Tuesday, August 11, 2015

You need to play Galak-Z.

This post is directed, specifically, at my dear Chamberlain. We usually do this in a much slower-paced manner, but dude, you knew I'd have a response when you wrote What not to do, ever
What’s most heartbreaking is that you agree that it’s way-fun. 
"Everything that Galak-Z does, from its 80s anime aesthetic to the way it handles ship momentum and upgrades, is exactly what I wanted out of the sequel to Armada that never came or was somehow terrible (I don't remember...)”
-What not to do, ever.-
 And you’re right – it’s super-fun.  Mastering the ship itself is fun, flying the ship is just fun, gliding through space, spotting an enemy, cutting your engines and tapping your thrusters to nudge your course towards them, swooping silently up behind in preparation for an ambush is fun, and when the game is throwing space bugs, Void Raiders, Imperials, blooming laval pools and crackling electrical arcs at you, it’s an insane amount of fun.  

“Then I died in the last chapter of the first [season] to a boss that I am willing to bet kills about half of the players the first time and what does the game do? Fuck off, back to the beginning with none of your weapons, a tiny amount of currency and a giant chip on your shoulder for have just wasted about an hour for no gain. 
Why? Why? There is no need for such a draconian mechanic here."
-What not to do, ever.-
First of all, that's a Roguelike.   That's what Galak-Z is.  This is like picking up a delicious cupcake and saying

-Penny Arcade-

Second, compared to any other modern Roguelike - Spelunky, Don't Starve, Incognita, in which you start over with nothing more than the insight you’ve gained into its world, mechanics and deathtraps - Galak-Z generously buffs the player over time, but you didn’t play long enough to see it.  The only (popular, modern) Roguelike that’s more giving than Galak-Z is Rogue Legacy, with its permanent levelling up of stats – and Galak-Z offers a different permanent resource for the player in the shape of blueprints.   

You found some, right?  The blue containers which, upon destruction, will yield one of the three pieces of the Auto Fire blaster pattern, or the Assault Muzzle upgrade?  Once all three pieces are found, those upgrades will begin to populate Crash’s shop – and each season offers a new wealth of sweet, sweet blueprints and unlocks.  Before long, when you start up a season, your shop will have stuff like Loot Master, which gives a 30% buff to all collected resources, or Hellfire Missiles, which light foes on fire, or the sweet, sweet Auto Clip which – when combined with the shotgun muzzle or (my favorite) sniper muzzle – turns the Galak-Z into a laser carpet-bombing terror.

This is so incredibly sexy you have no idea.

Similarly, the Crash coins you found are the game’s way of never starting you at zero, beyond your very first time in the ship.  Once you survive through one, two, three episodes of a season, you’ll be packing 5-7 Crash coins, which you can either use to continue the season upon your death (for 5 coins) or cash in for a ton of scrap – beginning your next run with a huge leg up, as you invest them in the choicest technological delicacies that Crash offers before heading in to episode 1 of your latest run.  Instead of starting out from zero, you’re sneaking up on foes with the Whisper Engine, gumming them up with Sticky Missiles or rockin’ a much tougher shield. 

The game will randomly pick from around a half-dozen different mission types - eliminate the bugs, arm a bomb in a raider base, obtain supplies, et cetera. 

"As it sits now if I ever turn the game back on I will need to wade through several identical missions unlocking the same upgrades to fight the same boss and hopefully do better."-What not to do, ever.-
That’s inaccurate.

You won’t wade through several identical missions.  The mission objectives, level layout, object placement, enemy numbers and enemy types are randomized or otherwise procedurally generated each episode, and sometimes altered on-the-fly by the game’s encounter director, which switches things up to ensure fights never get stale.  You’ll never play the same mission twice – the only thing that’s static is the boss at the end of each season – so yes, you will fight the same boss and hopefully do better at it the second time.  You’re a gamer – you can’t tell me that’s a novel exercise.

