Category Archives: Previews

Unformed – Kickstarter Spotlight

Unformed is a Dark Souls and H.P. Lovecraft inspired 2D adventure game who’s Kickstarter campaign is wrapping up on June 22nd, 2017. I’ve recently played through a good amount of the demo available from the campaign page and I’ve got more then a few thoughts that I’d like to share.

Unformed - Save Point

Unformed is a quite beautiful game and gave me flashbacks to my time playing Guacamelee, but with a much more somber tone. It possesses a beautifully colorful art style and if there is one thing I have to give the developers, Blackfire Games, credit for are the environments. The graphics are crisp, clean, and easily the high point.

Unformed - Dark Cave Gameplay

Unfortunately, the rest of the game isn’t quite as polished, or at least not in the demo provided. Inspirations from the Souls series are abundant within both combat and leveling. A stamina gauge is used to enforce careful decision making during combat. All action besides running take some mount of stamina and combat is, for the most part, fast paced and responsive. Jumping, rolling and blocking are all available in the players toolkit. Anyone who has played Salt and Sanctuary will feel right at home with how Unformed weaves these maneuvers into moment-to-moment gameplay. These tools are great, but not overly helpful when enemies have very little in the way startup animations before attacks. Enemies seem to dash forward and assault the player character without warning. This nearly almost always requires players to guess as apposed to respond. Guessing correctly, dodging through an enemy, and backstabbing them is an adrenaline rush, but not overly rewarding as the player isn’t getting better at the game, but simply getting lucky.

Unformed - Boss Battle 1

Offensively, the player feels strangely limited. Having a basic sword and the temporary use of both a two-handed greatsword and daggers seems interesting in theory, but I had a few issues with this system. To gain access to temporary weapons the player must allow a gauge to fill up and then upon use of these weapons it will deplete. That’s reasonable. Actually using these weapons is where everything goes downhill. Activation requires pressing up or down on the d-pad. That’s already bad design as I have to remove my hand from the left joystick and lose the ability to move my character for a moment. I don’t even like it that much in the Souls series, but the pace and feel of combat doesn’t translate here. Why not map this to the left bumper and left trigger? They aren’t used for anything except bringing up the control scheme, which can be accessed just as easily through the menu. These weapons also don’t feel powerful enough to prove useful in most cases. The daggers might be quicker then the basic sword, but don’t afford the player any more substantial damage over the course of a combo or quicker reflexes to avoid enemy assaults. Add either one of these benefits and the daggers could see some solid use during boss battles. The greatsword is slow and actually quite a bit more powerful then the other two weapons, but cleaving an enemy doesn’t even phase the weakest of them. Knocking back opponents or even stunning them would add a bit more weight and usability to this weapon. These are just suggestions though and this system may very well be refined later on in development.

Unformed - Greatsword

Unformed has a plethora of potential and Soulsborne and Salt and Sanctuary fans should take note of it’s inspirations not just in combat, but also in the similarly inspired bonfire, health flasks, and experience systems. Not to even mention the “You Died” game over screen.  There is also plans for implementing a Final Fantasy X inspired sphere grid system for customization. I know I sound down on Unformed. I’m critical because I see potential, not because I want to see the game fail. With a few tweaks to enemy and special weapon mechanics Unformed could be something special that I’m sure Blackfire Games wants to deliver. Unfortunately without the help of the Metroidvania community it doesn’t look promising that Unformed will see the light of day. With a little more then 2 days left in the campaign, only 20% of the $20,000 goal has been raised. I behoove anyone interested to take a trip over to the Kickstarter page and pledge whatever you feel comfortable with over the next 48 hours.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1737913494/unformed/description

I sincerely hope that Blackfire Games, if this first attempt at a campaign fails, doesn’t give up on this project as they have created a solid foundation for what could be something special.

Unformed - You Died

Unformed - Boss Battle 2

Planned platforms for release: PC and eventually consoles

 

 

Blasphemous – Kickstarter Spotlight

This week I wanted to highlight an interesting non-linear action platformer called Blasphemous that is nearing the end of it’s Kickstarter campaign and is worthy of the attention of any Metroidvania fan. One look at the pixel art and smooth animation is enough to get any fan of the genre on board with what this dark and grisly title has to offer.

Blasphemous Gameplay

Fast-paced, skilled combat and a deep and evocative narrative are the central focus of the player experience. While we don’t have a ton of narrative to go off of, its more then apparent from environmental aesthetics to character designs that players are in for dark, creepy, and truly unsettling adventure. The pixel art design and animation of enemies is phenomenal and the creative team, The Game Kitchen, deserves a lot of credit for putting such imagination, passion and talent toward creating some of the most unique enemy designs in gaming.

Blasphemous Enemy Design Example

Environmental design is also top notch. From dark dungeons, to deserts, to apocalyptic wastelands no area looks the same, but most importantly interesting and detailed. The developers even claim that environmental hazards can be used against your enemies. A pretty cool addition that could help  keep combat fresh throughout the course of a playthrough. While combat basically boils down to fast paced dodging, hack-n-slash action, players will be able to acquire various beads that can be used to customize playstyle. Not much is known about these, but creating unique beads that impart new special moves or sub-weapons would  be engrossing.

