Story time: Back in 2020, I was a games journalist for KeenGamer. One day in June, I decided, “Hey, I like giving some publicity to indie games. Let’s write a post on games I think are worth checking out on Kickstarter!” So I did. Among the games in that article was none other than Vernal Edge, which is, assuming you read the title, the subject of today’s post.
What was the point of that information? Just to showcase that I’ve known of this game’s existence for a couple years now. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m finally able to try it out for myself in demo form.
“Vernal Edge is a 2D action-packed Metroidvania featuring an intense combat system, tight platforming sequences and a powerful story of rivalry, revenge and growth.”
“Ah gee, Kappadako, another metroidvania? You sure wear your preferences front and center, huh?” I sure do, imaginary person I made up to use this joke for the hundredth time. Thank you for noticing.
To structure this post a little more cleanly, there is actually a good chunk of stuff to go through in this demo. While technically so, this doesn’t feel much like a demo. It’s more akin to the start of the game, cut off at a certain point to give prospective players a nice appetizer. As such, there is quite a bit I could go into vivid detail with. I will not, however, for the sake of allowing those interested a chance to go in with (mostly) no expectations. Instead, I’ll go over points that stick out.
The first of which is that this game is fucking fun. When seeing the trailer for this game years ago, I knew there was something worthwhile in development and worth watching. They somehow managed to exceed my expectations; I am far more excited for this game now than prior to playing the demo.
There’s a lot of complexity to combat that I wasn’t entirely expecting. Charged moves, aerial moves, spells, these sort of “finisher” moves that even restore health; your arsenal of offensive capabilities seems almost endless. And this is just the very start of the game! None of this even factors in the specific abilities necessary to progress through the game, which even have use in combat, as well. Even button-mashing, as simple as it sounds, provides a lot of happy juices to the brain.
Alternatively, those options mentioned above are potentially overwhelming. From my experience with the demo, there were growing pains with even remembering that I could do specific actions during combat. I’m half-ashamed to admit that I died three times to a specific encounter because I wasn’t taking full advantage of my capabilities—for as fun as button-mashing is, there’s some strategy to fights necessary to get through mostly unscathed.
Even with this in mind, I prefer that a game like this trains me to understand the error of my ways. I was too offense-oriented in my playstyle, so I made a conscious effort to start guarding more. Wouldn’t you know, I was never at risk of dying again after that. Funny how experimenting with what the game provides can make the experience easier or more efficient. Vernal Edge will make sure (through repeated deaths) that you work with what you have.
Quantity is definitely close to bursting here. You have action sequences, exploration, secret collectibles, ability upgrades, platforming, dialogue between characters, an overarching plot about a church’s power over civilization and a personal story of revenge, the ability to fly to other floating islands for different scenarios and environments… I was practically exhaling from the prospects available in the demo.
Nevertheless, I’m thankful that the demo provides so many different things to expect with the full game. The story and characters, specifically, are expressive and carry enough chemistry to keep things attentive, even if it’s not the full focus of the adventure. A fine balancing act of gameplay, story, and tone throughout the hour-plus runtime. It feels like, to be straightforward, the start of a long and eventful adventure.
The start of the first paragraph in this portion of the article also could’ve been like, “Ah gee, Kappytaco, another 2D sidescrolling game with a pixel art base?” Yes. Vernal Edge sports a healthy amount of sheen and detail to its environments and character models. Some (but only some) characters even have portraits that pop up in dialogue, sporting some complex facial expressions. It’s, at least from surface detail, a big chef’s kiss.
Differentiation is another thing, however. Of the different islands available to explore, they all have a fairly similar appearance to them, though not to the point of copy-pasting. Something about the gray-ish coloring of stones and pathways, adorned by darkened rooms of abandoned housing structures and other once-powerful monuments. There’s almost a theme of stiffness to it, like the world is slowly overtaking the beauty of nature, which serves as a bit of a double-edged sword.
One last thing: platforming is a bit of a headache at times. There’s a consistent necessity to make absolutely sure that Vernal (main protagonist) is completely above a platform in order to land safely on top of it. This threw me off a number of times (literally?). Additionally, there are these hooks one can grab onto by jumping into them… and it feels somewhat shaky as to whether they will or will not register Vernal’s presence. The area of recognition seems inconsistent. (They’re also kind of hard to make out.)
Two years ago, I made the call that you, the reader, should go fund Vernal Edge on Kickstarter. Presently, I can more confidently make a new call for you to buy the game when it releases in full. An addictive and layered combat loop, sincere challenge in exploration, and so much promise in what’s contained in a memorable adventure. While not perfect, there’s more than enough potential that this could end up a titan of indie action-adventures for years to come.
Vernal Edge has a demo you can play now on Steam. (Link under “Game Summary.”)
If reading this compelled you to give me a dollar, feel free to tip me on Ko-fi.
Thank you for your time. Have a great rest of your day.