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Valfaris Review

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On 11/16/2019 at 12:00 PM by Julian Titus

To quote Bill: This is me at my most masochistic.

For the hardest of the hardcore. Get good, noob.

I have a few questions for you. Do you consider yourself to be masochistic in your choice of games to play? Are you driven by a need to show your superiority over other players and scoff at them for not “getting good”? Has your quest for harder and harder games desensitized you to the point that it’s impossible for you to enjoy anything that isn’t actively trying to frustrate you? Well, you’re in luck, because have I got the game for you! Enter: Valfaris, a game so focused on punishing players that it forgets to be fun. Which, if you answered yes to the above questions should get you absolutely psyched, right?

Valfaris makes a great impression in a big way from the jump. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve grown tired of pixel-art games trying to emulate the 16-bit era, so it had better be something truly special for me to take notice. Valfaris is gritty and just a little rough, reminding me of certain Sega Genesis games like Doomtrooper or Vectorman. The screen is crammed with an amazing attention to detail, and a relentlessly thumping metal soundtrack completes the mood. One has only to pick up the first weapon and see our intrepid anti-hero Therion bang his head to know what Valfaris is all about, and from minute one I was totally on board.

At its core, this is a run and gun shooter that borrows heavily from side-scrollers of the 8 and 16 bit days; enemies are fast and plentiful, jumps require precision and split second timing, and nearly everything on the screen has been placed to kill you, most gruesomely. Make no mistake: Valfaris is a tough, tough game, and I found myself enjoying pushing my skills to the test. It’s been a long time since I played something as intense as this, and I couldn’t help but pat myself on the back at times. “I’ve still got it,” I would think to myself. Oh, what a fool I was!

As the game progressed, small things that were minor inconveniences during the early stages began to compound on themselves exponentially, until I stopped having fun with Valfaris and began to dread moving forward. This is an adventure that expects absolute perfection from the player, but I have never played games in order to achieve that level of mastery. While I understood from the outset that I was in for a challenge there came a point where the game seemed almost gleeful in its efforts to screw me over at every turn. Enemies do an absurd amount of damage. Precision platforming is an absolute requirement, but Therion has a pathetic jump that is spotty even in the best of times. Hit detection is so sporadic that at times I thought there were some behinds the scenes dice rolls occurring to determine if I took damage or not.

Allow me to expand on this situation with a boss encounter that I must have tried close to fifty times. This particular enemy has a rail gun with a bit of a charge up before it fires. But the hit box for the blast seemed to vary wildly; there were times where I’d take damage when dodging and other times where it would totally miss me. Again, Therion’s paltry jumping ability was of little help, and the boss constantly summons insects that can kill Therion in a second or two if the player isn’t careful. The boss can also teleport in a huge cloud of corpse flies which, you guessed it, can do big damage to you and is incredibly difficult to avoid. Oh, and he also causes rocks to fall from the ceiling, but there is no way to tell when one is about to drop on you, and I had about a 50/50 chance of knocking them out of the air with my melee attack.

I fought this guy so many times, having to play perfectly, because Valfaris won’t let you get by on anything less. When I finally managed to kill this boss he exploded in a flurry of corpse flies that, yep, killed me instantly. It took me a handful more attempts to kill him again, and the next room has a health pickup sitting on an electrified platform that killed me because I was still coming down from the adrenaline surge of finally passing such a hurdle. I wanted to spike my controller into the TV; I could almost feel the game flipping me the bird.

Now, I have to say that triumphing over challenges that at first glance seemed impossible filled me with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that few other games have given me. Since the only upgrades Therion earns come in the way of new weapons that can be augmented, this game really comes down to learning the ins and outs of how it plays and then playing it flawlessly. And that would be much easier for me to swallow if the game felt as precise as it expects of the player, but that just isn’t the case here. In addition to the aforementioned issues with hit detection and jumping, Therion just feels slow and sluggish, his melee animation has a long start up, and you are only invulnerable after taking a hit for a fraction of a second, leading to multiple situations where he just gets chewed up in no time. I was begging for a double jump or a dodge roll, or even just for my character to move about twenty percent faster, but by the end my frustration with Valfaris outstripped my enjoyment of it.

For four hours I was having an absolute blast playing Valfaris. Unfortunately, the game went on for another five hours after that; five hours of pure frustration. I made it to the final boss and decided I had had enough. I’m not a masochistic speed-runner that can’t derive enjoyment from a game unless it’s actively trying to make me throw my controller, but if that’s your thing you’ll have a fantastic time here. I absolutely loved this game for the first half, and the second half slowly turned that love into unmitigated hatred. I guess I’m not good enough for Valfaris, and that’s fine by me.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.




11/17/2019 at 08:44 PM

It really annoys me that games with such a great art style are also so tough you can't beat them. It's like watching a great movie that shuts off near the final scene. 

Matt Snee Staff Writer

11/19/2019 at 10:49 AM

some gamers are insane. But hey, everybody's got their own taste. Tongue Out

Casey Curran Staff Writer

03/26/2020 at 04:58 PM

After seeing all of Nick's Mario Maker 2 videos, this sounds like his dream game.

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