Metroidvaniesque: Nuclear Dawn Devs Reveal Dark Matter

For all its potential for mechanical variation, the Metroidvania is an oddly static form. I mean, we get these sprawling, multi-mansion maps, yet it’s always the same formula: start off essentially naked (or in Hell Yeah‘s case, literally naked), find item X, get past door Y, etc. There’s some exploration, sure, but the good stuff’s always gated by unflinching steel progress walls. InterWave, meanwhile, doesn’t even want people to refer to Dark Matter as a Metroidvania – possibly for that very reason. So instead, the Nuclear Dawn creator’s billing its second project as a “side-scrolling exploration and combat game” with a focus on survival-horror, AI, adventure game elements, and crafting – among other genre-benders.

That certainly looks nice enough, but it’s just basic flyby. I’m interested in seeing how in-depth the light/dark and enemy AI systems really go, but for now, InterWave’s impressively bold words are all we have to go on.

“Long gone are the days of enemies suddenly gushing out gold coins and serviceable weapons, as are gone the days of dumb, repeating movement patterns. We’re taking a dynamic AI approach to controlling enemies in Dark Matter, which makes for some unique combat. Some creatures will shy from the light, others will be attracted to it. Wounded enemies will retreat, to bring you in harm’s way as you pursue them, and larger enemies will require some precise tactics, if you’re planning to do anything but get eaten by them.”

So basically, enemies aren’t just speed bumps on the road to your shiny new ice laser that fires double jumps and vials of holy water. Moment-to-moment combat actually matters. InterWave elaborated: “Prioritizing your targets, using the right weapon for the job, picking the best ammo for each enemy, those are the things that will get you through the game, if we don’t manage to scare you to death first, of course. Which we’ll also be trying to do.”

There’s some powerful ambition lurking in this one’s shadows, to be sure. I’m skeptical as to whether complex, AI-driven combat can work under the side-scrolling constraints of a Metroidvania-ish world, but I’m definitely pulling for it. I mean, honestly, the sub-genre hasn’t felt particularly fresh in years. But hey, Nuclear Dawn certainly mashed up genres – in its case, FPS and RTS – well enough, and it didn’t even have razzle dazzle crazy future space lights. So InterWave’s as good of a bet as anybody, I think. Or hope, anyway.


  1. f1x says:

    Sort of a creepy shadow complex? could be nice, at the moment the pacing seems a bit slow tho but its just an alpha,
    also for being an alpha I suppose they will improve on that characther model / animations

    • Chaz says:

      Speaking of which, are we ever going to get a sequel to Shadow Complex, as that was a pretty damn good game?

      • killuminati says:

        I’d love a sequel to Shadow Complex still one of the best Arcade game I had on the 360.
        This game looks good on charts but the animationa re so.. so awful I just hope it is a alpha thing that will be changed in the future :/

    • Phantoon says:

      Yes, I was just about to say that. This doesn’t even fit in the same genre if you’re going to move that slow the entire game, or be unable to run while shooting.

      Could be interesting. Could be what Lone Survivor failed to be- a fun, actual game.

  2. yurusei says:

    What Matters is that shiny new ice lazor.

  3. rustybroomhandle says:

    I want to see a game like Nexus on the C64 done like this.

  4. PC-GAMER-4LIFE says:

    Looks okish but the complex control panel which pops up looks like a game breaker why not just simple puzzles.

  5. SkittleDiddler says:


  6. Archipelagos says:

    Gotta say, quite digging the look of that.

  7. gravity_spoon says:


  8. Kefren says:

    Time to crate: 2:09

  9. mr.ioes says:

    I’d prefer they’d fix the lack of players in nuclear dawn. The main reason I deinstalled it couple of weeks ago was that it felt so sad seing this wonderful game struggling to get 1 server full.


    • Brise Bonbons says:

      Not really much they can do about it, especially with Natural Selection 2 out and probably pulling from the same (limited) player pool.

      It’s unfortunate, but I think there are certain genres which developers will just have to swear off for a while – team shooters being a prime example. What with a new one seemingly coming out every week, and the minor detail that they rely on an active community to be usable, it just does not look like a market that is easy to launch into these days.

      • Baines says:

        If they are attempting to work on interesting AI, then maybe they’ve realized that there are (and have been for quite a while) more online multiplayer games than there are people to support them.

  10. dethtoll says:

    I’m in.

  11. mikmanner says:

    I don’t know how you’d make a Metroidvania-type without the ability unlocks which enable you to get to new areas. If everything was just open from the start it’d be really difficult to turn it into anything other than a maze.

    Imagine Knytt Stories but where you start with all the powers, it’d make the game a platformer treasure hunt, instead of well, a gated platformer treasure hunt.

    Maybe some of Dishonored’s ideas could be used for an ungated Metroidvania, turn the progress gates into choices?

    • InternetBatman says:

      Wouldn’t that be a Valley without Wind?

