It's been a while since Shacknews last had some time with Galak-Z: The Dimensional. There's no way to sugarcoat it. 17-Bit Studios' galactic roguelike owned my face last time, mostly because the controls took some time to grasp. This year's Game Developers Conference marked a second opportunity to blast off with Galak-Z, hopefully with better results.
The first thing to note is that the production values of the game have increased significantly since our last hands-on. The opening cutscenes have some added flair and now further evoke the 1980s anime cartoon aesthetic that 17-Bit is aiming for. There's a definite Saturday morning cartoon feel here, an idea that's maintained throughout the game, thanks to its unique art style.
Getting into the game itself, it's hard to actually get a traditional "rematch," since Galak-Z's stages are procedurally generated. However, I did quickly re-familiarize myself with the game's Newtonian physics-based controls. Ships have thrusters, boosts, laser shots, and missiles, as well as a brake that, when combined with the thrust, keeps the vessel floating in place. Just as before, stealth is the key strategy when cruising along the cosmos, since any noise caused by flight or laser fire can attract unwanted attention. However, getting in dogfights isn't necessarily as sided towards the enemy as before.
17-Bit has added a number of environmental traps across stages, such as sprouts with spores that will cause damage to anything they hit. While players should ideally seek to avoid these traps, they can also use them in the heat of battle when outnumbers. Spores and other environmental hazards can just as effectively be used against enemy ships and can help clear the path forward.
Of course, the enemies have learned some tricks, as well. During my GDC playthrough, I was finally able to retrieve the key objective, with my only remaining order to fly back to the rendezvous point. At this point, my ship had been badly damaged, with no regenerating health or shield pick-ups to repair it. As it finally appeared that I was about to succeed, I was suddenly blasted to tiny bits by an enemy vessel that was simply waiting at the stage exit. It was another cruel reminder of what kind of roguelike 17-Bit has waiting for would-be space adventurers.
While the end result was the same as last time (my ship getting blown into pieces), I walked away from Galak-Z feeling a greater sense of progress, in more ways than one. For one thing, the difficulty felt more evenly balanced, without compromising the game's inherently difficult nature. While I still felt the sting of the usual roguelike, I felt like I'd definitely be able to progress a little further if given another chance.
Galak-Z continues to show continued growth and there's good reason to believe it'll arrive before the end of the year. 17-Bit remains hesitant on setting a specific release window, but when it's ready, look for it to hit PC, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita.
Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Galak-Z: The Dimensional preview: the next episode
I've been pumped for this game since I first saw it at PAX last year... or was that 2 years ago? Looks like fun.