We Salute You: Rock Opera Karmaflow Released

Say the words “rock opera” and some loathsome cynical tumour deep within me will writhe as it tries to excrete a snobbish joke about Ben Elton. I’m trying to be a better person, trying so hard every day. But look, here’s Karmaflow: The Rock Opera Videogame. It’s a puzzle-platformer with a cast list that reads like the unofficial soundtrack to a late-’90s IRC channel, filled with folks from metal bands including Dragonforce, Arch Enemy, Sonata Arctica, and Cradle of Filth. The first of two acts launched yesterday, and it’s become an actual real-world rock opera too.

In epic rock opera style, Karmaflow tells a story about troubled worlds in need of saving, accompanied by an orchestral score with metallic shredding, roaring, and wailing. The puzzle-platforming looks unexciting, but I imagine the grand spectacle of a rock opera will be doing the heavy lifting anyway. It’s a shame the world and character designs don’t seem to carry the metal vibe over as much as, say, Brutal Legend does, but Karmaflow is made by a much smaller and partially-crowdfunded team.

Karmaflow is £12.49 on Steam. Only the first act is out now, but that’ll get you the second too when it arrives, which developers Basecamp Games say will be in April. Here, have a launch trailer:

21 Comments

  1. Bracknellexile says:

    Looking at the cast, the game’s almost irrelevant. That’s quite the collection of European symphonic and power metal personalities (oh, and Cradle of Filth) they’ve got together there. Good or bad, I’m just impressed that such a thing can even exist!

    • rpsKman says:

      Just get the soundtrack. The game is at the Takedown: Red Sabre level of a
      broken unfinished pile.

  2. 0positivo says:

    We seriously need more games like this to exist

  3. Grey Cap says:

    I never played Brutal Legend, but just comparing screenshots I prefer this. Brutal Legend is a bit too jokey, somehow, like it’s too self-aware to embrace non-ironic metal awesomeness.

    Please, please, please RPS, do a WIT and tell me Karmaflow* is worth buying?

    *Another contender for Worst Videogame Name, I think.

    • Emeraude says:

      That’s the thing I found interesting from Brütal, as someone really not into the metal genre: it gave a glimpse at a subculture that was both perfectly self-aware, yet – I think – in no way ironic; just filled with genuine love for something while being perfectly aware of its defining attributes and qualities, and how disputable those could be – and yet not in spite of how disputable they could be.

      • Geebs says:

        Brütal legend just kind of tries too hard, and it’s not even all Jack Black’s fault.

        On the other hand, Dragonforce try far too hard at trying too hard so I’m a bit skeptical about this game too.

        • Emeraude says:

          Brütal legend just kind of tries too hard

          I think that’s kind of the point though. That’s one of the central aesthetic tenets of the genre: the music is trying too hard,, the iconography is trying too hard, the game is trying too hard. The excess is part of its DNA.

          Goes back to the name of the genre itself, “Metal cause it’s harder than rock”, even if apocrypha.

          The genre tries too hard.

          • Geebs says:

            I don’t really agree with that. BL is kind of like the Saturday morning kid’s cartoon of Rambo – it shoe-horns in references something awesome but is entirely sanitised. You don’t get any of that outsider, don’t give a fuck attitude. Like, Rob Halford dressed that way because he wanted to, you know?

            The other dimension is kinda the difference between Dave Grohl and Jack Black; Grohl is gleefully silly but also completely into what he’s doing, while Black looks into the camera, widens his eyes and mouths “did you SEE how awesome that was?”.

          • Emeraude says:

            I kinda agree to a point.

            I think the issue is that the game is addressing outward its original community, not inward, and is firmly taking that into account – hence the kinda sanitized vibe and maybe a bit of awkwardness to a point. The distancing effect for sure. But irony ? I don’t think so. I don’t perceive it anyway.

    • Crafter says:

      Interesting, after looking at this trailer, I just want to reinstall Brutal Legend.
      I guess it is very subjective. I see it as a game that totally embraces the metal aesthetic (and by the way the art direction is awesome) and also has some comedy undertones in some parts of the game.
      It was very flawed but it was still an extremely enjoyable experience.
      Too bad it does not have a big modding community in order to improve it.

    • GreatHackster says:

      As others have commented, while Brutal Legend definitely had its flaws, there was nothing particularly ironic about it. It fully embraced the overblown awesomeness of metal culture, and its humor was (mostly) of the “fish out of water” or “Sophisticated as Hell” variety, not really poking fun at metal tropes in any way. Metalheads crush rock with their foreheads, and it’s awesome. Lionwhyte has such fabulous hair he can fly with it, and it’s awesome. Vehicles and machines spew fire and smoke and the concept of a muffler escapes anyone, and it’s awesome.

      This, on the other hand, seems to be taking itself far too seriously to be awesome (in the modern sense of the word as something so great and fun that it’s hard to believe; it’s clearly going for the original “inspires awe” meaning). It might be because I’m not a huge fan of the style of music on display in that trailer, but as Phantasma says, it doesn’t seem to fit the art style on display at all.

  4. DanMan says:

    What a weird concept. Didn’t like the music either. Graphics are bland, too.

  5. Viroso says:

    “unofficial soundtrack to a late-’90s IRC channel”

    So spot on.

  6. green frog says:

    Alice, there’s no mouseover text for the image! I’m shocked.

  7. Phantasma says:

    The art direction is cute and whimsical, but the audio comes across as super serious (with a dash of Let’s Ride A Dragon To Fantasyland).

    Am i not getting some clever meta-commentary or do these two styles just not match up?

  8. archwaykitten says:

    Does the music and gameplay ever flow together? Like, do enemies launch attacks in time with the music while generally moving to the beat of the songs, or anything like that? All I can find are videos of normal looking gameplay with rock music playing in the backgorund, and non-interactive musical cutscenes. That may still be enough to warrant a purchase, but I’m still hoping for more.

    • Allenomura says:

      As I watch the trailer (several times through, now, in fact), I’m lead to ask whether the two are joined at all. Perhaps, it will be like Bastion – in that we will play the game and the cast will deliver its lines for the Opera which will be weaving in and out. Although Dani was performing vocals, the “lyrics” were very much like a character’s lines in a play.
      That’s my belief about how the game will work, based solely on what I’ve seen here, today.

      The gameplay montage may well have been just that….Oh! EDIT: “Karmaflow: The Rock Opera Videogame is a puzzle platformer. …Through an adaptive music system and sung narrative you will experience a truly unique rock opera.” says the game’s description on Steam.

  9. SubparFiddle says:

    I thought it was funny when the vocals kicked in. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the intent :)

  10. Spacewalk says:

    Where are the beards there are no beards in this video. I thought I saw a beard but I rewound and there was no beard, false alarm. How can this be metal without any beards? I hope that it’s only going to be for the first act and the rest of the game is a literal forest of facial hair to make up for it. Even characters that did not have beards magically grow them. Like, bam! Beard-job.

  11. Gothnak says:

    I’m stuck in the nu metal world of the late 90’s myself, which means when i watched the video, i loved the classical metal beginning but then when the screaming black metal kicks off, it’s awful…

    The game looks pretty bad too :(