Valdis Story, by Endless Fluff Games, is a special gem. It is a deeply polished, successful game made by just a handful of people that blends influences from Castlevania, Megaman X and Maple Story. Basically, it’s a metroidvania RPG. It’s like a heaven/hell themed Megaman Zero.Its artfulness in mixing an ability to treat influences carefully and take the best elements from them while creating something new and very original is where the game shines brightest. In the end, much of the game shines bright, and this game has the right stuff to become the little sleeper hit of 2013 and 14 that hits the spot for both indie and hardcore gamers.
There are a few things to know about Valdis Story:
1) It’s fun. It’s super fun and it feels great.
The physics come directly from Megaman X — you are fast, everything is very smooth. You can construct solid melee combos. You can use magic. You can customize as you grow and specialize your stats to become like a mage/fighter/rogue. There are talent trees. Each character gets 4 weapons, so 4 kind of different combo styles.
2) The art is beautiful.
It looks even better animated. And it’s like that the whole way through. Every zone and every enemy looks great. Every boss looks great. The spells look great. The characters look great.
3) It’s super hard and really frustrating.
In a good way. You can select your difficulty, but platforming puzzles don’t scale with difficulty. So this game is not your entry level platforming RPG. A lot of the hardest things are very optional but you feel compelled to do them. For instance, getting S-RANK on the bosses is very hard and optional, but when accomplish it you get a big reward like a free skill point.
4) You can pick between four characters.
Wyatt, the gruff cool kid, and Reina your every day extremely responsible heroine. Vladyn, the next guy, is kind of like a cool nerd with demon stuff going on and the last one, Gilda, didn’t really strike my fancy but other people probably like her.
Each one has a number of different playstyles based on the weapon you pick and the skill tree you choose to invest in. Wyatt, for instance, can use a broadsword to play like a warrior, a bow and arrow alongside a dagger to play as more of a rogue, or a sword and shield. Reina is the monk and can fight with poles, fists or magic. Vladyn can use his pistols or his demon arm, and Gilda is your mage choice.
5) You really have to appreciate the amount of work the very small amount of developers did on this game.
The — just two — artists created not only every enemy and boss design and animation in the game (and the bosses are numerous, involved and unique — no cookie cutter bosses), they created the animations for every single main character. A lot of game players won’t fully appreciate how stunningly complete this game is for how few people made it. Taking just main characters, that’s like 14 spells, 20 different attack animations (5 for each weapon), running, that little slide thing when you’re running and you stop or change directions, etc. Per character. So four times that. Just for the characters! Can you imagine doing that? Can you imagine coding, in addition to everything else like the combo system and all the menus, 10 boss encounters with solid AI? All of this by yourself, because the coding on this project was done by just one guy. And then it comes out looking like a product like Megaman Zero which was made by 60 people (almost 6 times as many people).
6) The story blows super hard.
I mean the world itself is kind of interesting, and the heaven and hell theme is a great choice because the art is so good, but the characters’ backstories are kind of bland — protagonist is secretly half-demon, secretly an angel, struggles with being a demon, this kind of stuff. It’s just background noise, it’s not personal, the characters don’t have much growth and have kind of camp one-note personalities. There is a lot of lore and there are little backstories given to every character, so it definitely had solid effort, it’s just not an elevated kind of story that you care about. It’s very standard bland fantasy stuff.
Also, while the story scenes are well executed in a production quality sense, there is not much in the way of creative narrative design. Where in a game like Bioshock, Resident Evil or even Metroid you might find artifacts, notes or tapes around, here there are only dialog focused scenes. Which are good — but don’t really take advantage of any creative storytelling mechanics.
7) There are some really cool secret things if you explore and go out of your way.
Without spoiling things for instance, you can save a hidden town if you end up in the right place before a certain point in the story. Another example is that there are two bosses you can fight a couple of times and if you treat them right you can get a hidden fight where they team up against you. All in all, I would HIGHLY recommend this game to a person who plays indie games, hardcore games, sidescrollers or action RPGs. It’s a deeply impressive game, it’s engrossing. I would not recommend this game to someone who is new to games. The kinds of key mashing I was doing to get some of these harder treasures that require perfect movements… it is like playing a difficult song on piano. Anyway, check out VALDIS STORY: ABYSSAL CITY. You can get it on Steam for cheap.