Feudal Alloy

Feudal Fun

The Czech Republic (uncommonly referred to as Czechia) is a relatively young country in Europe, one half of the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993, and, surprisingly, a marginal contributor to the world’s videogame industry amounting to the annual Czech Game of the Year Awards. One Czech developer most gamers around the world are very likely unfamiliar with is the two-person Attu Games, whose first title was the puzzle platformer Toby: The Secret of the Mine. Their second game was the Castlevania: Symphony of the Night-inspired Feudal Alloy, which is surprisingly great for an RPG developed by only two people.

Feudal Alloy follows the journey of a robot named after the game’s developer, Attu, who searches throughout an interconnected world for ten medals owned by the antediluvian robots at the retirement facility where he works. The plot isn’t much to write home about and doesn’t receive a conclusion until the player actually finishes the game, but luckily isn’t a deterrent, with this review having played many great games light on plot.

Fortunately, the gameplay serves Feudal Alloy well, the player able to equip Attu with several stat-increasing robot parts and a sword, players only initially able to execute a forward or upward slash with his weapon. However, the player ultimately receives new abilities that allow him to perform actions such as a dash that can send him safely to the back side of an enemy, shoot electromagnetic pulses in different directions (necessary to down some barriers), and so forth. Attu has two primary stats including oil, serving as his life, and temperature, which dictates how many times he can attack without overheating and being temporarily unable to act.

Attu can gather parts from defeated enemies for money to buy consumables (chiefly bombs necessary to break some barriers, oil vials to restore his health, and coolant to allow him temporary infinite use of commands) or equipment. He can also acquire experience for sporadic leveling, in which instance the player can purchase abilities from one of three skill trees allowing for functions such as increased attack power, heightened defense, or an improved cooling system, with other abilities available in the last tree such as a magnetic skill instantly attracting collectible enemy robot parts.

One interesting aspect of Feudal Alloy is that there are only two actually fights against bosses throughout the central game, although there are numerous points necessary to advance where Attu has to battle enemies that spawn from retracting chambers for several rounds. The game is mercifully nice to players when they die, with Attu respawning at the last save point with full health and no experience or money lost. This accounts overall for a satisfying battle system, with only minor shortcomings such as the inability for Attu to slash his sword when kneeling (although he eventually obtains an ability allowing him to release an electromagnetic pulse in said position).

Control is generally smooth and easy to get used to, with players in each of Feudal Alloy’s subsections able to acquire maps showing his current location, and while the game has a limit on inventory, this reviewer fell fairly short of reaching it throughout his playthrough. As in the RPG Castlevanias, moreover, certain skills aiding combat further assist in exploration of the massive interconnected world, with some barriers, for example, downed by electromagnetic pulses. There are potential points where the player might find themselves lost while exploring, the first few lines of the narrative played whenever starting or continuing the game are unskippable, and there’s no in-game clock, but otherwise, the game generally interfaces well with players.

The music is one of the much better efforts for a Western RPG (although given the developer’s basis in Europe, home to many a classical composer, one would expect more in this area than in say, an American roleplaying game), with nice Celtic medieval tracks that rarely give way to silent moments. There are occasional abrupt shifts in songs that currently play, but the sound effects are definitely believable, and the aurals in general are pleasant.

The hand-drawn visuals are also nice and in fact look much better in motion than YouTube videos would have one believe, with new equipment, for instance, affecting Attu’s appearance, and a nice variety of enemy robot designs; while some foes look similar, they certainly aren’t mere palette swaps. The framerate further remains generally consistent, with no instances of slowdown or choppiness. There are some oddities such as the instant disappearance of uncollectible monster parts at times, but otherwise, Feudal Alloy is definitely a visual treat.

Finally, akin to other Metroidvanias, the game is generally short, less than twelve hours with a straightforward playthrough, more if the player yearns to unlock all in-game achievements such as collecting all medals, opening all chests, and so forth.

Overall, Feudal Alloy, considering its development by only two people, is surprisingly good, given its excellent two-dimensional action gameplay, the joy of exploring a vast interconnected world, the fitting soundtrack, the beautiful visuals, and enough reasons to continue playing even after finishing the primary quest. Granted, those unfamiliar with the Metroidvania RPG subgenre might find it easy at times to get lost in the large connected dungeon, the narrative (with players unable to skip the first few lines of one of the sole story sequences) is lackluster, and there are minor technical issues with how the soundtrack plays. Fans of the niche videogame genre, however, will likely find plenty to celebrate in what this reviewer considers one of the first great releases of 2019.

The Good:
+Solid side-scrolling action gameplay.
+Exploration can be fun.
+Great soundtrack.
+Pretty graphics.
+Achievements add lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Can be easy at points to get lost.
-No in-game clock.
-Part of initial story sequence unskippable.
-Story is paper-thin.
-Some minor technical hiccups with music.

The Bottom Line:
One of the first great games of 2019.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 8/10
Story: 7/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Easy
Playing Time: < 12 Hours

Overall: 9/10

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