It’s a bold move by developer Steel Mantis, changing the genre of its sequel to its successful 2D action-platformer. When the result is something as entertaining as Valfaris: Mecha Therion though, it pays off.
Released on consoles and PC in 2019, Valfaris is the very definition of metal. Every screen of its stunning pixel art could adorn an album cover and not feel out of place, and its soundtrack simply rocks, making you want to headbang as you play. It thrilled us with its challenging gameplay when we played it for review, too, combining intense run ‘n’ gun action with traditional platforming. Its sequel, Valfaris: Mecha Therion, doesn’t fall too far from the tree. It still has a metal soundtrack and an art style that rocks, only this time in 3D. But there is one big change: it’s a side-scrolling shooter.
Following on from the events of the first game, Valfaris: Mecha Therion finds Therion continuing his pursuit of Lord Vroll, his father. But instead of doing so on foot this time around, he feels it’s better to climb into a large mech suit capable of flight. What follows is an action-packed escapade in which Therion blasts and slices his way through a number of stages, facing off against a considerable number of bosses in the process. And it’s great.
What sets Valfaris: Mecha Therion apart from the majority of side-scrolling shooters available is that it feels like a genuine journey. The stages here are large and flow from one to another without you being taken out of the action for a significant period of time. And what’s more, while you start with a basic loadout, it gets expanded and upgraded over time. Initially you just have your standard assault rifle and sword, for example, but soon you also have access to a homing laser weapon, a lightning infused hammer and much, much more.
As the screen scrolls from left to right, you’re in charge of negotiating gloomy, hostile environments while also also avoiding enemy attacks. Though for many you’ve got another option – attacking them. Most of your abilities here, ranging from using your standard weapon to performing a powerful dash that can even break through sturdy barriers, require energy. Run out of energy, then, and certain abilities become inaccessible to you, or at least severely weakened. Thankfully your energy slowly recharges over time, but if you want to give it a boost, hitting enemies or their projectiles with melee attacks is the way to go.
As mentioned earlier, while your loadout starts out fairly basic, more weapons are amassed over time, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. You can have three of these equipped at any time – a primary weapon, a melee weapon, and a sub-weapon – giving you plenty of options from one moment to the next. There are even mods available to further increase your options. Your loadout can be changed during stages, too, by landing at checkpoints. And Blood Points earned by killing enemies can be used to upgrade your weapons to make them more potent and in some cases change their behavior. It’s a neat way to add a sense of progression.
Depending on the difficulty you play it on, you could complete Valfaris: Mecha Therion in just a few hours. It is quite challenging though, so playing on the standard difficulty it’s likely to take most players a while longer. But even once you’ve seen the credits roll you might find yourself returning to the game thanks to its wealth of secrets and range of weapons. There are enough options here to make at least a few playthroughs thoroughly entertaining.
Thanks to the change in genre, some fans of the original Valfaris might not get on all that well with this sequel. Being a side-scrolling shooter, no longer can players control the pace or take time to explore. Those who mostly charmed by the game’s metal-themed visuals and head-banging soundtrack, however, will be similarly won over by Valfaris: Mecha Therion. This is a fantastic shooter that never lets up. And thanks to its varied arsenal and upgrade options, you’ll likely return to it time and time again.