Gunvolt Impressions

I’ve tried my best not to ask “opinion on X” questions, but I recently got into talking about Gunvolt and it was described as “The DMC of 2D action.” I like GV a LOT, but I don’t think it’s a good comparison. Have you played it, and if so what do you think its strongest point as an action game is?

Hmmm. I started playing it after you asked this question and I’m writing this answer as I’ve played 5 stages, the first one, the media tower, the prison, and the underwater one.

I’m not sure I’d call it the DMC of 2d action games, it doesn’t seem to fit the same mold as DMC. But wow does it do a lot of interesting things. I wasn’t so interested in the game from the footage I’d seen (but I was a little interested because I really loved Megaman Zero), it’s not very impressive to watch until you’ve tried it for yourself. Like it seemed like people just used the flash field all the time after tagging enemies and it was kind of a one-stop solution.

I don’t totally understand the game yet, and I haven’t explored all the options available, but the equipment seems like it’s really diverse in function from what I have available so far.

This game seems way more conscious of speedrunning than any I’ve played before. It has a design that is extremely complimentary to speedrunning as well as a great set of scoring metrics, plus good bonus objectives too.

First, your guns do almost nothing when not attached to enemies, so you need to tag them then flashfield them. Tags wear off over time, so you need to keep tagging them to be effective. Flash field has that energy meter, so you need to stop shooting, flashing, and moving, to recharge it occasionally or suffer a recharge time, flash field also makes you fall slower, which is useful for hovering over gaps, but can also make it slower to shoot aerial enemies, or keep you in bad positions. Then some enemies have homing attacks that can be beaten with flash field, but they combine it with platforming, so you get slowed down, and other enemies attack you at the same time which you can’t avoid because you fall so slow.

Then there’s skills, which are special abilities on cooldown. Far as I know they’re just on cooldown, so you can use them any time they’re available at no cost.

The scoring system is brutal. They really want to inspire you to not use checkpoints, or get hit, while still engaging enemies, and finishing with a fast time. You gain points by hitting enemies, by tagging multiple and killing them at the same time, by being airborne when they die, and there’s a bonus currency, kudos, that builds as you deal damage to enemies, but has a steady multiplier as it increases, and is reset when you take damage. This currency gets cashed when you use an offensive skill, checkpoint, or clear the level. So you want to avoid damage, and avoid cashing them, try to hold onto as long as possible without getting hit.

There’s also a chance to randomly get revived where you are when you die in a mission instead of sent back to the checkpoint. In this state you have infinite jumps and airdashes, and infinite meter too. So it’s like an easy mode. Downside, no kudos accumulate, so your score will suck.

I think my overall remark is that there’s a ton of solid design in this game, they really know how to build strong dynamics of play, but it’s not generally design that inspires creativity on the part of the player. The player needs to balance a lot of things and be mindful of a lot of things while playing. They’re under time pressure, need to manage energy, need to hit enemies, need to move fast, need to avoid damage, need to judge whether to bank kudos as points, or continue accruing them. Getting a high score requires really perfect play in ways that bring out the natural difficulty of the game, preventing cheese. As an added bonus, levels are short, all of them are less than 10 minutes long assuming you don’t die, so the lack of checkpointing in score runs isn’t a big deal.

The downside is, it doesn’t seem like you have many options, which is why I say it doesn’t really inspire creativity. The downside to using skills is they cash your current kudos, so in a score run, you don’t really want to use them, at least, the offensive ones. The skills are the primary thing that makes the game about more than movement, jumping, shooting, flashing. There’s some cool movement, like airdashing and double jumping (which you can only choose one of the two.)

The other thing I’d remark is, it’s an extremely easy game if you’re not going for challenges and high scores. I’ve only had trouble with the section where the water fills up from the bottom so far. It might get harder later on, but right now I’ve only had issues replaying levels to satisfy challenges or trying to get high scores.