Overall there isn’t much to not like here. There are only 5 days left in the campaign and The Game Kitchen has already more then quadrupled their $50,000 dollar goal. Quite a few stretch goals have been met and if you are interested in supporting this game, team, or simply further development of metroidvania style games, then I highly advise you to check out the Kickstarter page and pledge if you are so inclined. I for one am going to back this project as I can’t help but stare in amazement at the masterfully done pixel art and quick, visceral gameplay.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/828401966/blasphemous-dark-and-brutal-2d-non-linear-platform/description

Planned platforms for release: PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Linux

 

 

Metroid: Samus Returns Amiibos and Special Edition Announced

It’s been a fantastic week to be a Metroid fan and the hits just keep coming since the announcement of both Metroid Prime 4 and Metroid: Samus Returns yesterday at E3. For further information about the announcements click here. Information has been pouring out about the collector and standard editions of the upcoming 3DS title. The standard edition will be retailing for the typical $39.99, but more interestingly is the special edition, seen below, that is shown on Gamestop for $49.99.

Metroid Samus Returns Special Edition

The special edition is to include a CD-ROM archival soundtrack, assumedly  a greatest hits of the series or a mix of tracks from both versions of Metroid II. This is a nice bonus for fans and the series-staple screw attack logo on both the cover and CD is a nice touch.

New Metroid: Samus Returns Amiibos

What’s a big Nintendo announcement without some new Amiibos? Samus Returns is getting two dedicated Amiibos upon release with a model of Samus herself and the infamous Metroid. Both contain a lot of detail and will provide some nice desk candy for anyone picking them up upon release. No word on what functionality they will provide within game or other games that will support them, but Nintendo was sure to advertise that the Metroid Amiibo in particular is “squishy.” We wouldn’t have it any other way. No release date have been mentioned as of this time, but you can start the hunt for the original Samus and Zero Suit Samus Amiibos if they aren’t in your collection already. Nintendo stated that they would be compatible with Samus Returns upon release.

Original Samus and Zero Suit Samus Amiibos

The last bit of news released by Nintendo is a developer diary video discussing new abilities and game mechanics in more detail. Explanations of the free aim, melee counter, and Aeion powers are discussed and shown via gameplay. An informative interview and a must watch for any Metroid fan itching for more information about the upcoming 3DS release.

 

Two Metroid Games Announced at E3 2017

Since the begging of the Nintendo Spotlight at E3 2017, Nintendo has blown the doors off the whole event. From the relatively short, but dense with announcements conference spotlight to their post conference Treehouse event, Nintendo has proven that they have a lot of games in the pipeline for fans to look forward to. While I’m always hopeful that a new Metroid game will be announced, the series has been basically dormant for the last 7-10 years depending upon your outlook on the series as a whole.

Well no more! During the conference a short teaser trailer for Metroid Prime 4 was on display that showed off a logo and a message stating it is currently in development for the Nintendo Switch. Seems a fitting time as any to announce a new game in the wildly popular series no less then 10 years after the release of Metroid Prime Corruption. No release date was mentioned, but its just good to know that Nintendo is finally giving this wonderful IP some attention that it sorely deserves.

An announcement for a new installment of the Prime series was enough to get people talking, but Nintendo doesn’t seem to be resting on their laurels this year and also announced Metroid: Samus Returns, a remake of the GameBoy game of the same moniker, for the 3DS during their post-conference Treehouse event. Samus Returns looks to be a 2.5D take on classic Metroid gameplay and will find Samus hunting down Metroids with familiar and new moves alike. The best part is that this game is going to be playable on September 15th of this year. Thats only 3 months away and it’s clear that Nintendo has put a lot of love into the project as the combat, enemies, and environments look amazing on the 3DS.

Nintendo really stepped up at this year’s E3 and honestly blew everyone else out of the water. The conference was all about games and Nintendo had some seriously great ones to announce. I’ll continue to keep you informed of future updates from Nintendo on these titles and check back for my analysis of the Metroid: Samus Returns trailer at some point this week.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Demo Gameplay Analysis

 

Thanks to Gematsu’s Youtube channel the community has access to 12 minutes of gameplay from this year’s playable demo at E3. There’s a lot to take in, but it looks like the development team has brought back many more staple weapons and abilities that should make fans feel right at home.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - New Environment

As mentioned in my previous post on the E3 Trailer, the level on showcase for the demo is a combination of a church and clock tower. Much of the platforming is far more vertically focused than last year’s demo and is the perfect environment to empower players with a double jump.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Church Gameplay

A handful of new skills were seen in action, including a familiar  and some old favorites. Miriam can be seen leveraging returning staples such as bones and spears from range, as well as summoning speedy canine and hopping ape companions. These abilities are by no means game-changers, but they certainly provide interesting additions to a player’s toolkit.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Clock Tower and Familiar

