About once a year, a Metroidvania title takes the video game world by storm. Games like Axiom Verge and Ori and the Blind Forest are some of the most highly regarded action games of this era. If developer Resonator has their way, then Anew: The Distant Light will soon take its place beside them. The devil is always in the details and you never know how a game is going to unfold over 12-15 hours, but Anew: The Distant Light is looking very promising at this stage.
Resonator recently provided us with a short alpha version of the game, and it gave us a glimpse into what Anew is going to offer. There is presumably a lot more to come in the gameplay department, but the basic pieces appear to be falling into place. The staples of the genre are there, as well as a few added twists that promise to add some flavor to the gameplay. The most obvious element that the game offers at this stage is its combat. In typical 2D-action game fashion, you pick up weapons along the way, such as a machine gun and a shotgun. With those weapons you defend yourself against animals, like bat-like creatures, sea and tentacle monsters that remind Half-Life barnacles, and androids. There is also a shield for defending yourself against enemies’ powerful laser blasts. The game promises an upgrading system, but it’s not fully functional in the demo. There is, however, what appears to be an experience system where you collect energy orbs from fallen enemies. Presumably, these orbs will constitute the game’s currency. The highlight of the demo, both in visuals and the gameplay, is a section where you get to pilot a gigantic mech and blast enemies with a devastating laser cannon. Perhaps you are the impossible final boss for those poor souls.
Another major feature of the genre is exploration and navigation and Anew also appears to be shaping up very nicely in that area. You start off the game without much of an ability to navigate, besides walking and jumping, but it looks as if you will be picking up a jet pack and some climbing gloves at some point. The demo also appears to have at least a few areas that you have to bypass early in the game and come back to later after you have discovered some sort of upgrades. It may also may hide secret areas and challenges for curious gamers and completioninsts. There are a lot of possibilities when it comes to level design that the game could have in store, and the quick view in the demo offers a tantalizing sample.
One of the common trends for 2D games is to adopt an old school pixelart graphical style as a tribute to the games of yesteryear. Anew, on the other hand, is going for an intensely colorful, brightly lit modern look. You can still see the old school influence in visuals here and there, such as in the gigantic mech shown above in the first screenshot. For the most part though, the game is sharp, highly detailed, and dare I say, beautiful to look. There is what appears to be a fairly wide variety of environments and creature visual designs as well. Just over the course of fifteen minutes, I got to travel through a derelict spaceship, some underground caverns, an underwater section, and a desert area. Each of these them looks terrific and some of the enemies are visually impressive, too. Indie games seem to be the home of some of the best video game music nowadays, and Anew does not appear as if it will disappoint in that area either. The demo has a few electronic tracks that fit the game’s sci-fi setting perfectly.
There is not a lot of story material in the demo, but what little there is paints a decent picture of what direction it’s going to take. You play as a passenger on a ship, light years from Earth after a major disaster appears to have claimed the planet. Your mission, it seems, is to either find a new home for humanity or to find some way of saving the human race. Your co-pilot, who you see as a ghostly visage a couple of times, has vanished after your ship has crash-landed and your mission is to find him. Where he has gone and exactly what you are looking for isn’t quite clear. The demo ends just as you find what appears to be a major story-related item, right after you dodge what seems like a boss character. Story is yet another area in which Anew appears to have a lot going for it. Once again, though, the final product will have to speak for itself.
If Anew: The Distant Light is a typical modern indie action game, then it will clock in at a dozen or maybe a dozen and a half hours of gameplay. The demo offers only twenty minutes worth, which means that there will be a lot more to the final product than we have gotten to see. How much fun will the exploration be in that final product? How far apart will the upgrades be spaced? Will there be puzzles to help space apart those upgrades? What type of enemy variety will be in the game? What will the boss battles be like? It is one thing to make a demo fun for a short time, and it is another thing entirely to make a good, balanced experience that can be fun from beginning to end. Resonator has accomplished the former. We’ll find out soon, hopefully very soon, whether they can accomplish the latter, too.