Indie video game developers, more so than any other force in the industry, have a passion for merging genres and concepts together, creating for a strange union of exciting ideas. Vagante, developed by Nuke Nine, is yet another game to fall into this category. Vagante, however, borrows from a pedigree so refined, that it results in a game that feels as if its clear influences have elevated it, making for an indie game – in Early Access at that – which has positioned itself to potentially be remembered alongside the likes of The Binding of Issaac and Spelunky.
The mention of Spelunky here is important to make note of. Vagante, perhaps more so than any other game, wears its Spelunky love on its sleeve. Even on the game’s wiki, Vagante is sold to readers by asking them to “imagine Spelunky with RPG elements!” The influence of Spelunky on Vagante’s core mechanics and overall gameplay is clear at once, however, Vagante’s fantasy-inspired art, character designs and RPG elements manage to push the game into an area where the comparison and influence is there, but not the only thing worth talking about.
Vagante allows players to pick from one of three classes when the game begins. The classes represent fantasy tropes – there is the Knight, a master of offensive, close quarters combat, the Mage who excels in ranged combat, and the Rogue, a mix-up character with both close and ranged options. Players select a character and enter the mouth of a strange cave, the only constant from that moment onward being the unknown.
Once entering the cave and beginning your exploration of the environments, Vagante becomes more exciting and intimidating to the player. The game’s art, even for an Early Access game, is astounding. Vagante’s visuals have the kind of polish and attention to detail which assert that the game’s art was always a core aspect in creating the game. The crispness of the pixel graphics is of the utmost importance to the player in Vagante, because they allow the player to see what is going on despite the relatively diminutive size of your selected character.
Relatively speaking, you yourself are not small in Vagante, but rather the camera perspective is slightly further out than similar games. This can take some getting used to, but ultimately gives the player a sense of scope in their exploration. The more you move around, the longer you survive, the more you see all help paint a picture of a massive – and deadly – network of mysterious caverns and the secrets they hold.
Exploration is done by controlling your selected character and climbing, leaping and falling throughout the cavern’s chambers. Ladders, platforms and outcroppings create for an environment that begs for exploration, encouraging the player to attempt to reach new heights and locations across the randomly generated map.
Looking before you leap is a virtue best remembered when playing Vagante, however. Each area is littered with spiked traps, arrow-shooting devices and pressure plates that will unleash a deadly boulder from above if they are disturbed.
In addition to the myriad traps that seek to end your journey, Vagante’s levels are filled with enemies of all shapes and sizes that will slay your hero. To survive against these foes, mastering the surprisingly deep combat system in the game is a necessity.
Vagante features a system that implements actual attack animations during combat, allowing for strategic hits and daring dodges. At first, getting comfortable with combat can be a challenge, but after a handful of deaths, players can expect to find themselves pushing forward at foes, retreating backwards for a better position, and leaping away from an enemy’s attack. Mastering – or at least getting comfortable with – Vagante’s combat and platforming elements creates for a dynamic experience with each new journey.
Challenge persists throughout Vagante, thanks largely to the numerous traps and enemies littered throughout any given area, but the game is never unfairly difficult. Yes, there will be times when you die moments into a level, but this misfortune is almost always the direct result of the player foolishly leaping or setting off a trap. Caution is rewarded and should always bee kept in mind.
Aiding in your survival are the role-playing elements of Vagante. Players gain experience which in turn allows them to level up the various skills of their character. Knights, for example, can choose to upgrade their defensive skill, granting them the ability to block incoming attacks. Similar perks are gained by increasing the stats of other categories, encouraging player experimentation to find what works best for them.
Even in its Early Access stage, Vagante is a game that warrants the attention of those looking for a title with hybrid gameplay mechanics. Platforming, combat, and strategy all currently work well in Vagante, making this game’s future look bright. Vagante is currently available on Steam and a downloadable demo can be found on the game’s official website.
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