Oh yeah, the gear is fairly interesting too, at least what little I’ve seen. Add a double jump, an airdash, both, and there’s a tech tree working behind the scenes, so you get access to better/more gear as you make more. Some of it is redundant/irrelevant, like bigger airdash/jump and double airdash/jump, much of the gear being better versions of what you already made, but the pendants are fairly varied in what they do, offering invincibility for different things (like running out of EP meter, which is a unique one, meaning you could deliberately trigger it, but also at the cost of attack and movement capabilities) or increasing the cost/DPS of flashfield, which given the game’s focus on speed is a big deal.

Also you can skip every cutscene, which is neat.

There’s other difficulty modes hidden on the main screen as well, including a hard mode (which boosts your damage output and disables crafting), 3 special speedrun modes which have modified rules (like permanent anthem and level layouts with more spikes, damage which scales based on kudos, and flash field damage based on distance). I really applaud the variety of difficulty modes here. I think I’ll have to bump myself up to hard mode later.

Some enemies are really clever and make good use of the various gameplay systems available, like some will dodge your shots if you’re vertically aligned with it by quickly moving up or down (meaning you need to tag them, then flash). Some will use a barrage of homing weapons, so you need to pace flash field use to power through those. Then others are just grunts that stand there and shoot at you.

However even the most simple enemies make use of positioning in the stage really well to still be a threat, like being on the floor above you, past a passthrough platform, so if you jump up to their level, they just shoot you, and you need to be more careful with your timing to actually get at them. Or there’s use of moving platforms in conjunction with the enemies and environment that makes it difficult to function without catapulting yourself into oblivion because the platforms respond to your flash field.

I guess I’d say it’s extremely easy mostly because they give you too much health, and really forgiving checkpoints, plus the prevasion ability, which has your EP meter tank hits for you, basically giving you regenerating health, the health problem is likely to be fixed on higher difficulties too, so I clearly need to move up.

To bring it back to the DMC thing, I just don’t see it, this game isn’t Melee oriented. You can sort of combo some enemies, but no juggles. You don’t have a large group of offensive options to pick from (okay, I looked up weapons just now since I realized that other weapons might have more abilities, and it seems that there’s actually a lot to pick from and the descriptions seem fairly varied) and you’re disincentivised from using skills, which are kind of just “fuck you, I win” moves.

Maybe I need to get further in the game and play on a harder difficulty. The least I can say is that I really like it so far. Glad I started playing it. I never expected it to be this good.

Meanwhile, here’s a crappy license game that oddly would fit what I’d expect of 2d DMC a bit more closely:

One thought on “Gunvolt Impressions

  1. VectorSatyr September 4, 2017 / 11:19 pm

    I’m actually curious if your views have changed, having put more time into the game.

    Here’s some additional notes from my own impressions:

    * Both your tagging gun and the flash field can do damage independently, but not as much as shocking a tagged enemy. To quickly dispatch bosses, this basically means spamming all three simultaneously, which sounds cheap and tactless until you realize that the flash field is very close range while also slowing your movement and descent, and most bosses move around a lot or thrown tones of hurtboxes around. You also receive no kudos for dispatching normal enemies this way, so the usual score-running flow isn’t interrupted.

    * Skills cost SP, they are not free. SP is built up overtime by killing enemies.

    * It’s not strictly true that you don’t ever want to use your skills during a score run. You can cash in during the middle of certain runs, and still get AT LEAST an S rank high score if you play your cards right. You also get a bonus for finishing off bosses with your flashier skills, so at the very least, you can cash in at the VERY LAST hit of the level boss for extra style.

    * The additional weapons probably won’t change your opinion on the lack of creativity on the player’s part. Each weapon simply has a different number of available tags and fires them in different patterns. This slightly adjusts what “combos” you need to perform based on the tagging, but otherwise the actual runs tend to be one-dimensional (but nevertheless, demanding.) They are not “megaman” weapons, with vastly different combat or scoring applications.

    * There is a “true” ending require a small bit of exploration in the main levels. You reward is a boss fight that even makes that invincible “easy mode revival” suspect; god help you when you end up having to fight that boss again WITHOUT it …


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