    • Baines says:

      Hrm… Possible ways…

      Difficulty of traversal. Everywhere is theoretically reachable from the start, if the player is skilled, knowledgeable, and lucky enough to manage. Ability upgrades are not a necessity, but instead act as aids to reduce the required skill levels. A lava room that appears impassable without extra life or heat shielding is actually also passable with suicidal persistence, though you’ll find yourself near death in a potentially enemy infested area on the other side. Think Dark Souls in regards to enemies. Think of how bomb jumping in Metroid let you theoretically scale any height, though the game only expected you to use easier alternatives. With Mega Man, all stages outside of Wily’s castle are beatable at the start, but abilities and items earned from some stages can make traversing and beating other stages easier. Or think of low item Metroid runs, and how if the game gave you certain key items from the start, a good player could make a straight run with no more pickups.

      Instead of ability upgrades, have ability side-grades. You can start a character with a variety of items, but no set will trivialize every possible challenge. The player can gain new abilities, but only at the cost of old abilities. Maybe getting a grapple beam means you lose your high jump. Or maybe you have a hard set number of ability slots, but the game gives you access to even more abilities than you have slots. In the case of Metroid, think of the wave beam versus the ice beam, if the wave beam had been more useful and the ice beam had been less useful (and less of a “you are supposed to have this for Tourian” weapon). The big issue with such a design is that you don’t want the player to feel like he’s forced to backtrack to keep swapping the same specific abilities to overcome each new challenge. (Oh, its a fire guy. I’ll go back to area X to get my ice gun, and area Y to get my anti-fire armor. And after it is dead, I’ll go back to Z to swap back to my super armor and rapid fire gun. Gah, there is so much pointless backtracking in this game, why won’t they just let me have all those items together?)

  12. Laythe_AD says:

    I’d be impressed if they top Shadow Complex, to be honest. That game was outstanding.

  13. Feferuco says:

    Thought that comment about mindless enemies on Metroidvania games was kinda unfair. Well yeah sure it isn’t hard to come across predictable enemies but that doesn’t mean their movement patterns are dumb. Sometimes you can do a lot with simple enemies.

    • The Random One says:

      Case in point: link to

    • Silverfell says:

      Agreed, completely. We’re not against movement patterns, and our AI still is based on a series of pre-determined paths. However, typical Metroidvania gameplay is very well balanced towards action, which means that combat can often become predictable.

      Right now, we’re trying to introduce as many behavioural elements as we can to make sure that fights are always slightly varied, and that there is a greater response to player actions than is usually associated with platformers.

  14. The Random One says:

    A hamburger without beef is a sandwich, a motorcycle without an engine is a bicycle, flu without a fever is a cold and a metroidvania without skill or item progression is a platformer.

    • Silverfell says:

      The Random One, we’re set then, as Dark Matter has both item and skill progression. Also, it has levels that grow as your ability to navigate them evolves, which is a true staple of Metroidvania games, especially the ‘Metroid’ part!

  15. Zyrxil says:

    …Did he just say having the cursor disappear allows for better aiming in combat? What the fuck? Oh yeah, I sure love trying aim like I’m using a gamepad in bad console ports. And combat mode is more zoomed in. That’s just horrible. If anything it should be the opposite.

    • Phantoon says:

      It’s an alpha, so cut him some slack… and wait with me to rip him to shreds if the game ends up doing the simplest parts of the subgenre wrong.

  16. mseifullah says:

    I get the feeling that they dropped Source engine in favor of Unreal or Unity. I understand why, but I really wish some non-Valve (or non-Valve commissioned) devs would stick with it. When you see how great the rendering is in things like Portal 2 and Dota 2, you know it’s capable of amazing looking things.

    Anyway, back on topic: Because of the great time I had with Nuclear Dawn. InterWave has earned my complete blind support. And it’ll remain that way until they (if ever) have two disappointing titles in a row. Looking forward to more of this.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      You mean to say that one disappointing title in a row wasn’t enough for you?

  17. says:

    I heard all of these wonderful things about Shadow Commplex, but the 360 demo really didn’t impress me. As a lover of all 2D metroid games, that means I haven’t had that itch scratched for a while.

    Being that this is sci-fi/space-y, that helps. I do wonder, though… why is the player in the dead center of the screen, rather than 2/3 of the way back? The current situation means you can’t see as far in front of you.

  18. Brise Bonbons says:

    Color me curious, I like 2D side scrollers but don’t have much patience for puzzle platformers or Meatboy-style autotorture devices – survival horror/stealth/adventure may as well be custom made to suit me.

    Nuclear dawn seemed a pretty good effort, as well, even if the guns were a little anemic at times.

    Show me more, my wallet is prepared!

  19. derbefrier says:

    I love these types of games and not enough of them get made. I am prepared to trow money at this.

  20. AlienMind says:

    Does this require Steam?