Review – Slayers X: Terminal Aftermath: Vengance of the Slayer

Slayers X Header

A lot of great games that I admire have received 7/10 reviews on the Game Complaint Department. By this site’s standards, it’s a good score, safely above a mere recommendation and only slightly below an enthusiastic one. Many of them have left a big impact on me, like Rule of Rose, Yomawari Midnight Shadows, and Hypnospace Outlaw.

What often keeps me from scoring them higher is that, while they may be narratively impactful or even important, they sometimes aren’t necessarily fun to play. That’s particularly true for the games I listed. A 7/10 can be extremely important and meaningful all the same. A polished game can be a reliably good game, but those with rough edges are often what catch on your soul and stick to you.

Case in point, I think about Hypnospace Outlaw’s depiction of the Y2K era internet and its unconventional storytelling often. On the surface, it feels like a time capsule to a period we can’t go back to, while underneath, it tells a compelling story in an indirect fashion.

Slayers X: Terminal Aftermath: Vengance of the Slayer [sic] is more than that. On the surface, it is a time-locked look at the mods of pre-3D era first-person shooters, while underneath, it’s an incredibly nuanced character piece.

Slayers X someone undergoing the trial of the deuce.
Oops. My bad. I didn’t realize someone was already undergoing the Trial of the Deuce.


The subject in question is Zane Lofton, who was a central character in Hypnospace Outlaw. He was depicted as a self-obsessed teenager who too confidently felt that he could attain adulation by emulating the people he admired. Or rather, he felt he was already at their level; unearned confidence. He was an extremely believable character because, based on my experience, I feel like everyone goes through a period like that. At least geeks or creatives do.

What I’m saying is that I once was a self-obsessed teenager who felt destined for greatness. Good thing reality eventually ran me over and crushed my hopes and dreams.

Slayers X: Terminal Aftermath: Vengeance of the Slayer is framed that Zane is now an adult and thinks that completing and releasing the mod that he and his “friend” started when he was a teenager is his escape from mediocrity. That’s the sort of thing a delusional adult still clinging to the belief they’re some sort of genius would do.

The mod is about himself (as a teenager), in his home town of Boise, Idaho, but also in the world he created in his head. It was set up in a webcomic posted to his site in Hypnospace Outlaw, but the basis is just that Zane is recognized for his power and becomes an edgy hero. An X-Slayer, which is some sort of Matrix warrior. With swords and guns and hacking and a secret hideout and everything a teenager finds awesome.

Slayers X the Boise potato carnival
Everyone loves the carnival.


It just hits so close to home. When I was pre-teen, I even had a binder full of drawings of things I wanted in a game of my own design. It was edgy and had a lot of nuclear explosions and guns. It didn’t star me. I had a character who was absolutely what I considered to be cool, but was in no way an extension of myself. However, it did partially take place in my hometown, which was practically my whole world.

I even started tinkering around with the Build Engine to see what I could create. I didn’t get very far, but I still remember some of my attempts. I just see so much of my teenage self in Zane. I dropped the self-importance early on into high school, fortunately, but I remember it all too well.

It’s the “real world” environments that strike me hardest. Even if I’m not certain these places were actually based on spots in Boise, Idaho, they feel like Build Engine interpretations of them. These include the place Zane works, his home, a burger joint; the sort of places that would be important to a teenager. This is, of course, alongside a sewer level, because every damned FPS needs a sewer level.

That’s part of what makes Slayers X so believable. Many of the “real world” locations feel as though they’re there just because they would be cool to recreate rather than lend well to the gameplay. They create a pacing issue that is almost entirely unique to the era’s mod scene. Even when you hit Counter-Strike in 2000, many custom maps you would see were just created to represent something that felt realistic if they weren’t straight-up interpretations of a real place. It was charming in its own way. It’s impressive to see that charm captured in Slayers X.

Slayers X Zane checking himself out.
Me too, guy.


The gameplay is fine. It plays like a mod of Duke Nukem 3D, so there’s a lot of running and jumping and the swapping of weapons. It sure as hell isn’t the deepest game, and because the level design is really committed to the bit, it doesn’t always feel great. There’s one level halfway through the game that I absolutely detest, particularly because of its checkpoint system.

There’s a healthy amount of detours and exploration that makes it feel less like most retro-inspired shooters and more like an actual retro shooter. However, the enemy diversity and weapons leave a bit to be desired. I’ve played enough sub-par shooters to rank Slayers X above them, but it’s mostly just competent and not exceptional.

The graphics are well-realized. By which I mean they’re appropriately crappy. It does a decent job of replicating the ray-casting look of the Build Engine, and the textures mostly look like something a teenager might be able to put together (or borrow). It has a distinct visual style while still not giving itself away. There are various products on shelves that are made to look like digitized photographs of “real” products that are badly edited. They are all thematically realized and easy to look at, but they carry an effective amateur aesthetic.

Laid on top of all this is music that doesn’t keep up the illusion quite as well. It’s not that the songs couldn’t be in a game, since they are often done by Zane’s favourite bands, whether he used them with or without permission. However, within the levels, the songs have a few variations depending on how much action is on-screen. It’s effective in a Banjo-Kazooie or Monkey Island 2 kind of way, but it just doesn’t feel as committed to the bit as other facets. Still fun to listen to.

Slayers X distant Sloppos.
I can just smell the ’90s.


It’s that deep dive into its central premise that I love so much. Everything feels like it came from Zane’s brain rather than the Jay Tholen’s. Even if Zane doesn’t exist, his fingerprints on the game feel so tangible you could believe that he does.

It actually makes it hard to play when someone else is sitting in the room. Once Zane starts calling his enemies turds and comparing ambient smells to his own body odor, you then have to tell the person that, no, really, it’s supposed to sound dumb. It’s a game made by a fictional teenager who thinks that they are the smartest and coolest. And whether or not they can get behind the joke will depend on the person. It’s a game with backstory that exists outside the story itself.

While some of that backstory is overt, other parts of it are more hidden. Completing the game unlocks a series of levels that show Zane’s early attempts at creating mod levels. They’re narrated by him, revealing his design philosophy. Again, these capture the amateur feel perfectly.

There’s also one particular secret where Zane’s partner in development tells his side of the story where he was coerced into helping him finish the game. It ends with a reveal of Zane as an adult. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be funny, but I just felt bad for Zane. There but for the grace of god go I.

Like Hypnospace Outlaw, Slayers X: Terminal Aftermath: Vengeance of the Slayer feels like a time capsule. But while Hypnospace Outlaw depicts an internet whose antiquity makes it difficult to experience in the modern day, you can still play Duke Nukem 3D and Doom mods. It’s less indispensable, is what I mean. But it’s also more worth playing for a different reason. It stands as a unique and meaningful character exploration. Rarely is a creator so devoted to one of their creations that they create an entire game to connect them with an audience. It’s for that reason that I admire Slayers X.


This review was conducted on a digital PC version of the game. It was provided by the publisher.

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About Zoey Handley 243 Articles
Zoey made up for her mundane childhood by playing video games. Now she won't shut up about them. Her eclectic tastes have led them across a vast assortment of consoles and both the best and worst games they have to offer. A lover of discovery, she can often be found scouring through retro and indie games. She currently works as a Staff Writer at Destructoid.

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