Indie games are typically low risk, high reward in terms of return on what you spend. The best indie games give an unforgettable experience that you can’t help but share with others by word of mouth. Bad indie games are forgettable and typically a dime a dozen. In 2019, developers Steel Mantis and Stage Clear Studios teamed up with publishers Big Sugar and Merge Games to release Valfaris for the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. This love letter to 80s metal, gore, and platforming is one of the best games released in the last ten years. We’re head banging in this Valfaris review!
“After mysteriously vanishing from galactic charts, the fortress of Valfaris has suddenly reappeared in the orbit of a dying sun. Once a self-contained paradise, the grandiose citadel now plays host to an ever-growing darkness. Therion, a fearless and proud son of Valfaris, returns to his home to uncover the truth of its doomed fate and to challenge the arcane evil at its very heart.”
My Valfaris review starts with a crash landing. Therion is our hero in this game but he’s not alone. He has a helpful A.I. partner that appears digitally at save points and gives insight. After the crash on Valfaris, Therion learns that his home planet is rotting from the inside out. As the son of King Vroll, leader of Valfaris he is concerned with the current state of the planet. He decides to venture deeper into the planet and find the source of this corrupt power. Therion enters power chamber factories that were once used to harness the power of the nearby sun but it’s become overrun with alien creatures, and evil soldiers. He learns that two leaders are running the factories still and decides to meet them to discover what’s going on.
Therion defeats the two leaders of the factory but has learned that his father betrayed the planet of Valfaris and started the infection that is rotting the planet and its habitants of it. Therion disturbs the crypt of his brother Itnan and it’s revealed that the two have long had bad blood. King Vroll felt threatened by his own son, Itnan, and had him exiled deep within the planet. Itnan tells Therion that King Vroll is no more and that Therion should not have come back to Valfaris before attacking him. The two brothers battle it out with Therion killing Itnan.
Realizing that Valfaris is a lost cause, Therion decides to travel back to the surface. Fighting through giant worm tunnels, the infectious bacteria that has ruined Valfaris is everywhere. At the surface, Therion meets Furrok, King Vroll’s most trusted General. He reveals that King Vroll’s obsession with draining the sun of energy pulled Valfaris into a void that caused the bacteria to infect the planet. While Therion curses his father and labels him a dishonorable man, Furrok says that he now serves the new king of Valfaris and that he has ordered Furrok to kill Therion. Therion defeats Furrok and confronts the new king who is severely corrupted by the bacteria.
The new king transforms into a multi-headed dragon and Therion defeats him. Begging to be slain to set him free, Therion grants the king his wish and decapitates him. With Valfaris a lost cause, Therion flies away toward the void. He asks his A.I. partner to start scanning for traces of King Vroll. The A.I. responds she has found his trace on nine different planets and Therion begins plotting courses.
I liked that during my Valfaris review, there was a light plot that wasn’t too complicated or overdone. With a game that features such great gameplay, you don’t need a heavy plot. Valfaris adds just enough story and characters to keep you interested but the attraction to Valfaris is its incredible gameplay.
My Valafaris review wasn’t a long one, my run through the game took about 10 hours. Let’s first go over one of the best things about Valfaris, the soundtrack. It’s nothing but headbanging metal and it fits the entire game perfectly. One of the best things during my Valfaris review was when you obtained a new weapon. Therion would start headbanging in excitement and the music got cranked up.
Right from the beginning, Valfaris felt like a video game. I need this, I need to be distracted from how terrible this world is and I love games that do this. Most of the time I prefer to play a game that is fantastical or full of demons. I don’t need to be reminded of how crappy our world is and Valfaris for 10 hours took me to another world and a kick-ass world at that.
Valfaris’s combat is quick and deadly. You’ll kill your enemies quickly but they will kill you just as fast. Most of the game is run-and-gun action like an old-school Contra but some enemies require a bit more thought than pointing a gun and shooting at them. There’s wildlife that will jump around or charge at you. Soldiers may have shields while others are drones coming from a small base nearby that needs to be destroyed. All enemies are crafted with thought and all explode into guts and blood when killed.
To kill my enemies in my Valfaris review, I had numerous weapons at my disposal. There was a pistol weapon that I used most of the time because of the infinite ammo. Once I sighted it with a laser it was my favorite weapon to use. You’ll be able to collect various pistols that each do their own unique attacks like honing bullets, flames, or longer range. The next weapon is the power attack. These range from big missiles to huge bullets but the catch is that whenever you use the power attacks it drains your energy bar. The energy bar is attached to your shield. You can throw up your shield whenever you wish to absorb bullets and if you time it just right you can launch attacks back at your enemies. If you have no energy you won’t be able to use your shield or use your power attacks.
The last weapon in my Valfaris review is the melee attack. These are swords, axes, and limbs. Yes, you read that right, you eventually tear off a monster limb and use it to beat others senselessly or poison them. There are little tokens throughout your playthrough that will level up the weapons. Collecting tokens and finding which weapons suit you best is key for advancing through challenging levels.
Speaking of challenges, Valfaris set out checkpoints perfectly. You won’t go two or three minutes without running into one and while that seems short, you’ll need them as Valfaris can crank up the difficulty. It’s nice to know you’re never too far away from a checkpoint, especially when facing deadly swarms of enemies.
Graphically, Valfaris looks like it comes from the 16-bit era. I loved the retro feel of this run-and-gun game. Games don’t need to look realistic or have the best graphics to be fun. Valfaris sets the bar for indie games in terms of maximizing what you’re working with.
Another huge perk to my Valfaris review was all the boss fights. They are unique, challenging, addicting, and fun. There’s a strategy best suited for each boss and sometimes I learned it right away and other times I had to fight them five or six times before learning what to do. I didn’t mind dying because the fights were so fun and I knew I’d be able to win eventually. The final boss I must have fought close to 60 times. It took me two hours of straight respawning right before the fight to figure him out. I came so close numerous times and when I finally pulled it off it was so satisfying. The final boss is a perfect example of fun and addicting gameplay, dying was part of the fun and learning process.
I’m not really sure how I discovered Valfaris but I had been eyeing it for a while. Once it arrived at my doorstep it didn’t take long for me to play as opposed to other games in my collection. I beat it within a week. It was so great and I remember thinking “whoa” almost the entire time from the headbanging music, and gnarly gore, to the tough bosses. What a ride!
Valfaris Review Score:
Right from the start of the game, Valfaris is special. From the incredible heavy metal to the boss fights that are challenging and addicting, to the small details to Therion headbanging when he finds a new weapon. Valfaris isn’t only a hidden gem, it’s a masterpiece. Pick this up as soon as possible and see for yourself.
Valfaris scores a 10 out of 10.
What would you write in your Valfaris review? What are some other hidden gem indie games? Who was your favorite boss in Valfaris? Let me know your thoughts and comments on Valfaris, I’d love to read them.