Follow-up games to roguelites can be a little odd. After all, these are games designed to be iterated on and added to, not necessarily ones that need sequels. Galak-Z: The Dimensional is one such roguelite, one that meshed anime aesthetics with tough space battles and even threw in transforming mechs for good measure.
Galak-Z: Variant S is the follow-up that no one was expecting. At least no one was expecting it in this form. This is very much a mobile game now – while on Switch, its twin is Galak-Z: Variant Mobile – which means it’s littered with microtransactions and strange design choices. While it retains the look of the first game and the characters the gameplay and the flow have been changed notably.
While it is still a space-based shooter that has you going from point A to point B, shooting everything you find on the way, it feels very different. You can either pilot a ship or a mech, and not something that switches between the two forms. This feels like a sizeable loss, as it was one of the most interesting features of the original game.
Even the controls have changed, which again impacts the depth in the moment-to-moment gameplay. All of the movement is still done in zero gravity, so if you apply a little bit of force you’ll go a long way. You have both forward and rear thrusters, allowing you to go towards or away from something, but you can no longer strafe. This results in a lot of awkward feeling combat where you end up charging into enemy fire because you can’t sidestep it like you should be able to.
The other controls vary depending on what you are piloting. The mech has a sword to swing around as its basic attack and a grapple as its special, while the ship has a basic blaster and a barrage of rockets to launch. The defensive options are different too, with a forward-facing shield on the mech, while the ship can dodge out of the way of fire by moving on a different axis entirely. It still feels a little empty as a fan of the original though.
The levels are fairly short, which does make it perfect for brief bursts of action on the go, but they are also quite samey. You will end up feeling like an errand boy with very short and boring errands to run. You get a few different rewards from every mission, including player experience, ship experience, and a few different currencies depending on the mission itself. Naturally these currencies are designed to entice you to buy the various lootboxes that you can see in the shop. Some of these are boosts, some of these are augments for your vehicles.
There are also little bots you can get to help you pilot your ship as well as take part in the PvP mode. Naturally the mode is asynchronous, it involves you choosing three bots to defend with or going in against other people’s teams. It is a little different to the main mode but not by an amount large enough to make it interesting.
Galak-Z: Variant S just feels a bit soulless, as someone who has played the original. Where that game was sleek and well designed, this feels basic and haphazard. The Switch would have been far better served by a port of the first game, and when you add microtransactions into the mix you get a spoiled experience and a somewhat tainted memory of a better time for the series.