Feudal Alloy Review – Humble ambitions sadly unplugged

Platforms:
Microsoft WindowsNintendo SwitchPlaystation 4Xbox OneMacLinux
Released:
January 18, 2019
Publisher:
Attu Games
Developer:
Attu Games

Review

Attu Games’ Feudal Alloy follows a humble little robot with a fish in its head named ‘Attu’. It lives a simple life as a village farmer, tending to the veteran-aquatic-robot folk and learning about their war stories.  As the player and Attu quickly learn, the indie-platformer is not much more than an average game full of imaginative art and ideas.

A group of bandits attack the otherwise quiet town, stealing valuable oil and harming the village foundations. Attu decides to take up the mantle and recover the stolen goods. The bandits escape to the unforgiving wilderness, where Attu’s mission begins. A worn sword in one hand and a whole lot of ambition in the other, the journey is tough and hostile for the ‘robot that could’.

“…traversing ravenous lands and caverns, discovering new items to upgrade equipment, to eventually return home in triumphant glory.”

From here, the player takes control of Attu, traversing ravenous lands and caverns, discovering new items to upgrade equipment, to eventually return home in triumphant glory. It’s a simple story that serves its purpose, and not much more.

Don’t expect in-depth lore or twists and turns around each corner. It is a little disheartening to not learn how or why this medieval universe is populated with machinery controlled by goldfish, however. Feudal Alloy’s narrative is light, yet leaves room for its main features – the gameplay and art.

The art style is immediately striking. Hand drawn aesthetic of the medieval junk-bots and environments are charming and inventive.  Even the user interface has a delicate storybook look, akin to a Dr Seuss picture book.

Regardless, environments and enemies end up feeling quite repetitive. A simple colour palette swap or diverse features seems like a simple fix. Attu’s appearance changes as the player finds new equipment, something that may make each adversary feel individual, too. Regardless, there isn’t really another indie-title that looks as quirky as Feudal Alloy.

Initially, the player is thrown straight into the game following the prologue. A fair bit of playing around is required to fully understand the mechanics. Slowly more is understood about the Attu’s nuances and foes. Be aware, this Metroidvania doesn’t hand-hold. It can be devilishly hard and the lack of guidance leaves it feeling unpleasantly difficult at times.

There isn’t much more than a simple ‘keep moving to the right’ platformer ideal to direct the player. Encountering consistent dead ends and backtracking can easily confuse players not paying much attention. Occasionally, a boss fight or new NPC usually helps indicate the right direction. Metroidvanias are known for retracing steps and returning to earlier areas for reward and progression. Feudal Alloy misses the mark by simply making navigation pointless, with no defined goal to each area beside ‘move to the next’.

Controlling Attu is textbook for a platformer. Jumping from ledge to ledge feels accurate and striking enemies is gratifying. Crossing through caves, finding hidden treasures, and revealing alternate routes is delightfully satisfying. Despite the simplicity of combat, it’s amusing to tear apart the mechanical evil and collect the scrap metal from their lifeless junk-corpses.

Attu consumes oil and liquid nitrogen to refill health and maximise stamina, respectively. These pickups are abundant across the world and are critical to success. The annoying nitrogen mechanic is vital, restricting Attu from hacking-and-slashing endlessly. Some players will find overwhelming gangs of angry bandit robots require a lot of these aids on hand. When locked in an arena or fighting a powerful foe, overheating after three or four swings of a sword is cumbersome and frustrating.

After death, Attu returns to the previous save point, with no replenishment of supplies. Similarly, the items don’t respawn in the world. It becomes harder and harder to proceed as a player dies multiple times and consumes all their oil and nitrogen. It’s a detrimental design flaw that will most likely turn off players looking for a fun experience rather than a challenge.

The Bottom Line

Attu Games clearly have strength in creativity. This medieval platformer about a goldfish-controlled hero and mechanical bandits presents inspirational concepts and art in an unfortunately tedious and flawed fashion. Though, I have hope for future projects from this group. Learning from past mistakes, working on what wires connect and which end in Error 404 codes, Attu Games can really develop something quirky and fun to play. Feudal Alloy just isn’t quite that.

Feudal Alloy is available now on Switch and PC and releasing soon on PS4 and Xbox One.