Published on January 18th, 2017 | by Andrewsarchis0
First Look – Gunmetal Arcadia
Discaimer: A preview copy of the game was provided to us.
After being completely sold on the Gunmetal Arcadia series when I reviewed Gunmetal Arcadia Zero last November, I was waiting with bated breath for the next title to be released on Steam. But then, something happened: a tweet from Gunmetal Arcadia creator & Minor Key Games co-founder, J. Kyle Pittman. It implored anyone who was interested to reach out for a review copy of Gunmetal Arcadia. Naturally, I had to try my luck.
As fate would have it, I received a Steam key the next morning and started planning my evening: I was gonna grab some beer, throw on some Bowie, and dive into Gunmetal Arcadia.
Upon loading the game, I was greeted with a recap of the events of Gunmetal Arcadia Zero, the same pixelated, retro-style graphics, and began to feel right at home again. Even the soundtrack, which I’d previously deemed to be “just there” (though fully acknowledging there’s nothing wrong with that) provided something close to nostalgia as I remembered how enveloped in the predecessor I’d been just a few months ago.
I started a new game and within just a few minutes of play-time, I was overwhelmed with reminders of what I loved about Zero. Noting a few small changes as I made my way through the first stage, such as items hidden in chests (which I found to be more exciting than purchasing them from a vendor), I quickly found my faction of choice, The Seekers of Arcadia, and joined up. Strangely though, I couldn’t find anywhere to join the Gunmetal Vanguard. “Weird,” I thought, “But maybe you have to hold out until stage 2 or later in stage 1 to join them.”
I encountered the first mini-boss and made easy work of him, as a lot of the enemies and bosses have been carried over from Zero. Eventually, though, my lack of recent experience with the game led to my demise at the hands of the final boss of stage 1. No matter. I’m the hero Arcadia needs and I will persevere.
As I re-entered stage 1 and made it past the first screen, I noticed things felt different. Had the layout of the stage changed? I didn’t remember encountering the section I spawned near that early on last time. Brushing it off as perhaps a way of loading you close to where you perished, I pressed on. But I continued noticing changes to the stage. Enemies kept popping up in places I hadn’t encountered them, resulting in some semi-frustrating deaths to just the normal mobs. And every time I died, I was sent back to the main menu, where I then re-entered the stage and discovered the layout had once again changed.
That’s when it hit me: “an all-new action-adventure platformer roguelite drenched in glowing retro goodness.” I remembered reading this when I was getting familiar with the Gunmetal Arcadia series as I prepared for my review of Zero, but I’d been so entranced by the first title, I’d completely forgotten that the sequel intended on introducing roguelike elements.
Roguelikes… aren’t my thing, to say the least. I briefly spent some time on the original Binding of Isaac and found it to be an enjoyable, “I have to leave in 10 minutes, so I want to play a game I won’t get too invested in,” experience, but ultimately only wound up putting an hour into it, and haven’t touched other roguelikes.
Maybe I’m just bad at video games, but I prefer a general sense of progress as I work my way through a game over several sessions, not just a single playthrough. Accordingly, once I remembered that Gunmetal Arcadia had been slated to feature roguelike aspects, like procedurally generated levels and permanent character deaths, I wasn’t sure what to think. I kept trying to play the game the same way I’d played Gunmetal Arcadia Zero and it just wasn’t enjoyable. But that’s not a flaw within the game itself, that’s on me.
So what did I do? Did I stop playing the game and accept that the sequel to one of my favorite games from 2016 was simply not for me? Nope. I decided I needed to adjust the attitude with which I entered each playthrough. “Stop treating this like Zero and start treating it like a roguelike,” I told myself. I began entering every session with the mindset that I’d probably die and lose all my progress and that it would all be okay, because that was the whole point. And you know what? I enjoyed the game much more because of that.
There are some frustrating elements that come from the procedurally generated levels, though. For instance, rather than receiving a secondary weapon in the first stage, I received an item which prevented any damage from lava while it was active. A useful item in the right situation, but the first stage doesn’t contain any lava (at least not in any of the times I’ve played through it).
In another case, I encountered three of the same projectile-spitting enemy back to back. Typically this wouldn’t be an issue, but because they each spat their venom at a separate time, this made jumping to avoid the trajectory impossible, as I’d get hit by at least one of the three attacks. In addition to that, you can attack these enemies to stop their attacks, but I could only attack one at a time, leaving me vulnerable to attacks from the other two enemies behind him. This resulted in some otherwise solid runs (if I do say so myself) coming to a very irritating end. That said, what I played is a pre-release build & the game is in good hands. I’m sure minor things like this will be tweaked as necessary.
All-in-all, Gunmetal Arcadia accomplishes what it set out to: bringing roguelike elements to the world of Arcadia and providing incentives like 5 playable characters, legacy events and rewards, and all new items to keep you playing. The controls still feel tight, the CRT mode still makes the game feel like you’re playing an 80’s classic, and the combat is still fun. If you were a fan of Gunmetal Arcadia Zero, its sequel may feel a bit alarming or unwelcoming if you’re not prepared for the roguelike nature, but fans of roguelikes and retro-styled games will feel right at home. Either way, I encourage you to give it a chance.
Gunmetal Arcadia is out on Steam on February 7th.