 You won’t unlock the same upgrades.  It’s a Roguelike.  The game randomizes what’s in those chests every single time – it is nearly impossible to create the same ship twice, because as much as I love +100% damage on my charged sword slash, it just doesn’t always appear – so I play around with laser upgrades, I become real familiar (and very affectionate towards) Tight Grip – I play the game. 

Dear Laser Edge.
Every time I see you, I know.
We were meant to be together.
Sorry if that came off as creepy.

“...all of its problems would so easily be remedied by something that has existed for a long, long time. 
It's called allowing the player to choose between multiple difficulty levels, fuckers.”-What not to do, ever.-
It absolutely has those, it just calls them seasons.  Season 1 is the tutorial, and exists solely to familiarize yourself with the basic mechanics of gliding around in zero gravity before it unlocks the mech (opening your combat options up wide) for season 2, which is an order of magnitude harder than season 1, and a prancing waltz through a field of tulips compared to season 4.  At the point I’m at with the game, I select the season based on just how much crazy I want to inject myself with – and even on season 4 (which I’ve yet to beat episode 3 on), I am having a blast.  It’s not about beating the game any more than Dont Starve is about beating the game – it’s about playing it  and a Roguelike like Galak-Z which essentially offers an infinite amount of content is far more valuable than a little ten or fifteen hour adventure that will play the same way and offer the same challenges every single time.

Resogun was hard too, but you loved Resogun.  When you exploded at the end of a forty-five-million point run, you received exactly nothing in return, beyond a touch of additional experience in that game’s particular martial art – but you hit retry and gave it another shot, because it’s funGalak-Z, I’m willing to say, is way more fun than Resogun (apples and oranges, but whatever), and as you play it rewards you with kit unlocks, the option to continue, the currency to start over with a huge wad of cash in your pocket for upgrades, the promise of never, ever throwing the same level at you a second time and a heavy dose of training in zero-G space-fu.

Did you know your shots will destroy enemy fire?
It becomes a lot more interesting with the sword.

 “I have better things to do with my time than allow a developer to waste it.”-What not to do, ever.-
waste.  That forty-five minutes you spent on the tutorial of Galak-Z is no more a waste than your first, failed character inFallout 3 or the first time you picked Blanka in Street Fighter before making a bunch of rookie mistakes.  Lots of people would consider time spent with any video game a waste, but we aren’t among them. Galak-Z is all on-the-fly strategy and adaptation, player twitch, player skill and expression – it is one of those games that (I promise you) will live long beyond 2015, because itnails its gameplay.  Because the feel of jetting around in the game’s namesake feels wonderful, and blowing an enemy out of space as you glide by is never less than super cool.

It’s not about the story, it’s not about levelling up - Galak-Z is all about tight controls, brilliant AI and constantly-new level design, and it is pure, white-knuckle fun – and a big part of why the game is so tense, so thrilling, is because there is that very real sense of danger. That you could get blown out of the sky at any moment and that sweet, sweet set-up of the Precision Muzzle, Double Shot, Plasma Core and Auto Clip will say bye-bye – and you’ll be starting up a new game with nothing but a few Crash coins and a roll of the dice on your store’s inventory.  That and, of course, your own skill – which is somehow just a bit more developed than it was last time.

Beat season 1.  Finish the tutorial. Be prepared to die on season 2 – because you will!  Several times!  And the more time you spend with it, the better you’ll get at it, the more fun you’ll have with it, the more you’ll play it – and so on, until you’re blasting hell-bent-for-leather through a hollowed-out asteroid, juking over explosive spores, swooping past lava pools, two Imperial Hammerheads on your tail and a small fleet of Void Raiders ahead. You cut your engines, turn around to face your pursuers as you silently drift forward, fire your grappling fist into the nearest Hammerhead to grab him, use him as a shield to soak up some of his friend’s laser fire, spin again and fling him into the space pirates.  Meats back on the menu, boys! It’s amazing.

The joyous act of playing it is the entire point of every action game.  It’s why Mario stands the test of time and why Call of Dutykeeps coming back, year after year – because we may waste our lives, but we’ve never wasted our time with a fun game. 

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