HAZEWALKER: Kickstarter And Steam Greenlight Campaign Launch + Demo Review

RPG, side-scroller and metroidvania fans rejoice! This could be the game you have been waiting for… A visually beautiful, brilliantly retro-but-modern game with an intricate, unique fantasy plot that is aiming to meet with the next generation of console technology! 

TheoryForm Games, a new indie team launched in 2013 featuring some impressive talent are aiming high with their pilot voyage into games development. Their KickStarterCampaign which launched yesterday wants to reach a staggering $100,000 goal, but having played the demo and read all about what they have planned if they reach their aim, I can tell you that I, for one, will be Backing this Project.

DID YOU KNOW? Interestingly, the word metroidvania is a portmanteau of Metroid and Castlevania, the two series that pioneered this type of gameplay.
You are the survivor of a people who have been almost wiped out by an ancient curse known as The Haze, and the only person who is able to resist its effects. You must venture deep within The Haze and uncover its secrets in the hopes of freeing your surviving people from where they hide in The Veil...

Play as either a fully customisable male or female character in this beautiful world which boasts a unique blend of 3D characters and hand painted backgrounds, dubbed on their website as the “2.5D aesthetic”.  

In an email to us, the Producer and Lead Designer David Pierce stated 
Just [recently], we announced our commitment to the Wii U, and tasty second-screen goodness. (We may be the first "Dual-Screen Metroidvania" ever?)"
This will be a game available on multiple platforms – including the eighth-generation console Nintendo Wii-U - and in multiple languages, making it widely accessible for many gamers around the world.

The "2.5D aesthetic" is stunning.
I wanted to experience the game for myself, so I clicked the shiny link on the KickStarter website and waited patiently for it to download and then install. It was a simple enough process and I was soon able to experience the world for myself, with no financial commitment.

I could choose from a small selection of screen resolutions and graphics qualities. For the purpose of this write-up, I decided to go against my better judgement and play on the “Fantastic" graphics setting with Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Word Processor co-running alongside it, to see how consumptive of my utterly rubbish laptop’s system the game would be. To my pleasant surprise, although it was slow to start (a few minutes at most), once the game had initialised and I had selected my character and entered into the world itself, there was almost no lag in gameplay. This is a very good sign.

This bug meant my character returned after death still in a dying position, moving around the world like that. I found this was easily resolved, however, by commanding she jump, after which she animated and moved as normal.
Read on for more demo play tips.
I played through enough of the demo to get a feel of it, but was unable to complete it due to the sheer number of bugs it contained. It is, after all, a very, very early version of the game. Bugs aside, it was a very pleasing gaming experience, however.

The game can be played with either keyboard and mouse, or a peripheral such as the Xbox 360 controller. I played for a time with each, to get a feel of both experiences. So far I am finding the keyboard controls difficult to “get the hang of” and hope that the full game has customisable keys, and I found that I was required to reduce the graphic quality setting in order to put a halt to the amount of lag I experienced while it tried to process the 360 controller, after which it ran smoothly.
“I wanted to create a game that combined the gameplay of Metroidvanias, the dark mystery of D&D, and rich hand-painted artwork in a single, “next-gen” experience.” David Pierce from the Kickstarter site
Here I am using the Haze Walk ability to flank an enemy during battle.
The titular special ability of your character - the ability to “haze walk” - is a unique gameplay element that allows you to transport yourself through cracks in walls and behind an enemy to speedily gain a flanking advantage, and I used it addictively. It is a beauty to behold, graphically, and it really adds that special something to the gameplay. Do be aware, however, that haze walking can sometimes get you in to trouble, rather than out of it, as I learned the difficult way…

The amount that you can do in the demo is limited of course, but I found the plot intriguing, the graphics absolutely stunning (especially on the highest difficulty setting), the music enchanting and atmospheric, and the gameplay – although to be fair I may be biased due to my love of classic Castlevania – was a (if slightly buggy, as aforementioned) joy.

Tips for enjoying the demo:
  1. If you find a bug, remember two things. Firstly, try to find a way around it or restart the game and play again, so you can continue enjoying the game. Secondly, tell the developers. If they do not know a bug exists, they cannot fix it when they are creating the full game.
  2. This may sound odd, but I actually found that several of the bugs could be resolved by making my character jump. I was unable to swing my sword, so I jumped and the sword-swinging continued. Graphics went a little odd, so I jumped, and hey, presto, graphics normalised. Try it, it might work for you, too!
  3. Explore! There are hidden areas to discover behind knock-down-able walls and hidden lore (plot), amongst other things.
  4. The Tutorial does not cover this (that I noticed) so I think it is important that you know that the keyboard shortcut for using health potions is Q.
Some of the breathtaking concept art that they send us in their Press Kit of the fully painted backgrounds.
There will be many elements added to the final game that are not seen in the demo that include character customisation, interacting with NPCs (computer characters), finding and crafting equipment, augmentation of weaponry with enchantments, reading of in-game books (that will no doubt enhance the story) and more.

Of particular intrigue to me is this promise on their KickStarter page:
Your actions will have a direct impact on the story as it unfolds. The people you help, the trials you overcome, and the decisions you make will determine not only your own fate, but also the fate of your fellow survivors.”
There will also be an area visitable by your character called The Lost Gariti Campsite, where your character can return to rest, resupply and receive quests and assignments from other survivors of The Haze.

Stunning hand painted concept art for The Lost Gariti Campsite
So, judging from my experience, and the sheer number of positive comments of support from fans on social media, it is clear that this game is really something special.

We have just over a month to get this project fully funded and into production. With more than $3,000 raised during their first day, if TheoryForm Games continue at that rate of financial commitment from the community, they will indeed reach their goal, and then some. 

Kickstarter Backers can donate a minimum of $1 with reward tiers offering many wonderful incentives to give, including DRM-free digital copies of the game, physical copies, the soundtrack, an art book, and even an opportunity to contribute to the game itself by designing a monster or helping with the soundtrack's development.

If you want to be part of the campaign, be sure to visit the KickStarter website to download the demo and contribute funding, or at the very least, spread the word! If you are a member of the Steam Community you can also give Hazewalker abig “thumbs up” and help it get the Green Light. This beautiful, unique gaming experience deserves to be reach full fruition.
“Travel back to where it all began to determine how the journey of the Lost Gariti finally ends[...]" - Kickstarter plot synopsis
Interview to follow.

Article credit: Illisia Adams. 

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