Date: February 6, 2023
Afterimage is a Metroidvania from Chinese developers Aurogon Shanghai. I was excited to get my hands on it, since I’m a big fan of Metroidvanias and thought the art style was cool. After playing a preview version of the game (which encompasses roughly the first two and a half hours of the game), I can safely say that it’s a fun game, with engaging decent combat. However, it struggles to differentiate itself from similar games — and Steam has plenty of Metroidvanias already.
You play as Renee, who we’re told was granted the Gift of the Gods, though it is not clear what this means exactly. It is shown, however, that part of this Gift is the reason why you get sent to checkpoints (called the Confluence of Stream) when dying, instead of the Sea of Souls — even if this isn’t an in-depth explanation, I always appreciate it when a game can tie an in-game mechanic to the lore.
One day, Renee’s village gets attacked while she is out with her companion Ifree. When they get back, they find Renee’s mentor Aros dead, and a mysterious person taking her soul and running off. The rest of the story I got to see involved chasing after this person and trying to get Aros’s soul back. Along the way a few things are teased, such as some new characters and a secret about Renee herself, but it is all kept very vague. Hopefully later on in the game, these things will be expanded on and explained — otherwise the game’s story could end up just being confusing.
The combat of Afterimage is fairly straightforward. There are several weapon types you can find in the game (though I only found two in the preview), and you can assign one as your primary weapon, and another as your secondary weapon. This lets you swap between the two weapons freely in battles. On top of that, you can equip one spell to give you more options for attacking. It didn’t feel quite as fast-paced as the trailer led me to believe, but there may be more abilities and weapons further into the full game to change this.
The game has a couple of RPG elements as well — you gain experience and levels from defeating enemies, and there is a talent tree system where you can put your points in. Most of these nodes will give you stat increases, but you can also learn new attacks for specific weapons types (like a shockwave dash attack when you use double swords, for example). The stat nodes will allow you to use a second point to further increase a stat, however, the second upgrade will usually be locked out by a level requirement. This isn’t a huge issue, except that there is no indication of if you’ve used one or both levels of the node, so it can be somewhat hard to keep track of.
The navigation is pretty standard for a Metroidvania game. You are given little direction on where to go, and must fill in the game’s map gradually as you make your way through levels. You’re also highly encouraged to explore as much as possible. This is because there are many hidden paths to find, and in them you can find stuff such as extra currency, weapons, or even free Talent Points. Something I thought was an odd choice though was that new places you explored would only fill on the map once you reached a Confluence of Stream. Most games of this genre will have the map fill up automatically as you find new places. It’s not a huge deal, but I just didn’t see a reason to make the map fill out this way.
Platforming is for the most part straightforward, and as you progress and defeat certain bosses, you will learn new abilities such as a dash and a slide, in order to let you reach new areas, further adding to the encouragement to explore. There were a few platforms that required very precise positioning, however — a few times I thought I had to come back to the room later with a new ability, only to realize I just had to position the jump perfectly. This made things confusing at times, but to be fair, part of the nature of these games is sometimes taking a while to figure out where you need to go.
Overall, Afterimage is a fun game, and if you’re a fan of Metroidvanias looking for a new game, this will likely be a good choice to scratch that itch. However, aside from the great artwork and enemy designs, there doesn’t really seem to be anything to make this game stand out from others in the genre. Hopefully, once the full game is out, there will be something to prove me wrong, something that makes it a more unique experience.