Alien vs. Metalhead – hands on with the very heavy metal Valfaris

In space!

Nothing screams into the microphone quite like the heavy metal soundtrack of a video game. Following on from their previous heavy metal infused game, Slain: Back from Hell, developers Steel Mantis have sought to one up themselves. Valfaris is still a 2D action adventure, it’s still all heavy metal, all of the time, but now… it’s in space!

Players are thrust into a journey for revenge as Therion, a beast of a man who can only be described as something straight off the cover of Metal Hammer Magazine. Through side scrolling action, combat and platforming, Therion’s one goal is to solve the mystery of his home planet’s destruction.

One of the first things that really struck a chord with me in Valfaris is its simplicity. Often seen as a negative by many people, the simplicity of the gameplay and its overall presentation makes it an absolute joy to play. The minimal UI draws your attention to the grainy, industrial and gothic art style, while its straightforward, old school controls puts you in the heart of the action. It might not be particularly innovative, but you can’t go wrong with a classic eight directional control scheme.

The preview demo – which you can try out for yourself via Steam – placed me right at the beginning of the journey, with one goal in mind: walk right and kill everything that moves. There’s some minor platforming elements introduced throughout the demo, but the onus remained on action. A melee attack with a flaming sword and guns give Therion the ability to inflict damage up close or choose to do so at a distance, while an extra slot for special weapons enables you to inflict even more damage, depending on if you have enough stamina.

Staying true to its metal aesthetic, Valfaris features a number of different foes, blending together an industrial and alien feel that would have had H.R. Giger giggling in his afternoon nap. It eases you in through the tutorial, but Valfaris certainly feels like it’s going to grow into a challenging game that relies on twitch reactions and precise timing. Tackling enemies relies on being able to dodge or position yourself outside their lines of fire, or soaking up some damage with your shield.

This was a core focus of the boss fight at the end of the demo. Players are tasked with dodging telegraphed attacks, while returning their own offence in a counter-attack. The boss fight has a timed element as well, with the battle squishing you between two spiky sheets like a Death Star trash compactor if you take too long. This forced me to play more aggressively as I was running on limited time which added an extra layer of tension to the fight.

Though short, Valfaris’ demo shows off the game’s promising blend of side-scrolling action with interesting visuals from its heavy metal in space aesthetic. I do wonder if its commitment to metal and rock culture might put some people off, but as it stands I think Valfaris one to watch out for in 2019.

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