Afterimage is a visually stunning 2D Metroidvania coming to PC, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PS4 and PS5. Funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, the game is developed by Aurogon Shanghai and published by Modus Games. Afterimage provides a gorgeous hand-drawn world to explore, as well as many challenging opponents to defeat. It isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you’re a fan of difficult-yet-rewarding Metroidvania titles like Hollow Knight and Aeterna Noctis, then Afterimage is definitely going to be up your alley.
In Afterimage, you play as Renee, a young woman who has been chasing after her mentor who is researching the mysterious calamity which almost wiped out humanity. As she journeys through the world of Engardin, she encounters various helpful NPCs and powerful enemies via which she obtains better equipment and new abilities to get around.
Gameplay is fairly standard 2D Soulslike/Metroidvania fare, with the player steadily unlocking new movement abilities, such as double jumping and air dashing, to access new areas. Not unlike Hollow Knight, your map is only updated when you rest at save points, making each new area a voyage into the unknown until you can properly map out your surroundings and make it back to safety. Dying leaves you respawning at the last save point, and you can regain your lost experience by returning to where you last died. Save points are very far apart, fast travel requires a limited resource, and you have only one measly use of the healing spell to start with, so the opening hours can be a gruelling experience at times.
At the very least you are provided sufficient tools to keep you alive in Afterimage. Many types of weapons, from whips to greatswords to scythes, can be found in chests and dropped from enemies. Renee also can cast offensive magic spells via acquired spellbooks, providing her with ranged options. By spending talent points, you can improve Renee’s passive stats and unlock new attacks for each weapon type. Combat can feel a little clunky at first, with some weapon types completely changing their attack properties in mid-air and many useful mobility options only becoming available a few hours in. However, once you have settled into the enemy attack patterns and gained some new abilities, the gameplay becomes somewhat more manageable.
That said, it is not so bad that the game includes so much backtracking, as that at least provides plenty of time to appreciate the lovely hand-drawn environments and amazing soundtrack. Engardin is a wonderfully diverse setting, presenting a variety of biomes, from verdant fields to fungus-infested caves, and all of them are incredibly detailed. The character animation is particularly worth mentioning, from Renee’s flowing robes and attack animations to the elegant and fearsome enemies and bosses.
Afterimage might not be for everyone; even for a veteran of other challenging Soulslikes, Afterimage’s stinginess with resources and save points comes across as particularly punishing. Without any difficulty options or easy ways of getting from point A to B aside from travelling there on foot, players without much of a tolerance for backtracking and slogging their way through the same enemies to get back to a tough boss fight will find the level of difficulty somewhat impenetrable. But for those seeking a challenge and with a preference for gorgeous art direction, Afterimage is certainly one to keep on your radar.