Does anyone remember the Mega Man Battle Network series? I sure do; it was one of my absolute favourite RPG series growing up. The realization that the action-packed card-battling series had ended in 2006 was one that hurt me, and I had recently begun to miss it again. Curiosity got the better of me and I started looking for any projects or proofs of concept that looked to revive the spirit of the Battle Network series, and that search led me to One Step From Eden. If this blurb sounds familiar, that’s probably because I’ve written a preview about this game before (found here). People who know me know how much I don’t shut up about this game, but it’s been hard to contain my excitement about Eden since I tried it back in 2019. Does One Step From Eden live up to expectations? Or is it just one step from greatness?
One Step From Eden is a deck-building roguelite much like Slay the Spire that features combat heavily inspired by the Mega Man Battle Network series of action RPGs. Both a demo and a Kickstarter campaign surfaced in early 2019, and the Kickstarter campaign greatly surpassed the original campaign goal of $15,000, managing to raise a solid $70,000. Some of the major sticking points apart from the MMBN style combat are the evolving boss difficulty and the option to “make friends or make enemies”. It all sounds pretty nice on paper, and the free demo that was released was very promising. The question remains however: Does One Step From Eden live up to expectations? Or is it just one step from greatness?
One Step From Eden doesn’t immediately tell you a whole lot about what’s going on in the world; it instead opts to leave small nuggets of lore within the brief dialogue quips between characters that happen at the end of each world. It’s a pretty understandable approach given that the game’s clear focus is the gameplay, but since this section of my reviews is for story and setting I still have to mention it. The information you’re given upfront tells you that military scientist Saffron (or whichever unlockable character you play as) is making a mad dash for Eden for some reason or another while fighting your way through enemies who may or may not also be racing towards Eden. What kind of place is Eden? Why is everyone trying to get there? No idea, other than it looks pretty when everywhere else in the game looks bleak. The game doesn’t tell us, and it doesn’t really bother me all that much honestly. I’m just here to sling some cards.
One Step From Eden is another one of those pixel sprite-based indie games we’ve come to expect from today’s gaming climate. I wouldn’t say that it’s a terribly unique look, but the style and quality of the sprites are consistent across the board, which helps the game create and maintain its own identity. Each character and enemy is distinct, and there’s a wide variety of both to be found in the game. The animations also do a very good job of setting each character and card mechanic apart from one another….mostly. There’s a bit of a minor problem with how the area of effect targets are animated which can make it difficult to distinguish where any safe zones are on the field when things get hectic. Despite that minor issue, it all looks amazing in motion as the game runs at a silky smooth 60 frames-per-second with little to no performance issues. Eden’s soundtrack is amazing too, with each different encounter type and boss having a unique theme, and nearly all of them have found a spot on my playlist.
The gameplay for One Step From Eden is the major selling point, with the game being a combination of deck building ala Slay the Spire and fast grid-based combat inspired by classic Mega Man Battle Network, with a LOT of bullet hell thrown in for good measure. You start your first run as Saffron, but you can unlock up 8 characters and multiple starting loadouts for all of them. As you clear stages and worlds you’re able to select cards to build up your deck and artifacts that have passive effects on your character. Every single card in the game falls under one of 10 categories, called “Focuses”, and each Focus specializes in a few different mechanics and strategies. Just as an example, Anima is a Focus that specializes in fire and ice damage while Slashfik is a Focus that’s all about the creation and use of free Kunai cards. Oh yeah, cards cost mana to play. A major part of building your character in Eden is paying attention to things like mana cost and deck size. If you don’t have the mana to play a card then you’re more or less on the defensive until you regain enough mana to cast it, and if you have too many high-cost cards your deck is gonna be slow. Luckily you can gain upgrades to both your maximum mana and mana regeneration rate.
Battles themselves take place on a 4×8 horizontal grid, with players and enemies each getting a 4×4 side to themselves. Combat revolves around darting around the grid and aiming your cards at the enemy while avoiding the absolute onslaught of enemy projectiles and physical attacks that only gets more and more difficult to deal with as you get further in a run. At the end of each world comes a boss fight against one of the other unlockable characters. You fight the same bosses every run, but the order you fight them in changes based on which worlds you choose to conquer first and the bosses gain more attacks and passive effects the later you choose to fight them. The boss fights also come packaged with a familiar mechanic reminiscent of a certain ultra-popular indie RPG: the option to spare the boss or kill them. Much like that certain other game, the option to spare or slay your enemies effectively splits the game into possible pacifist, neutral, and genocide routes to take with each route ending on a different final boss fight. While there’s quite a bit of content to see between the different characters, possible builds, and route options (not to mention extra difficulties), my one major concern and issue with the game is that not very many people will be able to see the content. One Step From Eden is extremely difficult. Overwhelmingly difficult at times. In the later stages of the game there are so many different things to keep track of at the same time that your brain might just shut down. You either need to luck into a build that allows you to use a cheesy strategy, or to get extremely good at the game, which is both just as viable and infinitely more satisfying than relying on cheese. That approach might not be for everyone, but personally it keeps me coming back for more.
One Step From Eden presents such a unique blend of gameplay styles that it would have been hardly surprising if they dropped the ball or failed to stick the landing with regards to balance. With me being as huge of a Mega Man Battle Network fan as I am, it’s obvious that a lot of care and attention was put towards making sure that the spirit of Battle Network was preserved in this game. It’s a thrilling challenge from start to finish that constantly traps me in that “just one more run” loop that so many games try to achieve. The few concerns I have with the difficulty curve and the ground effects are also likely to be addressed as well (they already have to a degree), as the developer is actively taking feedback on the game and is putting out regular updates. While I can’t recommend this game for absolutely everyone simply due to the sheer difficulty, this game is a sure hit with people looking for a real challenge or people looking for something to fill a certain MegaMan.exe sized hole in their heart.
I recommend One Step From Eden.
Total time played: 26 hours, 12 minutes.