Review: Reset Generation
Reset Generation is a game that shouldn’t work. Its kitchen-sink approach to design – piling layer after layer of influence and industry tropes reaching back decades – has been the downfall of countless games before. The introduction of chance elements on top of what might be otherwise finely tuned strategy design should have tipped the game’s scales out of the player’s hands and toward maddeningly cheap victories.
Instead, the game manages to appear almost effortlessly confident in its disparate, arcane, and by now notoriously difficult-to-describe mechanics, and has coalesced into one of the most vibrant and dynamic action/strategy games in recent memory.
Where it excels is in the gnawing weight of opportunity cost that underpins every decision players make on a second-by-second basis. Bombing a nearby essential item is the only way to shield it from an enemy’s cannon, but by refocusing their attention on other elements they might just as assuredly snatch victory from your grip. Luring your foes toward your castle in hopes of a quick kill just inches from your door and the resultant long-distance princess-grab might see you kicked across the board for ‘turtling’, leaving that door now gapingly unguarded.
Those constant turns of fortune can and will result in decisive losses from the best-laid plans and jaw-dropping wins from hopeless situations. They’re precisely what gives the game its immediacy and impact, but they’re never a wholesale substitute for or guard against thoughtful manipulation of the board.
That said, Reset Generation works best for the titular audience it both celebrates and lampoons: those with a nostalgia for, as its announcer intones at the start of every match, “the playground of our youth”, the aspect of “game reality” that harkens back to when it was entirely rational for defeated enemies to become collectable fruit.
The singleplayer campaign does an honest job of carefully introducing individual character powers and new techniques, and provides some of the richest and most satisfying strategy in its latest levels. But Reset Generation’s unapologetic reveling in its own density and playful esoterica, and sole focus on aggressive competition makes it a daunting proposition for the casual bystander. It will likely remain a game of the hardcore, by the hardcore, for the hardcore.
Put plainly, Reset Generation is a game that demands attention: brazenly derived while never feeling derivative, a paragon of complexity out of one-button accessibility, and, while it would have would have been welcome on any platform, it’s precisely the flagship title Nokia both wanted and needed for its upstart N-Gage service.