The most interesting was the unveiling of the first summon-able familiar, the Dullahammer Head. A common enemy found throughout the church, the Dullahammer Head doesn’t operate too differently then your average Medusa Head, but if the player is lucky they can bring one along on their journey. Familiars have existed in the Castlevania series since Symphony of the Night, but haven’t seen much use since as they are rarely powerful enough to consider. From the gameplay we can see that this might still be the case, as Miriam’s new friend rarely attacks and dishes out fairly poor numbers.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Underground Cave Environment

This bothered me at first, but there are a couple of things to consider. Outside of Symphony of the Night, familiars always took up the slot of a potentially more useful skill, but in Bloodstained they have their own dedicated slot. One could simply just consider them a bit of free extra damage and cosmetic flair. The developers also haven’t stated whether skills will be able to be powered up via farming or experience gain. If so, familiars may have the opportunity to evolve and become more aggressive and provide unique boons to the player. Time will tell, but they are certainly one of the features of Bloodstained that has me most curious.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Leather Whip

All of the new weapons showcased in the E3 trailer had me excited enough, but there are several others that didn’t make the cut. Obviously the leather whip stole the show and appeared to have some of the best range, speed, and attack area of all the weapons. The remaining weapons seem to act much like you would expect. The claymore is slow, but powerful  and can attack enemies directly above Miriam. Spears provide superior range and the rapier provides quick, close range bursts of damage. The demo does a great job at balancing the weapons so that players are encouraged to try them all out as apposed to replacing previously attained armaments quickly.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Harpy  and Summoned Dog Skill

(Confirmed weapons thus far)

  • Shortsword
  • Kung Fu Shoes
  • Leather Whip
  • Katana
  • Rapier
  • Claymore
  • Spear
  • Knife

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Bloodless Boss

The final boss, Bloodless, challenges Miriam as she rudely interrupts bath time. Bloodless has a plethora of blood based magical attack at her disposal along with the telekinetic control of two umbrellas that dance around the room.The combination of the two give the player plenty to consider while trying to get in a few hits after each casting. Of most interest is her ability to evoke a blood rain that covers half the room and deals heavy damage to the player if they are unwise enough to stick around and enjoy the drizzle. Vacating the area is one option, but the more noteworthy strategy is to take cover under an umbrella and get in a few free strikes in the process. This battle is more technically challenging on the player then the sea monster from last year’s demo and is a fitting testing ground for all that the player has learned.

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It’s safe to say that I can’t wait to get my hands on this demo and more fully explore all it has to offer, assuming the studio provides this to backers of the project after E3 has finished. A release date can’t come soon enough, but I’m willing to wait for a game that hopefully surpasses even the best that Castlevania had to offer in its prime. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter get to get updates on the status of development throughout E3 and up till release.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer Analysis

E3 2017 is well underway and there has been a handful of surprises already, but my most anticipated game of 2018 recently had a new trailer drop and thought I’d take some time to do a bit of analysis on some of the details. Checkout the trailer below.

The most promising aspect of the trailer has to be the preview of many new environments, hopefully meaning that Igarashi and his team are now working on vastly expanding the scope of playable game areas. Each area has a lot of depth and surprising amounts of detail considering environmental backgrounds are designed to be somewhat randomly generated. Most of the trailer shows off snippets of gameplay from the E3 demo this year that showcases what appears to be a church and clock tower of sorts. A must for a spiritual successor to Castlevania.

More interesting then even the new environments is a short showcase of a few new weapons and abilities. First and foremost, that was a whip in the trailer and it appears to work much like any other weapon at this time. There is no indication in the gameplay of being able to flail around the whip after an attack, but I can’t imagine the developers not adding that feature down the line. Katana and rapier weapons were also shown off and allow for more graceful and rapid attacks.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - New Environment

No shortage of new abilities were shown and the most interesting was our first introduction to familiars. Familiars are their own spell slot in the players inventory and there were none available to play around with in the 2016 demo, but early on in the trailer we can see our heroine being followed by a strange looking creature that would appear to be exactly that. Not much else was seen, but we can expect that the familiar either boosts our characters stats or performs occasional attacks as seen from familiars in the Castlevania series. Other standard skills like the ever useful double-jump and several varieties of projectiles made the cut as well. The skills shown in the trailer are less interesting then what was available in last year’s demo, but I’m glad to see the return of several fan favorites and some familiar faces to use them on.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Clock Tower and Familiar

Rounding out the trailer was a glimpse at a new boss and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. After intruding on a relaxing  blood bath, our heroine is faced with what appears to be a vampire evoking deadly blood magic. While appearing to be a fairly standard boss encounter, there does seem to be an interesting interaction between the boss’s magic and floating parasols, allowing for the player to take cover during certain segments of the battle. The animation of various attacks is also quite impressive.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Boss Fight

This year’s trailer thankfully proves to me that the Bloodstained team is making great strides toward building the game we were promised and that the fans have been craving. For one I’d rather Bloodstained continue to be delayed and give Igarashi and his team the time to polish and expand upon what they’ve already shared with the community. Check back tomorrow for further analysis as I cover some E3 demo gameplay in more detail and continue to cover up coming news on more announced Metroidvanias and related games.