Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior Review

Lysfanga header artwork

Time manipulation is almost always cool in games, especially when it’s tied into puzzle design or combat. Lysfanga is the latest game to utilise this mechanic, this time in a Hades-esque isometic hack and slash format, though it quickly distances itself from that resemblance. Rather than the frenetic and fast-paced gameplay of Supergiant’s smash hit, Lysfanga requires a more strategic approach, featuring levels that escalate in complexity as the game develops.

The backstory to Lysfanga seems to take influence from Middle Eastern folklore, a decision which offers a nice change from the more common Greco-Roman settings. In fact, I found it to make an interesting comparison to Prince of Persia, with the aesthetic and time management being particularly reminiscent of that series. You play as Imë, the titular Lysfanga, a warrior imbued with the power of the Goddess of Time and entrusted with defending the land of Antala from the monstrous Raxes. This backstory is fairly generic, but the setting is novel enough to stop it from feeling too familiar. As the narrative progresses you discover that ancient enmities are more complex than they first appear and your actions take on a more nuanced significance.

You begin the game with a sword and shield that can be used to slice and bash your enemies, with chakrams and a trident being unlocked as the story progresses. These different weapons do offer distinct playing styles, but it is a shame that only a few levels towards the end really take advantage of this with specific enemies only being vulnerable to one of your weapons. I would have liked to see more of this kind of combat puzzle earlier in the game as the first two thirds are relatively samey. The strength and long reach of the trident made it seem overwhelmingly more powerful for most of the time it was available.

Lysfanga combat

Alongside the weapons you have access to a choice of spells, runes, and Goddess powers. The former can offer you different attack options, with one that quickly transports you to the targeted enemy being especially useful in some of the more complex maps. Runes are more passive powers, and range from allowing more time for each of your character runs to offering an extra remnant to play as. Goddess powers are the strongest of all and work almost like Limit Breaks as attacking builds up a meter allowing you to unleash attacks that can wreck even more powerful foes. The trick is to make sure you use these at the best opportunity, and there are multiple possible builds of all three types of power.

The Time Shift mechanic of the title takes the form of battles which last only a minute or so, but can be repeated multiple times with your different runs stacking each time. This makes impossible looking odds become manageable through carefully managed tactics as you pick off separate groups of enemies each turn, with the end result being a very satisfying process. There is a real sense of achievement as your various remnants work alongside each other to destroy the hordes of enemies, especially in later levels when it can take a few tries to work out an effective route.

Lysfanga Remnants

This basic mechanic forms the main structure of the many battles that make up the game, but there are a number of more complex aspects introduced as you progress. Certain enemies are tied together and must be killed simultaneously across different runs, or there’s powerful golems must be attacked to reveal crystals that power their shields. These crystals must be destroyed before the golems can be defeated so again, multiple remnants must be used. There is a beautiful sense of motion and control when your plans come together, but the actual combat itself is enjoyable in a hack and slash fashion too. Imë is quite vulnerable to attacks, with two hits being enough to end each remnant, so you have to balance attack with dodging and dashing, while still being mindful of the time limits.

The main game is not that hard, with generous time limits to pass each level, but completionists will find some genuine challenge in beating the target times and finishing all the postgame battles. Personally I felt I had had enough after the ten hours or so of the main campaign, but if the tactical aspects really grab you there is a huge amount of content to master in optimising your runs.

Summary
Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior is a great puzzle action game that plays out very differently than you might expect. Whilst it holds onto some of its best puzzle ideas until relatively late in the game, the layered time-shifted combat is very satisfying as you take multiple runs at each encounter, trying out new skills and approaches as you go. All in all, Lysfanga is a good time that offers plenty of repeat value.
Good
  • Slick combat
  • Great time shifting mechanics
  • Interesting setting
  • Challenging postgame content
Bad
  • Early to mid game feels quite samey
8
Written by
Just your average old gamer with a doctorate in Renaissance literature. I can mostly be found playing RPGs, horror games, and oodles of indie titles. Just don't ask me to play a driving game.