This is just me offering my own perspective on the corner of gaming currently questioning what’s a good length for a game? And how do we interact with side content, lore and world-building? For myself, my gaming is disordered — much like my eating, reading, listening to music, YouTubing… you know what? You get the point.
The point is that the whole Dying Like 2 Stay Human taking 500 hours to have full completion thing has, frankly, left me feeling with a need for focus and simplistic fulfillment.
Three-creator team Berzerk Studio‘s upcoming retro demon-slayer title Infernax is looking like it’s exactly what I’m needing. Now, before I go any further, I want to address that Berzerk and publisher, The Arcade Crew, acknowledge the build provided to me was lacking a save feature because it was intended to be used at cons (remember those?), so my time spent in-game was on multiple playthroughs of the first section of the game.
Borrowing the principle of time once more, Berzerk boats on their website that they pride ourselves in everything we do and make sure that if there’s the Berzerk name on it, it’s worth your time. My initial impressions are that Infernax is worth your time.
Infernax offers a grind that won’t have you grinding your teeth
It’s worth your time because it’s honest and truthful in what it is. This is an 8-bit adventure that is every single bit an honest love letter to the classics that have come before — titles like the game’s publisher — Parisian boutique, The Arcade Crew — readily admit closely resembles Zelda II and Castlevania II.
Now, I’ll freely admit that it’s been a while since I’ve revisited either of those seemingly ageless arcade titles. I recall that they both play well to this day, but they are time sinks in their own right, requiring you to remember maps and landmarks, as well as item requirements and costs. certainly, they don’t require 500 hours to fully complete, but they took their time and definitely had a grind that still feels modern.
To quote directly from The Arcade Crew, Infernax’s starring knight and bachelor Alcedor returns from a brutal battle to find his home overrun by ravenous beasts from the underworld. Armed with his faithful mace and ravishing smile, Alcedor must shoulder the fate of his world as he bashes through unholy forces, earns powerful abilities and upgrades, uncovers the secrets of his land, and shapes his legacy through moral conundrums.
And from the several hours of Infernax I’ve played so far, I’m enamoured with the way the element of purified, low-tech exploration sakes hands with the sly devil that is modern gaming mechanics.
Infernax operates as a Metroidvania where hero Alcedor has health and mana, and as he slays the demonic presences bringing ruin upon his lands, he gains gold and XP. You are free to explore the overworld as you see fit and at your own speed.
Those looking for a challenge or speedrunners will likely take challenges as they come and not circle back. But for those looking to take things slow and build up to addressing Infernax’s challenges, you can circle back to revive fallen foes — aside from bosses and side quest bosses — in order to earn extra XP and gold. Tougher base demons will take over for bosses in order to address the lack of those who were once there, which is a touch that I absolutely love.
Bask in the blood of thy enemy
In terms of its appearance, Infernax is no less honest in its whole-hearted devotion to the 8-bit medieval ambience. There first part of the overworld I got to experience is a verdant hilly landscape with a battered city. I also got to sample a ruined keep with a number of arrow launchers in the walls, as well as a cave crawling with zombies.
The music is fast and grows increasingly dissonant as it becomes apparent that Alcedor isn’t going to be getting the rest he so desires.
But perhaps what I’ve enjoyed most about the atmosphere is the detail that in my time spent with Alcedor and his shining armour upgrade, it became covered in blood and the guts of a couple of bosses. There’s something just oh so satisfying about running around covered in purple guts. Ray-tracing isn’t needed here! How refreshing!
Compassion in a dungeon crawler
There’s one thing I would like to ask Berzerk for clarification on, though. The build I was provided has no options upon starting up the game.
As someone with a physical disability, the first thing I do when starting a game up is find the menus for remapping buttons and toggling sensitivities. I’m left wondering what sort of options are going to be present at release? Admittedly, I’m fortunate enough that I have enough dexterity to adapt to most games as the creators intended them to be played, but I know there are lots of you out there that like answers to these questions first.
I was presented with two restart modes, Casual Restart and Hardcore Restart every time I died in-game. The earlier plops you right back down where you died with all your coin, XP and upgrades, but closes you off for good to the latter, which remarks that it treats you like the “good old days.” In short, throwing you back to the last alter you prayed at, with the collection you had at the time. I ask what the significance of losing Hardcore Restart is? Are we talking about a secret ending? Less coin? I really want to know?
It’s a compassionate response that I appreciate only pops up when death occurs. However, I would like to elaborate on one perceived issue I have. I preface that this is entirely my own thought process, and at a time when I am brain-fried from a full day of work. So please, call me out if you feel this is unfair to point out.
If someone from either the developer or the publisher wants to discuss this with me. I would be happy to do so! This is leg work that I used to do at Cons (have you remembered those yet?) — often paired with a hearty helping of self-deprecating commentary on my poor gaming.
The difficulty of any game is an aspect of gaming that is not always easily handled, especially in Metroidvanias and roguelikes, so it worries me to see this is how difficulty in video games is handled. However, this may just be my impressions of playing this alone and not having a creator standing over my shoulder guiding me.
Having made that point, as well as highlighting how much I’m enjoying Infernax, I’ll leave you by breaking that the game is set for release on Valentine’s Day, which is right in the middle of a pretty hectic month for both indie and AAA games. Having a palate-cleanser to fall back on is going to be something you want. Infernax appears to be one of those kinds of games… you know, that’s soaked in glorious 8-bit blood and ooze.