Three years ago, Steel Mantis released Valfaris. It was a chaotic side-scroller that thrust you into intense battles where you had a range of weapons to kill myriad enemies and tough bosses. I enjoyed the simplicity of it, focusing on the thrill of the fight set in a vibrant hellscape with 2D visuals. Valfaris: Mecha Therion continues the story of Therion as he hunts down the evil Lord Vroll, except there’s one big difference this time around: you’re in a damn mech! Cue waves of monsters, minions, and huge bosses all intent on slaughtering you as quick and brutally as possible.
Valfaris: Mecha Therion feels much quicker than its predecessor, and that’s in part to the metal suit you find yourself in. You’re trying to survive in a bullet hell scenario, where enemies can get up close or launch projectiles at you from afar. There’s always a lot happening during these encounters, but thanks to your three forms of attack, there’s always a way to slaughter the various threats that approach you, be it an enemy or environmental barrier. The more you progress, the more weapons you’ll find, giving you plenty of variety in your arsenal.
You have a gun, a melee weapon, and a special power, and at every checkpoint you can switch them out. Maybe there’s a constant stream of flying creatures that need dealing with before they get too close, or perhaps hellish creatures that spit out bombs or orbs of energy. Taking them out from afar might be what’s needed, or getting in their face will do more damage. It’s all about experimenting with your guns, with each one requiring energy to sustain their potency. Your sword, axe, or whatever other melee weapon you have equipped replenishes your energy, but it means getting near an enemy to do so.
You’ll also have abilities that your mech can use to cause damage with a large AoE. Flying into a horde and using a pulse of electricity to take them out might be better than having a ground missile equipped, but there’s always an opportunity to change them around. Due to how intense battles are, you’ll find that death always comes knocking, but with plenty of checkpoints and quick load times, you’ll quickly learn how each new area’s challenges conspire against you. The more successful you are, the more Blood Metal you acquire, which can be used to upgrade all of your weapons.
I found I stuck with a particular weapon more so than other unlocks later on, and it never feels like older weapons lose their edge thanks to the fact they can be made more effective with Blood Metal. The biggest difference from Valfaris is how much quicker it feels. It changes it up massively from the first outing, and that speed makes enemies attack from every direction with heart-pounding aplomb. You can switch directions in your mech as they come from the left, and use a speed boost to evade or break through barricades. There’re also secret areas with goodies to find, such as modules that improve the way certain weapons work.
Valfaris: Mecha Therion now features 2.5D environments, and not only does this mean there’s plenty more detail in the levels, it also affects how creatures attack you. The screen might turn 45 degrees to another area where you see a swarm of monsters come flying at you. The detail in environments is fantastic, and it gives the world so much more life. The soundtrack is also filled with metal riffs that make the action more intense, providing a whole package that will appeal to adrenaline junkies with a penchant for Slipknot.
While it can be difficult, especially with some of the boss fights, the new 2.D environments and frantic action make it well worth playing. It strips back the need for complex RPG mechanics in favour of giving you weapons and letting you loose on a constant stream of monstrosities. It’s responsive and fast-paced, where every new area brings with it new challenges, but it’s quick load times never punish you for your mistakes. If you played Valfaris, it feels different enough, yet that delicious gunplay returns with even more intensity that it did before.
2.D environments are great
Responsive and fast-paced gunplay
A lot going on on-screen