When Steel Mantis released Valfaris in 2019, the brutal 2D action platformer earned acclaim for its intense combat, vibrant hellscape visuals, and metal-fueled adrenaline. Now, the developers have surprised fans by pivoting to an entirely different genre for the sequel. Valfaris: Mecha Therion transforms the series into a 2.5D side-scrolling shoot ’em up, putting players in the pilot seat of a hefty mech suit.
This dramatic shift begs the question – does the formula still work when turned on its head? Our task is to dive in and evaluate if Valfaris: Mecha Therion upholds the spirit of the original, or if the gamble misses the mark. We’ll analyze how the change to a shoot ’em up impacts the tempo, mechanics, level design, and overall feel. Does it retain that signature Valfaris flavor? Have some components been lost in translation? There’s only one way to find out.
Strap in and prime the plasma cannons as we get hands-on with this heavy metal surprise. We’ll render a fair verdict on whether Valfaris: Mecha Therion manages to meld genres successfully. If you’re on the fence about the unexpected direction, our comprehensive and thoughtful review should help you determine if this sequel is worth suiting up for.
Still Angry After All These Years
Valfaris: Mecha Therion picks up right where the last game left off, as Therion continues his vengeance-fueled pursuit of his father, the evil Emperor Vroll. The fall of Valfaris may be behind him, but our brooding, rage-filled protagonist won’t rest until he confronts Vroll once and for all.
This time, Therion has a big metal buddy to help him out – his very own mech suit. Now equipped with this hulking exoskeleton brimming with guns, blades, and missiles, Therion blasts across space chasing Vroll’s forces. It’s a convenient plot device to justify the transition to shoot ’em up action, but the story beats tread familiar ground. Just like last time, it’s a straightforward good versus evil clash centered on a young man working through severe daddy issues by way of excessive violence.
Fans can expect the same grim, heavy metal tone that permeated the original Valfaris. While the switch to a mechanical suit taps into mecha anime inspirations, narratively this sequel resides in distinctly Western brutalist sci-fi territory. It’s all skulls, spikes, and gray steel dripping with blood and oil. The thematic throughline of raging against malevolent figures of corrupt establishment power continues as well. Under the barrage of bullets, Mecha Therion harbors a rebellious cyberpunk heart.
So while the gameplay and environments may look radically different this time around, narratively Valfaris sticks to its hellish guns. Therion is still one angry young man. Just replace the sword with a Gatling gun and you’ve got the picture. Vroll’s days are numbered as our protagonist shreds a vengeance-filled warpath to his final showdown.
Heavy Metal Mayhem
The most dramatic overhaul from the Valfaris formula arrives in the gameplay department. Opting for the shoot ’em up approach means Mecha Therion adopts an entirely different flow compared to its predecessor. Instead of measured 2D platforming, the action unfolds at a breakneck shmup pace. Levels push players to the right as screens fill with enemies and projectiles. There’s no time to stand still as controlling the mech becomes a bullet hell balancing act.
This faster tempo is reflected in the mechanics as well. At the core lies a trio of equipable weapons – ranged, melee, and auxiliary. Blasters, railguns, plasma rifles and more make up the firearms category, while electrified blades and powered fists comprise the options for close-quarters mech combat. Missiles, grenades, and specialized attacks fill the auxiliary slot. There’s plenty of room for customization and carnage.
An energy management minigame also factors heavily into combat. Weapons and abilities siphon an energy reserve that requires rehabilitation via melee attacks. It creates a demanding ebb and flow cadence – spray bullets from afar before switching to punches and sword slashes when the tank runs low. An extensive upgrade system offers plenty of room for ability enhancement as well.
Some hallmarks of the original, however, have been excised. The risk-reward resurrection token mechanic is gone. More disappointingly, the methodical process of stat-boosting permanent upgrades has also been removed. Instead, the sequel opts for a streamlined throwback shmup format focused on reflex-dependent progression. It’s a controversial gambit, but the injection of a blood gauge kill counter at least spices things up. Racking up executions fills this meter, unlocking bonuses and tougher enemies.
Despite shedding some signature elements, Mecha Therion doubles down on Valfaris’ strength – its satisfying combat. The new support modules allow for additional ability customization too. At the end of the day, unleashing a dizzying array of explosions, slashes, and high-tech ordnance simply feels incredible. The shift to a quicker tempo amplifies these core gunplay strengths rather than diluting them. It’s a risk that pays off.
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Blood, Oil, and Distortion
Visually, Valfaris: Mecha Therion proudly carries the grimy neon sci-fi torch first ignited in the original game. The vibrant colors pop even brighter this time thanks to the expanded 2.5D presentation. Fiery orange lava flows, glowing blue computer terminals, and shimmering purple alien metals bathe the environments in eye-searing glory. When the action flows at max intensity, the particle effects and floods of enemy sprites can overwhelm the senses, but in the best possible way.
The detailed mechanical and skeletal art deserves praise as well. Intricate weapon and armor designs channel a gruesome techno vibe, like something out of Warhammer 40k by way of Alien. One can admire the creativity poured into constructing such a unique fictional future universe even as bullets and blades fly in every direction. It’s a heavy metal album cover come to life.
