One of my favorite flash developers is Berzerk Studio, but I realize it's not necessarily a household name. I don't think Berzerk got as much recognition as it deserved. This team's signature style was to create gory, action-packed titles spanning a shockingly large amount of genres. One thing I appreciated about those games was the originality of each title, so I had hope that their latest game, a Metroidvania called Infernax, would be similar in that regard. After previewing Infernax, I can see some of the traits of the developer I fell in love with over a decade ago, but it doesn't feel like a fresh concept by any means.
Infernax Feels like Just Another Metroidvania
In Infernax, players take the role of a knight returning to his kingdom after a war. All is not well in the kingdom after untold horrors overtake it and plague the land. As this is a Metroidvania, you'll upgrade your character and traverse a sprawling map. After playing a slice of Infernax that lasted less than an hour, I'm having a hard time finding anything truly unique about this one. Metroidvanias are arguably one of the most popular genres from the last few years. Highly successful games like Hollow Knight and Axiom Verge are undeniably distinct and have a clear allure to them, be it through visual design, gameplay, or other factors.
Infernax, on the other hand, feels like just another entry in this genre. The gameplay is rather mundane, with combat amounting to mashing the attack button. You can crouch and jump while throwing out an attack, but this is expected in a game such as this. Later on in Infernax, I obtained a spell that conjured lightning, killing every enemy within my view. It's powerful, sure, but pressing a button and having everything magically die is uncompelling. I'd like to see more weapons and items to use in combat.
While there may be more abilities that provide a better combat experience, I didn't find anything like that in this preview. There are signs within the character menu that you'll get more weapons and abilities as you go on, and I would have liked to try out even one of those in this demo. There were items that provided passive effects such as a beefier set of armor; likewise, as you fight enemies they drop money that can be used to level up. You'll be able to level up and increase your damage or health, but as Berzerk states on their website even, this is "Using a revolutionary, or at least it was back in 1988, leveling system..." It's almost as though they admit it is incredibly outdated to have such a bare-bones system.
The art, on the other hand, is largely uninspired -- at least, it is for the overworld. The sprite work doesn't strike me as anything extraordinary. Though, there are clearly some talented artists behind this project, because in cutscenes and through character portraits, I was met with some very impressive scenes. This gory, Grimdark fantasy game shines when there's a brief cutscene before a boss fight. The same quality here is not as apparent when actually controlling and fighting said bosses. However, most deaths appear to yield unique death animations depending on what you were slain by, so I do appreciate that extra bit of work to make things exceptionally brutal -- dying to a boss is actually fun if anything to see what kind of sick animation results from it.
One other promising feature was a choice system. This is where Infernax actually has a chance to be unique. I came across a sickly man, and I could either pray for him or put him out of his misery. I opted for the former, being the kind soul that I am. It turns out, the merciful option was wrong. This man turned into a hideous monster that was as powerful as the other bosses I fought in this preview. I'd like to see a lot more of these instances thrown in the final version of Infernax because that sequence showed me there's potential for a bunch of different twists.
More and more Metroidvanias are coming out, and you're bound to come across more that are bland compared to those truly unique. A mediocre game can only entertain you so much, though. I truly hope to see more elements in Infernax to help it stand out. While this was an early Alpha build, this preview didn't make me feel like I wanted to play more -- and frankly, it probably wasn't the right time to show off the game. I do see the gory, yet quirky traits that I know Berzerk Studio loves to include in their games, so now it's time to add more of those player choices and make combat more compelling. After that, here's hoping Infernax can do something a little different. If anything, Berzerk Studio is capable of turning some heads.
TechRaptor previewed Infernax on Steam with a copy provided by the publisher. It launches February 14th on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, and Series S|X platforms.