Galak-Z: Variant S E3 Impression
After trying out 17-Bit’s roguelike shooter follow-up Galak-Z: Variant S, I can safely say that this is a game squarely aimed at fans of the first one. Those who appreciated the mechanics and flow of gameplay last time will find an easy entry into the sequel.
That’s not to say that everything is exactly as it was. The tweaks made by the developer are, in my opinion, largely for the better. Open space floating controls remain unchanged, consisting of turning yourself in space, boosting and reverse-thrusting rather than speeding and breaking. To me, this always seemed one of the biggest hurdles to really getting comfortable with the game, and new players will still need to deal with it as it is virtually unchanged.
What has changed is that the individual missions, over 100 of them this time around, are less randomized than before. However, some elements, like enemy placement, is still left up to chance. The mission structure playing out in seasons that must be completed has also been dropped in favor of individual missions being much shorter, complementing the pick-up-and-play-anywhere style of the Switch. This means that permadeath is also a thing of the past, and missions can simply be restarted indefinitely. These shorter, bite-sized missions are much more palpable, and on several occasions, I found myself at the end of a level surprisingly quickly.
The difficulty has also been made more manageable by an increased emphasis on ship and mech customization, in particular through the outfitting of bots. Both the ship and the saber-wielding mech, which veterans will be familiar with, return in this outing, though they exist as separate entities, each with its own loadout of bots, and can no longer be transformed into one another mid-mission. Players will have to choose prior to the mission’s start which way they’d like to approach it, and each has its own pros and cons. Equipping each one with bots also increases its stats and abilities.
The bots have another function as well. Each bot has its own personality, sometimes briefly glimpsed during campaign gameplay, but the player can assemble an entire team of bots which can compete in asynchronous PvP gameplay. This means that players can lead their teams online to challenge other teams for weekly leaderboard rewards that carry over as helpful items into the main game. Bot teams have a consistent online presence, and only require the player’s presence in order to attack other teams.
While the previous entry had its charms, it does feel that briefer bursts of gameplay and additional ways to deal with overcoming difficulty spikes make this entry much more player-friendly. Switch owners will be able to rejoin A-Tak, Beam, and Crash as they embark on their search to find the bot king and free Earth from the evil Baron as soon as June 28, 2018, when the game releases for Nintendo’s handheld, although a mobile version — to be released at an undisclosed later date — is also being developed in conjunction with it.