As someone who enjoys spending time in the kitchen, I often remind myself that simplicity is key. With fusion cuisine, in particular, bringing together drastically different techniques and ingredients requires a great deal of patience and understanding. Aiming to find a balance between proven yet foreign concepts is often the path to innovation. This also happens in gaming often, and developer, idoz & phops, clearly understood the assignment with their RPG bullet-hell, Archvale.
“I greatly enjoyed the detail put into attack animations.“
Both as a bullet-hell and an action RPG, Archvale is about the standard. You hunt down dungeons housing magical stones while fighting through hordes of enemies. Between dungeons, you explore the world, traveling through vibrant forests, damp caves, and scorching deserts. To assist traversal, you have a dodge fueled by quickly replenishing charges. The dodge allows you to avoid damage and move over any dangerous terrain you might encounter. Each area consists of multiple rooms, harboring monsters, save fountains or other objects. Including fast travel, fountains will refill your health and potions at the cost of respawning monsters in rooms you have already cleared.
The monsters and beasts you face are at home in their respective biomes, making each area feel unique. This quality lends itself to enemy attack patterns as well. I greatly enjoyed the detail put into attack animations. How crabs will thrust their claws in ways that match the bullet type produced is a wonderful use of detail. The different shapes and colors further define enemy habits, as you dance across the screen. Pink bullets tend to hone in on you, while crescent-shaped bullets will curve, changing their trajectory.
“Archvale truly shines when its two halves intersect.“
You, of course, can’t have an action RPG without some sweet gear to nerd out over. Archvale features ranged, melee, and magical weapon types, with stats for damage, rate, and range. Melee weapons are powerful but tend to have the lowest range, though, perhaps the most interesting applications. Swords send out a sweeping arc, lances penetrate defenses, while a flail slowly spins around your character. Magical weapons are unique by their ability to generate magic crystals as they damage enemies. Picking up these crystals improves the weapon though it’s not exactly apparent how this works. I think a few weapons see a momentary increase in fire rate but I can’t confirm this. Some magic weapons will bounce off walls, redirect to a closer target, and other such effects.
Archvale truly shines when its two halves intersect. The weapon types at your disposal are also wielded by the enemy, building tension in an already stress-inducing genre. Trying to dodge countless neon anxiety spheres while maintaining a safe distance from enemy flails is about as frustrating as it sounds. Arrows are a lot harder to see, being glowing lines flying at you from off-screen amidst the chaos. Of course, ents will send their roots to chase you down, with the resulting entanglement persisting on the field long enough to do additional damage should you make contact. All of this makes avoiding damage laughable, requiring you to invest resources in armor and additional life. Boss fights are thrilling and difficult, demanding quick wit and reflexes to persevere.
“To top it off, Archvale features local multiplayer so you can enjoy it with a friend or loved one.“
The gold and items you earn from ore deposits or monsters help to purchase and craft new gear in town. Badges augment your capabilities, such as improving a weapon types range or allowing slain enemies to drop health regen items. Gold can be spent to upgrade weapons, improving their stats. Some crafted weapons even require a weapon as material adding a new status effect. Swapping weapons and armor to fit a situation is an important skill if you hope to survive. Upon death, you return to the previous save fountain with half your gold. Luckily, you can store gold in the bank to save up for an expensive purchase.
I have found it is hard to not enjoy my time with Archvale. I am pleasantly surprised with the ease I’ve had getting so deeply invested in the game. Movement is absolutely fantastic, which is never a letdown when it comes to bullet hell games. There is a lot of additional content for those who desire more of a challenge. You can track down relics to sell, collect badges, and upgrade potions to improve your odds. Hidden obelisks teleport you to challenge puzzles where you must avoid being hit while on the defensive. To top it off, Archvale features local multiplayer so you can enjoy it with a friend or loved one.
Archvale is available now for Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC, code was provided by the Publisher.