How Metroidvania is it? Perfect Fit. Feudal Alloy is a pure dungeon exploration game with ability gating. It doesn’t get much more ''Metroidvania'' than that.
Primary Challenge: Melee Combat
Time to beat: ~8 hours
Review Info: The Steam review code for Feudal Alloy was provided by the Publisher
Buy Feudal Alloy if you like…
- Quirky Robot Design
- Renaissance Medieval Music
- Crunchy Robot Crushing Combat
- Interesting exploration
- Murdering fish
▼ Review continues below ▼
If you’re in the mood for a good ol’ dungeon crawl with a Metroidvania flair, Feudal Alloy is an excellent choice. It combines some familiar mechanics that have developed over the years and removes most of the frustration that often comes attached to them, creating a comfortable, yet still challenging experience. It may not be as packed with content as some of its competition, but if you will allow yourself to be lulled by its renaissance style lute music and crunchy combat, you’ll find a completely worthwhile and relaxing game to spend some time with.
I use the word “crunch” to describe combat often. What I usually mean is that combat has weight. It has a grit, or realism to it which usually equates to tension and thus excitement. When I use the word “crunch” with Feudal Alloy, I also mean it in the completely literal sense. When you hit enemies with your sword in this game they make a crashing sound like you’re hitting an aluminum garbage can with a baseball bat, and it never stops being satisfying. Most enemies take numerous hits to destroy, and in a one-on-one situation, the smaller enemy types can be locked into position while you dismantle them. But while you have the power to combo them, you too are standing still, so as your foes swarm together you have to tactically weave between them (and through them) in order to survive. You also have to judge how much your robot is overheating, since each swing causes your body to put off more heat. The mechanic functions similarly to the Stamina system from Souls-like games, except you can drink potions to momentarily freeze your robot and swing infinitely while it lasts. Feudal Alloy doesn’t have a ton of enemy types, but because of the nuanced combat there were so many ways the different enemies could be applied that it remains fun and challenging from start to finish.
I understand that I have to be careful when I make comparisons to “Souls-like” games since that genre is so often equated with rock hard difficulty. While Feudal Alloy’s slow potion drinking and “stamina” mechanics are similar, that’s about where the comparisons end. Dying loses you basically nothing – not even map progress or the items you find – which works very well with its Metroidvania design. This allows you to focus on the game’s exploration completely without feeling like you’ve killed your progress by a simple mistake. This isn’t to say that the game is easy – it’s certainly challenging, especially in its gauntlet rooms and with its two expertly crafted bosses. But its engagement comes from discovery rather than high-octane tension. Both are things that I enjoy a lot, but for those that prefer the former, Feudal Alloy may fill a gap that games that try to do both could not.
For a game that uses discovery as its strongest feature, level design is key, and Feudal Alloy is very much a winner in that category. Areas loop in on themselves creating shortcuts as new zones become available. While there aren’t a ton of different background assets to behold, the layout of the game’s rooms are memorable anyway, just because of clever construction. For a large portion of the game the discovery of treasure also feels needful and rewarding too. By the time your coffers are too full of scrap for you to find anything useful, the end of the game becomes available to you any time you feel it’s time to say farewell.
Which leads me to addressing one aspect of Feudal Alloy that may be a sticking point for some people. I firmly believe that most of what Feudal Alloy does is close to perfect, but it just feels like there’s not enough of it. By the time I reached the final boss I was so overpowered that the game kind of went out with a whimper rather than a bang. I don’t think it would have been appropriate for the game to have an overblown epic climax, but I also feel like for the game to really reach for that “best” category of games, it needs to do more to complete the loop of satisfaction. One of the ways that it could accomplish this is through its story. This is part of what makes Super Metroid so memorable – those scripted events that occur in its final moments are ingrained in gaming culture as a whole. For Feudal Alloy, while the quirky fish-controlled robot thing is amusing, it also kind of feels like it’s the only thing that provides character to the experience. The only NPCs you interact with are the shopkeepers, and they just sort of quietly grind their gears while you peruse their wares. You also never really get to feel anger toward the punks that kick off the game’s plot because you’re never given any reason to be invested in the thing you’re protecting. Gameplay is the most important thing in any Metroidvania, and Feudal Alloy manages to carry itself on gameplay alone – this is a good thing. But to be at the top a game also needs an Arc.
I also feel compelled to take a few sentences to critique the game’s stat system. I very much appreciate the simplicity of it. Instead of being bogged down with numbers that go up to 100 with diminishing returns, everything is kept pretty vague. A sword can give “Two dots” of damage, and also “one dot” of improved cooldown or increased HP. It would be a quality of life improvement if you could see what your gear did without de-equipping them, but that’s a minor gripe. My issue with it is that it’s mostly differences in scale. You have a talent tree that is effectively the same as changing equipment – your selections just increase your stats in the same way. Each tree has maybe one or two talents that actually affect how you play, but mostly you’re deciding “Do I want more Attack, Defense, or Stamina?” And this is where the simplicity becomes a little shallow, because the choice – at least to me – is pretty obvious. If you get hit, you can drink potions. It may not always be easy to do so, but it’s always an option. If you’re running out of stamina, you can drink a potion and make it so stamina is completely irrelevant. I always had enough money to stay pretty well stocked on both potion types, especially since the game gives a bunch just from the exploration. So the only thing you can’t just inject yourself with is damage, and so stacking damage becomes the dominant strategy. It’s still rewarding to get level-ups as a reward for killing enemies, but there’s certainly a lot of room to make it much more interesting. With that said, I do want to stress that the gameplay still remains challenging and engaging even if its stat system is more of a formality rather than an avenue for player expression (outside of fashion souls of course.)
I think if you go into Feudal Alloy looking for a long and robust campaign with a ton of bosses to face and a deep character system to exploit, you’re going to be disappointed. But if you enjoy a good Metroidvania dungeon crawl, and especially enjoy the idea of a sidescrolling RPG that isn’t too punishing, I think Feudal Alloy hits all the right marks. The level design is top-notch, and its presentation put me in a good mood for its entire playtime.
Hitting robots has crunchy sound that's sort of like whapping a baseball bat against a garbage can, and it never gets old
Some very good tricky spots here and there to mix up the gameplay, but never reaches the heights of the genre
The level design is top-notch, even if at a certain point the rewards for exploration becomes redundant
Some puzzle platformish stuff, but really not a focus
Very basic, and doesn't really do a great job driving the player. Thankfully the gameplay more than makes up for it
Fantastic hand-drawn aesthetic that really shows how theming can really make a game feel unique
Phat Lute music adds a relaxing atmosphere to the game. Might get old for some
Not a ton of post game content and no real reason to play again to try different builds.
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