Feudal Alloy takes a tried and true formula and puts its own creative stamp on these traditions. The creative liberties it takes regarding combat land perfectly and adds much-needed variation to the popular genre. However, the gameplay elements expected from a Metroidvania are not as stellar.
The immediate appeal of Feudal Alloy comes from the quirky scenario it places the player in. The protagonist of the story is a fish that pilots a robot body in a medieval world, yes you heard that correctly. The fish is on a mission the get back what has been stolen from his/her village by a group of bandits. The story is pretty barebones but this is obviously not what the game is focused on. Its goofy nature makes it stand out from the crowd and will keep a smile on most players faces throughout the journey.
The game begins with little instructions and it is up to the player to figure out how to progress. This hands-off approach is a breath of fresh air. It avoids the trend of games that lead the player the entire way. The game is heavily combat focused. Combat is melee based as would be expected of a medieval game. The game employs a type of stamina system in the form of the “heat gauge”. This aspect is the games biggest strength. Attacking and dodging diminish the gauge so mindlessly hacking and slashing is not an option. The player must always keep an eye on the gauge and determine how many hits to attempt before dodging to recover and coming back for more. It may sound like a simple mechanic but it works so well because of the tightly confined spaces. Running out of heat gauge can be very costly when there is nowhere to run. The game will also put the player in “hot spots” where the gauge continuously rises to make the risk-reward aspect even higher. Once skills come into play the heat gauge becomes even more important.
Useful Skills and Quirky Equipment
The game employs a standard skill tree that when unlocked allows the player more combat and platforming options. These skills are indeed useful but none of them stood out as extremely unique. While they may be by the book the fun comes from how much heat they add to the gauge with each use. It is yet another ball the player must juggle in the midst of battle. The late game combat loop is intensely satisfying as the player manages skills, movement, and melee attacks. Skills must also be balanced with equipment.
This is where the player’s creativity can really blossom. The game has a variety of equipment that grants the player various stat boost. Equipment allows the player to customize to their play style and encourages experimentation. However, the real draw of the equipment is the aesthetic look. The player will most likely find themselves choosing a piece of equipment for its goofy and/or cool look. This aspect adds some charm and encourages the player to seek out differing equipment. The mixture of equipment, skills, and the heat gauge make the combat more engaging so it is unfortunate that the Metroidvania aspects of the game get in the way of this.
To progress further in the game requires a mixture of keycards and abilities that grant access to doors and hard to reach platforms. This aspect alone doesn’t detract from the experience as it is a staple of the genre, it is the design of the map interface that really slows things down. When the map is pulled up there is virtually no useful information shown. This leads to the player wandering around aimlessly looking for a door or platform they may be able to access now. Being lost can sometimes be fun in these games but the lack of enemy variety makes backtracking a chore. With such a diverse and engaging combat system it is upsetting that the exploration portions of the game seem to bring it to a screeching halt. Their solution to break up these slow portions is not exactly perfect either.
Not So Legendary Gauntlet
Frequently the player will run into gauntlet style rooms fighting waves of enemies. These are a good break from the monotony of wandering around … the first time. The number of these is just too high. It is disappointing because these rooms would have been much better if they simply contained a boss character instead of countless enemies. The bosses in the game are pretty run of the mill pattern recognition. But having just a few more of them would have made the gameplay loop just a little bit more satisfying and less tedious.
Whimsical Sights and Sounds
While the gameplay can begin to feel stale after a while, the same cannot be said for the art-style. The game is beaming with individuality and it is obvious a lot of care went into character designs. The enemies are hilarious mishmashes of aquatic and robotic. The environments blend medieval and modern technology together seamlessly. The game most definitely has its own identity which can pull the player through some of the more dull aspects. The soundtrack adds to this charm. The music is solid with a medieval theme that is both soothing when it needs to be and hectic in combat.
Feudal Alloy is a game that will have the player scratching their head in confusion. The game has a combat system that rewards patience and experimentation and keeps the player wanting more. However, it chooses to spread these intense moments between slow-moving and confusing exploration mechanics. The game is good but could have been great if it had instead been a simple action platformer. Only the hardcore Metroidvania fans and most patient of people should take on this adventure.
Feudal Alloy is available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch.