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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.

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Nathan Grayson

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