This is already turning into a bumper year for Metroidvania fans. With the excellent Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown having kicked things off beautifully, Ultros now arrives from a smaller publisher but with no small hype of its own. With a gob-smackingly unique art style and a fungal, miasmic tone, it certainly looks like nothing else out there right now, with a far more vague and player-led story than you might expect.
The game sees players awake on a mysterious spaceship, which seems to be playing host to the space-birth of a massive being called Ultros — a sort of Lovecraftian cosmic horror that instinctively looks like a bad thing for the universe.
The first hour or so of Ultros is pretty traditional, as you explore a side-scrolling chunk of map, find a short sword to fight with, and meet a couple of quirky, odd characters who give you some enigmatic information to digest. You start to figure out a skill tree, and are told you'll only be able to earmark a few of these skills for retention between «loops», without knowing quite what that means.
Then, after making it past the game's first squelching boss, you'll have that mystery solved as you sever the connection of a sleeping monk from Ultros' birth process (you read that right) and get sucked into a space-time vortex to awake back where you started. You'll only have whatever skills you managed to mark for protection, and that monk will stay severed, but from there you'll have to start over, making your way through to a central chamber to collect a power-up again and heading off to find whatever new route you can make it through with said tool to find your next monk.
This is Ultros' loop, a curious fusing of Metroidvania traditions with the lightest of roguelite trappings. It's a loop that doesn't actually reset you too harshly, but thematically resonates as you start to uncover more details about the ship you're on (most of those details aren't exactly definitive, still).
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