles. Using an element will earn experience for it, and each one levels up separately, granting you health bonuses and new moves. Again, however, despite this variety the game gives you no reason to make use of it. There are very few enemy types and none are significantly weaker against a particular element, meaning you’ll just pick your favourite and run with it for most of the game.
Interspersed with the main gameplay are sections where you ride Korra’s “polar bear dog” (no, we didn’t know that was a thing either) Naga. These play in an endless runner style, seeing you constantly moving forwards and dodging obstacles as you go. You can jump, slide and smash your way through these levels, but although they add a little more variety they aren’t the most engrossing experience. Poor level design once more lets these sections down. After all, once you’ve seen one bland corridor, you’ve seen them all.
The gameplay, then, is perfectly adequate but far from exhilarating. It is, at least, fun to watch Korra unleash her abilities; sweeping your foes aside in a torrent of fire or a raging tornado is an enjoyable experience, and pretty enough to draw the eye. But even then, there can be problems. The camera occasionally has a mind of its own, and one mini-boss battle near the end of the game (unfortunately repeated only ten minutes later) is particularly badly plagued. Korra’s ability to counter can also sometimes go on the blink, leaving you stranded right when you need it most.
Ultimately, playing through the main story is a fairly lacklustre affair. Even worse, however, is how insultingly short it is; you’ll be fortunate to make it last half a day, and there’s no multiplayer either. After completing the story you’ll unlock “Pro-bending Mode”, a mini-game based on one which popped up (pretty inexplicably) at the start of the story and only reappeared once again. This is a sport where three benders (that’s the technical term, we promise) fight in an arena, trying to push each other back and take control of the different zones. This hardly takes a long time to complete, however, and it isn’t exactly exciting anyway.
There are few redemptive qualities to The Legend of Korra. Decent gameplay could have been made excellent if only there were more enemy types and, perhaps more importantly, the environments weren’t so uninteresting. The story is shallow, the characters are shallow, and the world is shallow. It’s bewilderingly underdone; there’s very little content and it doesn’t really engage with its source material. It doesn’t even feature subtitles, so deaf people won’t be able to follow it. You might be able to waste a few hours with it, but after that, it’ll only be good for gathering dust.