I got to see a ton of amazing new things at this last PAX East, but it wasn’t exclusively new material ahead of me either. One thing that I got to experience for the first time at this year’s past PSX was checking back in on titles I had seen before from indie teams and seeing how much progress they had made. For me at PSX, Mages of Mystralia was a huge one that had clearly come a massive leap forward.
At PAX East 2017, I definitely wanted to see Flint Hook again, for it had its release date firmly set on April 18th. This would be its final show before release, and as the favorite game I saw at all last year at PAX East 2016, I was excited to sit down and play the final feel of the game before it would release. I was not disappointed.
Flint Hook is exactly as swift and colorful as I needed it’s final look to be. Slight changes and updates the UI, and an ever-so-slight tightening of the feel of everything goes a long way. Seeing the Metroidvania style map laid out, the enemy rooms of monsters to defeat before progressing, and now the introduction of temporary upgrades has me even more excited to play more. By temporary upgrades I only mean that in any given run you’ll get some upgrades, like a faster hook or more powerful bullets, and if you die those are some of the subset of equipment you’ll lose. I was told that more permanent upgrades would fill the gaps between levels, and I’m not sure what those actually look like, since the demo ended before the end of that first level.
Flint Hook is a special game coming from Tribute Games, and even though I was not as into Mercenary Kings, this is totally up my alley.
The other title worth checking in on was Sundered, hand-drawn and procedurally crafted Metroidvania, which as you may begin to notice, is a running theme with me, a title I saw for the first time at PSX. This title, set for sometime this year, won me over so much with its first demo, and this time I got to meet up with Rodrigue again, who gave me my demo at PSX. He showed me something totally new for the game, a late-game section that gave the player more abilities and had different, more deadly enemies and areas within. I hit the ground running on this demo.
The demo had a similar format and structure of the demo from before, which they were also showing here at PAX. Essentially, you traversed a procedural world, pushing forward, defeating enemies and gaining crystals to use as experience, only to hit an arena. The arena was massive and without any power ups you’d inevitably get overwhelmed, causing you to die and return to the hub. There, you could dump your crystal points into the skill tree to level up, power up, and unlock better upgrades. For instance, I pushed all my points to a larger shield, and a shield that would regen faster.
That loop was the same, and when I came back to that arena I felt far more powerful and better equipped to handle it, and Rodrigue explained that that loop I just explained was exactly what they were going for. I’ll say this: it’s a good loop. It’s similar in heart to a Dark Souls, but running back through the world and seeing that it’s changed and rearranged just adds a dark mystery and unfamiliarity to every approach and death pushing forward. It’s a unease that plays really well into the aesthetic they’re going for.
But this is a Metroidvania, and I want to talk about the new power ups being shown here. The one I unlocked in the demo was a grappling hook that would let me expend some of my stamina or energy to hook to certain points highlighted in the world. I couldn’t do it infinitely, but I just had to throw it out to jettison myself up, taking the strain of aiming it off like a Metroid or Axiom Verge would have. I could also just run straight up walls if I ran toward them from the ground, a power that really made climbing insurmountable obstacles feel way more approachable.
There is another title I did want to check in on, and it’s one I’ve been anxiously awaiting since its crowdfunding campaign initially launched. Chasm is a Maryland-developed title from Bit Kit Inc, making it both close to my heart as a Metroidvania, yes the third to be featured in this article, but also close to me physically. Outside of the goliaths that are Bethesda and Firaxis, I rarely hear of a big indie game scene here in Maryland. Chasm is a game I’ve seen and checked in on at multiple events, including PAX East and PSX. It’s also being assisted by Dan Adelman, who helped with Axiom Verge and is helping with Mages of Mystralia.
This demo of Chasm showed the first twenty minutes to the world, giving more context for how the game sets up and how there is some narrative hooks into what you’ll be exploring throughout the procedural world of Chasm. It’s cool to get a very Castlevania-esque setup to a new and fresh “one of these games”, which again, is a reductive way to look at any of these three titles. Of all the three games I’m discussing here, Chasm is the most like the bearers it lovingly homages, and it’s all for the better. The leveling system and weapon/item system in Chasm is familiar to anyone who has spent any time with Symphony of the Night, and it has those Castlevania hooks down to feeling excellent, from jumping, slashing, and breaking torches for coin.
Chasm sets up a new recruit venturing off to a distant mining town to discover the going-ons behind rumors of monsters, the mines getting shut down, and possibly more.
These three titles are ones that have played a huge part in my recent trade show experiences, and with all of them releasing soon, I cannot wait to see them go out to be received by players and critics alike. Sundered is aiming for a July release on PS4 and PC, Flint Hook is right around the corner coming out April 18th on PC and PS4, and Chasm is aiming for summer, though I was told that if more time was needed, it’d be taken. It’s also aiming for the same platforms.
I’m finally happy to say that the Metroidvania genre is anything but dead, regardless of if Nintendo and Konami both don’t seem interested in adding to their lineages. I can’t wait to see the final builds of these titles in action.