[PlayStation 4] Valfaris Review
Valfaris from Steel Mantis, Stage Clear Studios, and Big Sugar is a 2D hardcore action game you should check out on PS4. Learn more in our Valfaris review!
I imagine that when Steel Mantis and Stage Clear were developing this game, they had nothing but 1980s style heavy metal album covers lining up their walls and a soundtrack to match playing on loop in the background, because this game feels like a heavy metal album cover coming to life, and that makes it a magnificent thing of beauty. Valfaris is a 2D action platformer in which you play the role of Therion, a born Prince returning to his homeland of Valfaris after years of being awayâ€¦ and things have changed just a little bit.
As is usual for this type of game, the story exists, but that is not what we are here for. The attract screen of Therion holding what can only be described as a “really big gun” whilst striking a pose that is reminiscent of a heavy metal guitarist rocking out should give you a clue of what you are in for. The design philosophy behind the game is superb, and any single moment can easily be the cover of an album. The color palette whilst rich is dulled perfectly, capturing the style it is trying to evoke. Each frame is a piece of art on its own.
The care and attention put into the design of the landscape extend into the wildlife you fight against and the weapons you use to fight them. A great deal of imagination has gone into this game, as each mob you face off against feels distinct enough to not feel like you are slugging through an endless uninspired hoard as games in this genre are prone to do. This also extends to the world’s design, since the levels designs are also expertly crafted. Each screen feels like its own little puzzle, and there is a wealth of variety that makes each section feels unique. Each area acknowledges the former and incorporates new ideas to keep things familiar yet interesting.
The levels are taxing but not overwhelming, and you will often come across sections that will give you pause, and no doubt increase your death count, but they never become so overwhelming that you become frustrated. Each section has a path that is clear cut but not necessarily easy to overcome. A hard as nails 2D action platformer lives and dies by its controls, and luckily Valfaris’ are solid. Jumping is expected in games like these, and here the controls feel solid and responsive. But the best part about the controls is the ability to remap them as you see fit, a feature many games these days tend to overlook.
You are provided with a sword and a sidearm at the beginning of the game and soon after are given access to a meatier heavy damage weapon. These weapons need energy to work, the exact same energy that you use to power your shield. The shield itself is not passive, as it needs to be activated by a button press. Time it just right, and you can use it to deflect projectiles back onto enemies. As you progress, you find yourself in a bit of a dance trying to decide whether to use your shield in combat or the more powerful weapons at your disposal. Luckily the energy needed for both can be replenished by using melee attacks on enemies, so you are never too exposed while in battle.
All weapons can be upgraded and swapped out for alternatives at spawn, points but I found it a little bit disappointing that your health and shield were not given the same upgrade treatment. The respawning system is an interesting aspect of the game. As you progress, you come across tokens that can be collected and used to activate devices that act as your last checkpoint and your upgrade station. Whilst the game wants you to feel pressured by the minute to minute gameplay, the checkpoints are generously spaced out, so you seldom have to repeat sections that burdened you as you played. You are only allowed to hold a certain number of tokens at any given time, but this number increases as you progress in the game, adding another interesting dynamic to the difficulty. Should you wish to do so, you can forego the generous checkpoint spacing and effectively set up your own difficulty should you wish to make the game even harder.
Valfaris is a fun game to keep coming back to in bite-sized chunks instead of a full-on meal. The atmosphere, the level design, creature design, and general gameplay pull together to make for an interesting and fun time that delivers something new to each time you come back for more. Valfaris is a superb adventure that is worth its asking price, and it’s out now on PlayStation 4.
This Valfaris review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy provided by Big Sugar.