From a technical perspective, performance depends on the hardware. Our test rig featuring an Nvidia RTX 3070 had zero issues maintaining high framerates and maximum graphical settings at 1440p. The visual splendor shone brightly without hiccups. However, early reports indicate the Steam Deck struggles to maintain consistency using Valfaris’ graphical bells and whistles. Dropping settings to low can alleviate the stutters, but optimized tweaking will likely arrive in post-launch patches.
On the audio front, the sequel brings more of that signature crunchy metal soundscape. Grimy chugging riffs compliment the chaos, fading seamlessly into the cacophony of explosions and screams. Occasionally the mix overwhelms, where the relentless music battles the escalating sound effects rather than syncing synergistically, but overall the decibel deluge appropriately accompanies the visual feast. Turn down for what, indeed.
To Shmup or Not to Shmup?
Without a doubt, the seismic genre shift from action platformer to shoot ’em up defines Valfaris: Mecha Therion. Evaluating the game hinges on assessing this radical departure. Does translating the Valfaris formula into shmup territory enhance the experience, or was it an unnecessary risk? After extensive playtesting, a nuanced verdict emerges.
The pros of the transition are clear. Speed and fluidity see a huge boost thanks to the format change. Environments and enemies fly by as Therion blasts onward, amplifying the series’ intrinsic intensity. The simplified level design drops all filler in favor of nonstop action. Furthermore, the change in perspective allows for impressive 2.5D set pieces. One moment the camera swings behind the mech, displaying epic battles raging in the background.
However, some subtractive design choices prove controversial. The methodical progression system from Valfaris hits the chopping block. No longer can players gradually boost stats and create a uniquely customized build. Instead, progression stays surface level, dependent on acquiring pre-set weapons and upgrades. The absence of incremental permanence strips away long-term investment potential.
Comparatively, the sequel’s combat lacks diversity as well. While using stages to hide or take breathers appropriately suits Valfaris’ platforming style, here the relentless pace carries exhaustion risk. Players’ toolsets lack versatility too, largely boiling down to “shoot, slash, repeat.” The addition of Blood Metal’s timed rewards helps incentivize variety, but compared to its predecessor Mecha Therion feels more repetitive.
The change also introduces fresh technical quirks. Optimizing performance on the Steam Deck requires graphical downgrades to maintain smoothness, while the visual busyness affects visibility and causes distraction. Balancing the influx of sensory data proves tricky. The fixed background music causes dissonance during quieter moments as well. These are polish issues rather than foundational flaws, but still factors that undermine the presentation.
So does Valfaris: Mecha Therion stick the genre landing? For the most part, yes, but not without caveats. TheShoot ’em up shift amplifies the series’ strengths of fast gameplay and impactful weaponry at the cost of strategic depth. It’s a trade-off that pays dividends moment-to-moment, although extended play sessions suffer from the boiled-down design. As sequels go, Mecha Therion successfully maintains the feel of Valfaris while still offering fans plenty of fresh content…even if that “freshness” arrives via controversial means.
In the end, Valfaris: Mecha Therion succeeds more than it stumbles. The dramatic pivot to shoot ’em up gameplay pays dividends thanks to amplified intensity and visual splendor. Moment-to-moment, Steel Mantis sticks the landing. However, over longer play sessions, the simplified design reveals downsides. Streamlining cuts too close to the bone, leaving some of the first game’s strengths bleeding out.
Make no mistake though – Mecha Therion absolutely captures the essence of Valfaris. The heavy metal visual assault, head-banging audio onslaught, and viciously satisfying weaponry still shine brightly. Therion’s quest for vengeance-fueled carnage finds itself right at home inside a mech suit. Just expect a shorter burst of action over strategic depth.
For fans of Valfaris or shoot ’em ups in general, Mecha Therion earns an easy recommendation. The genre mashup works more often than not. However, those seeking a faithful continuation of the first game’s formula may come away disappointed. This sequel carves its own identity at the cost of legacy.
As for the future of Valfaris, it’s anyone’s guess after this radical reinvention. Another genre hop seems likely though. Perhaps the burgeoning Metroidvania format could be next? Or will Steel Mantis double down on mech combat in a 3D environment? If this sequel teaches us anything, taking Therion in bold new directions will always bring exciting, if divisive results. The once-angry young man seems destined to try on many skins before his crusade concludes. Wherever that journey leads, count us in for the next ride.
Valfaris: Mecha Therion
Ultimately, Valfaris: Mecha Therion takes a bold risk by transforming into a shoot 'em up sequel. This dramatic departure results in amplified action and visual splendor, although streamlining subtracts some franchise identity in the process. It's a controversial twist that mostly retains the core heavy metal spirit. This surprise sequel will satisfy genre fans, but leaves cautious room for improvement. The amplifications in pace and intensity deserve praise, as does the continued dedication to distinct art direction and sound design. However, over-simplification of certain elements and technical inconsistencies hold Valfaris: Mecha Therion back from reaching the same heights as its predecessor. Still, there’s plenty here for trigger-happy mech jockeys to sink their plasma cannons into.
- Greatly amplified pace and intensity compared to original
- Striking neon sci-fi visual presentation in 2.5D
- Excellent metal soundtrack and gory sound effects
- Solid core weapon variety and combat mechanics
- Cool addition of blood gauge mechanic
- Retains overall Valfaris style and spirit
- Removal of resurrection stones and stat upgrading
- Simplified level design lacks complexity
- Gameplay can feel repetitive over time
- Visual clutter affects enemy visibility
- Performance issues on Steam Deck