Within gaming, there are a very large number of genres, niches, and types—some of which are created as the years go by. Among these categories is the Metroidvania, titled after the style of gameplay popularized by Metroid and Castlevania titles of the 1990’s and onwards. These games have a heavy emphasis on non-linear (more linear recently) progression where the character collects power-ups to make the overall map more accessible, creating the opportunity for backtracking and further item collection. I would say with some confidence that Metroidvania is among my favorite type of game, with titles (outside the Metroid and Castlevania series) such as Shantae & The Pirate’s Curse, Axiom Verge, and Mortal Manor being personal favorites of mine. Feudal Alloy is yet another take on the Metroidvania genre with yet another fresh coat of paint.
Going into it, the aesthetic is unlike modern Metroidvania titles, which is more sci-fi and futuristically-stylized. Some may see this as a sign of poor quality, but the difference in style was part of the appeal for me. Having it release on most major platforms is also a very good sign of its quality—though I’ve been wrong in the past. In my time playing Feudal Alloy, I’ve learned that the most important perspective to have is one of patience; having the patience to let the game open up as I become more acclimated to the mechanics. Because of that, the game’s true quality became clear.
Whatever story one needs to feel motivated to press on is done upon starting up a new game (or continuing one), every single time. Attu has set out to restore peace in the land that he calls home after a band of ne’er-do-wells start running amok. This is basically all one gets, as the gameplay never makes reference to it, nor does anything happen that directly correlates to the story presented in the beginning. This is one of Feudal Alloy‘s first issues.
The initial premise for this game is, by most accounts, pretty ridiculous. Controlling a robot controlled by a fish, with all of the enemies being robots controlled by fish, there seems to be a silly atmosphere to the world presented. Why not exemplify this with silly writing? Effort was made to present the story prior to the game, complete with still-images and spoken dialogue. Even in-game, there doesn’t seem to be any opportunity for dialogue or further ridiculousness already exuded by the premise. One can interact with a shopkeeper found in three areas within the game, but it immediately cuts to the inventory and doesn’t give the shopkeeper the opportunity to be, well, alive. One explanation I could think of is that the robots cannot speak, but that only makes me wish they could. This game is certainly not realistic, anyway.
Outside the promise of silly exuberance, the story for Feudal Alloy almost seems throwaway in nature. While many don’t mind a limited story in video games, I would like for some attempt at building upon one, should it employ it. Here, the story is fairly simple, but upon continuing the game, it’s incredibly easy to forget about it. Nothing about the environments, enemies, or nature of the upgrades makes it apparent that the area is under any turmoil. Attu is simply running around and getting stronger for fun, if the gameplay itself is any indication.
This is the lifewater that keeps the fishbowl full. Stating it in short, Feudal Alloy has every minute detail necessary to make for a fun and accessible Metroidvania title. However, this is not convincing early on, when all one is capable of doing is hammering away with a single button. What makes the gameplay so gratifying is the eventual progress one makes as they travel through the surprisingly lengthy overall map, backtracking and visiting new areas once restricted to a lesser main character. For any and all Metroidvania enthusiasts, this is a fellow fan informing you that this game has “the goods.”
An interesting mechanic to this title that’s new (to me) within the genre is the overheating mechanic, which prevents the player from hacking and slashing for eternity. Every attack takes up a little energy, and using too much will eventually make Attu a walking target. Certain abilities granted later on take up more energy, with enemies changing by type and requiring different maneuvers to defeat, which promotes further strategizing. Nothing ever dies in a single hit (until much later on), so the threat of overheating and rendering one incapable of finishing off an enemy is always prominent. Items become nearly essential in controlling Attu’s internal temperature for the most efficient means of offense.
Aside from this mechanic, another noteworthy difference is the implementation of various RPG elements. Attu is capable of leveling up throughout his adventure, with each level-up granting him the ability to learn a new skill from the game’s skill tree system. One can find (or buy) various armor pieces ranging from chest, legs, arms, and head—as well as a weapon—that adds to various statistics that increase health, damage, armor, and otherwise.
While nice to have a best of both worlds sampling of both Metroidvania and RPG, the RPG aspect is pretty basic, with the skill tree split between offensive, defensive, and miscellaneous features that simply go up with each selection—no branches. There’s no screen that assesses one’s current statistical build, either, so one has to memorize everything they’re wearing and what it contributes to their build. Cool to have, but it isn’t detailed enough to mesh well with the overwhelming Metroidvania vibe.
Feudal Alloy controls and runs fairly well, as I ran into very few bugs during, with only one notable case of the game bugging out so severely that I had to quit the game. Framerate was essentially locked no matter what was happening onscreen and its responsiveness was smooth and fine-tuned. Absolutely no complaints about the way Attu controls or handles, as I think it’s perfectly attuned to the environment it traverses, with each new upgrade making it that much more fun to explore. New functions are intuitive to the control scheme and are never too complicated, most requiring only the push of a button. At the most basic level, Feudal Alloy checks out wonderfully.
If there is one complaint I could make about its quality as a Metroidvania, it’s attributed to the map system. Most Metroidvanias place the player precisely where they are on the map in any given room—something Feudal Alloy does not do. This makes certain rooms that are much bigger than others a pain to navigate, specifically when one wants to leave through a certain way. I can’t recall many times when I entered a room with four possible exits that I didn’t accidentally access a route already discovered while looking for new areas. It was pretty common for me to pull up the map every single time I entered a new room, to make absolutely sure I knew where I was going.
Above all, Feudal Alloy is a really immersive experience. While not quite as fulfilling as I feel it could be, the core mechanics and great control make this immediately accessible, though not immediately enjoyable. One needs a little patience when picking this game up, as the fun grows as Attu’s abilities grow. Like filling in a puzzle piece by piece, the gratification of going from weak whippersnapper to powerful force of machinery is in full effect here, with more and more things to do and discover as the personal inventory grows. That’s the true strength of Feudal Alloy and an inescapable part of the Metroidvania, one that makes Feudal Alloy a successful venture into this now-common foray.
Graphics & Sound
Feudal Alloy, unfortunately, does not have a great variety of enemies, though it makes up for this somewhat in enemy types (and with more than color swaps). It also does not have a great variety of environments, as there are three major environment types (as I’ve noticed) to be found thoughout: white mountains, white factory, and brown caverns. For as nice as this game looks (in terms of performance and animation), there isn’t too much variety to it that makes it pop. Sure, the fish tanks on top of every robot is pretty quirky, but that can only be charming for so long. I like the overall design of the game, which reminds me somewhat of a certain Adult Swim animated series with a name that currently escapes me. I only wish there was a little more effort made in making every little detail feel intriguing to look at. In terms of finding secrets, though, it does a pretty good job of making things feel both hidden and accessible.
Perhaps lost in everything else, I can’t find myself too fond of Feudal Alloy‘s somewhat minimalistic soundtrack. Some semi-catchy tunes that harken to the time period it’s set in isn’t that much to complain about, nor is it very praiseworthy. I seem to recall a new track for every major area change, along with boss battles. At the moment, it’s hard for me to even recall how any track even begins, though I suppose it isn’t entirely important. The soundtrack is, for whatever intents and purposes, forgettable. Sound effects deserve a little more praise, however, as every hit taken is noteworthy, the process of overheating is easy to register, and one knows exactly what kind of enemy is in a room based on the sound they make. This offers a little more stability for the player to make quick decisions and prepare for whatever’s to come, which is a nice touch to a game that thrives on action.