Metroidvania games have sort of become a staple in the industry over the last few years, especially among indie developers. So that means when one impresses you enough to warrant mentioning, it’s because it is doing something very right. That feels like the case with Anew: The Distant Light, a Metroidvania title that blew me away at PAX East 2019.
Coming from a small, two person team of developers, Anew already would have been impressive given its visual polish and quality. But then the gameplay continued to show that the game is not just another Metroidvania. Featuring slow paced exploration, the PAX demo was more linear than the final game will be, according to art, sound, and story developer Jeff Spoonhower.
Even with this linearity, guiding me through the cavernous levels of Anew, the game shined. Enemies were interesting and varied, the levels introduced new mechanics that fit with Metroidvania expectations while building upon them. And overall the game just evoked that feeling you expect from the genre; that you are alone on an alien world, struggling to survive while upgrading your abilities to deal with new threats and challenges.
Anew: The Distant Light felt like a refinement and exploration of the potential for the genre
It’s tough to nail down exactly why Anew stood out among the indie crowd at PAX, but it certainly did. The art was a big part of it, featuring some really amazing visuals that you can check out in the trailer below. It was also just refreshing to play a game with this much style and focus on what it wants to be. This feels very much like a Metroid game, but with new visionaries at the helm. Fans of Nintendo’s venerable series will want to keep a close eye on Anew: The Distant Light.
But that’s not to say that Anew doesn’t host new and fresh ideas. Just in the demo it was clear that this was going to offer some very different things for the genre. I’d spent the majority of the demo fighting to survive against swarms of foes, so it was ridiculously satisfying to hop into a giant mech and mow tons of them down. This section was limited, of course, so I was back on my feet soon, but the break was a great way to keep things feeling satisfying.
And then a second vehicle came into play that altered the formula once again. Using lock-on missiles, it had solid firepower, but wasn’t as hefty as the mech. While it was tough to get the hang of the controls, that’s something that will likely be ironed out closer to release. In the demo, it was just fun to drive around firing off rockets at enemies and switches.
But the core is all Metroidvania, with all the jetpack, walljump, and weapon upgrades you expect. Anew: The Distant Light felt like a refinement and exploration of the potential for the genre. But we’ll have to wait and see if that all holds up in the full game which is coming to PC and consoles in early 2020.