Valdis Story: Abyssal City is a fun and challenging metroidvania type game. From that you should more or less know what to expect from this game, light RPG elements, 2D graphics, and a lot of backtracking. What’s interesting to note is that despite belonging to a sub-genre inundated with half-assed clones of great games, Valdis Story stands out by offering fluid character animations, at times infuriating boss fights, and a rich detail filled story.
The story of VSAC involves numerous characters attempting to navigate a lost ancient city in search of their fellow team members. The problem with this city is that it consists of numerous monster/danger filled areas, navigating through them isn’t without its difficulties. To sum up a long detail filled story, it can be summed up as a struggle between three different warring groups, humans, demons, and angels, attempting to ensure the success of their respective faction.
Despite being able to overly simplify this game’s main story, the dialogue, texts, and overall rich detail lets you know a lot of thought went into this game’s lore. You realize that events have occurred prior to the start of this game and that isn’t always the case with video games. It’s almost as if the past is just as important as the present in this game.
Honestly, this is all apparent as you play through the game, but at times its approach requires you to actively seek out texts/knowledge of the game’s lore. This isn’t too appealing to me, I’d rather just concentrate on the game-play and if something stood out to me, I’d look it up online. Who knows, maybe this is something you’re interested in so it’ll just contribute to your overall enjoyment of this game, but if it doesn’t, the game is diverse enough to keep you entertained.
Even though it’s a 2D side-scroller, VSAC’s artwork has its own style and is done in such a way that it flourishes in what can sometimes be viewed as a limiting medium. Right from the beginning of this game, through its different level backgrounds, and with its “cut-scenes” you can tell how colorful and different the artwork is. The cut-scenes mainly consist of still images, but a lot is able to be said through them.
These graphics are good not only because they stand out, but also because it doesn’t require too much hardware to run. I played most of this game with an i5-4590’s integrated graphics and besides a few moments of low FPS/stuttering, it was all good. The artwork is also showcased through the many different backgrounds/level designs that are found in VSAC, it just cements how diverse/variety filled this game is.
The level design in this game is noteworthy because very few of them look the same, they’re all more or less interconnected and they all offer a unique experience that greatly differs from what has been previously encountered. What’s also great about them is the different background music that’s played depending on which area you’re in. Some games have problems with this by having music that’s either too repetitive or intrusive. The thing about this music is that besides being diverse, it’s not distracting or boring, it just adds to the overall experience.
One thing that’s almost immediately noticeable about VSAC is the amount of variety that’s offered. Not only with the level design, but with the combat, magic system, enemies, and music. All of this is done in such a way that you can tell a lot of thought went into this game. I’m not exactly sure of what the other playable characters are capable of, due to having only played with the warrior class, but even with that one character there’s a lot of possibilities.
With the warrior class, your attacks primarily consist of sword combat that is easy to utilize, but difficult to master. The combat is difficult to master because it’s combo based and it’s to your advantage to create long chains of attacks. Not all combos you learn will work against every enemy you encounter so It takes a bit of practice/creativity, but the longer/more diverse your combos are, the more damage you will inflict. At the same time, trying to keep combos in mind isn’t always possible. At times, the combat becomes quite hectic and you will more or less end up button mashing in an attempt to overcome the situation at hand or you’ll stick to the combos that you feel work best, it can sometimes be repetitive.
Besides the basic sword attacks, you also have around five different types of magic that each consist of four individual spells. For the most part, this magic is used to heal, damage, and help you navigate through specific areas of the game. It may sound odd, but the usage of magic really helps when you’re playing as the warrior character. I endlessly found myself in situations where I had to rely on my spells to heal myself and it was invaluable when used as part of my combos against enemies.
At this point I’m sure that I’ve already mentioned how this game has variety in more ways than one, but this is also showcased through the enemies/bosses you encounter. Boss battles are an important part of this game and you will encounter many as you progress through it. It’s important to note that alongside being numerous, the bosses are also diverse. There are a slight amount of bosses that require you to beat them more than once, but they are all different. Not only through their appearance, but also with their attack patterns/damage they deal. Their attack patterns are important because through memorizing them, it’s how you determine the best way to beat the bosses.
For the most part, a lot of the bosses are easy to beat, but there are also some that require a bit of grinding to get through them and others are absolutely a pain in the ass. Two of the bosses in this game are the hardest I’ve dealt with in a long time, like near rage quit type hard. They reminded me of Orstein & Smough and it required that I change up my strategy to beat them along with many retries.
The difficult boss battles weren’t the only things that bothered me. Despite being a great game, it’s not perfect and I have a few complaints about it. I keep repeating myself by stating how diverse/variety filled this game is, but at times this variety isn’t really useful. The game has an item/crafting system, but overall it seems unnecessary. You can go through most of the game without needing extra items or armor and it’s only in extreme situations that you need to upgrade your gear/purchase something. I feel that it’s not as useful as it could be because most of the necessary items can be picked up/found as you traverse the many locations found in this game and your play-style can make having to upgrade your equipment unnecessary.
Speaking of many locations, there’s a lot to see/visit in this game. The problem with that is how once you’re done with these levels, you’ll still need to visit them because they are sometimes connected to other areas. My problem with this is that there’s no real fast travel system. There’s a tram system that will allow you to travel to the three main “towns” found in the game, but within those towns there are other areas that aren’t always near the tram system. It can get annoying having to travel long distances from location to location and it’s not always easy. It’s not easy to travel because the game lacks a large world map and it only has a map of the specific area you’re currently in. If the game had a large world map, I’m sure it would’ve been easier to locate/travel to the areas where you needed to be.
A continuation of the previously mentioned problem is not being clearly told what your objectives require of you. The game regularly updates a small message found within the map screen that lets you know what your current objective is, but the problem is that for this main objective to be completed, you will unknowingly have two or more smaller objectives to deal with. This can be problematic because it leads to a lot of back tracking that will just result in lost time until you figure out what you need to do.
One positive that can arise from the endless backtracking in this game is discovering how many optional areas there are. They’re done in such a way that it doesn’t feel like a half-assed attempt to add more playtime to the game. At the same time, I feel as if the inclusion of these optional areas can be problematic. Like most of the other areas found in this game, they consist of many enemies/bosses to kill. While this can be viewed as a good thing because it’ll lead to leveling up/finding rare items, I feel as if it’s counter-intuitive due to there being a low max level. I know that there has to be a max level because endless leveling up isn’t possible, but with the many possibilities for grinding, you’d think the max level would harder to reach.
I previously mentioned that this game’s character animations are quite fluid, but this really isn’t the case with all of the game’s controls and they’re not as smooth as they can be. Being a 2D metroidvania, you can expect for there to be quite a bit of platforming and by its very definition this will consist of a lot of jumping. However, in this game it lacks mobility and if timed incorrectly, it could lead to damage or unintentionally landing elsewhere. Along with the jumping, the dashing also wasn’t as smooth as it could be. Maybe the game’s designer(s) wanted to do something different, but other games have done a better job with the dashing mechanic. Most games will consist of rapidly pressing down twice in the direction you wish to dash, but in VSAC you either press down + the direction you want to dash to or precisely press down on the left/right+ down at the same time.
Overall, I enjoyed VSAC and recommend it. My complaints towards it aren’t awful and while slightly taking away from the experience, they don’t make the game unplayable, it’s still a worthwhile experience.