Ultros review: a bold, beautiful, and baffling Metroidvania

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A characteristic stands successful beforehand of a purple orb successful Ultros.

“Ultros is simply a bold and beautiful creator vision, but a convoluted Metroidvania.”

Pros

  • Psychedelic art
  • Fantastic music
  • Unique farming system

Cons

  • Unclear ocular design
  • Underexplained systems
  • Tedious backtracking

My bloody quest to termination a grotesque demon is astir to scope its climax erstwhile I extremity to do a spot of intergalactic gardening. Testing retired a mysterious caller instrumentality I received, I rustle a puff of bluish state astatine a hanging vine. At first, I’m confused arsenic each I tin seemingly do is somewhat alteration nan guidance it’s increasing in. That’s erstwhile I accidentally nonstop it into a excavation of aureate liquid. Suddenly, vines sprout retired successful each direction, cutting done nan constituent for illustration a recently grown tense system. After marveling astatine nan wonders of nature, I lodge my useful digger drone into nan wall and wholly uproot my creation, turning it backmost into a elemental seed.

Birth. Death. Rebirth.

That elemental loop powers Ultros, a stylish caller Metroidvania by developer Hadoque, for illustration a patient bosom locked down a twisted rib cage. Once I weed done its dense sci-fi lore and overcomplicated gameplay systems, I statesman to observe a much digestible belief travel astir nan unknowable rhythm of life and death. Getting location tin beryllium a frustrating journey, though; Ultros is simply a confusing labyrinth of ideas that I still find myself a small mislaid successful moreover now.

A psychedelic trip

In Ultros, I return connected nan domiciled of an astronaut successful a slick reddish overgarment who crash-lands connected a monolithic vessel, The Sarcophagus. I quickly study that nan vessel doesn’t conscionable location corridors afloat of colorful works life, but besides a demonic entity known arsenic Ultros. To vanquish it, I’ll request to hunt down 7 Shaman, taking a different technological powerfulness from them that’ll thief unlock caller biomes connected nan ship. To make matters much complicated, each of this is happening successful a achromatic hole. At cardinal points successful nan story, nan full rhythm originates anew. I’m successful a changeless rhythm of rebirth.

It’s for illustration I’m exploring nan wrong of a quality body.

The communicative leans into hard sci-fi, pinch a communicative truthful wrapped up successful its ain alien worldbuilding that it feels for illustration reference a different connection altogether. Like a batch of things successful nan game, it tin beryllium difficult to afloat comprehend what’s going connected moreover aft nan credits roll. Thankfully, Ultros’ much intelligibly communicates done its creation creation and gameplay systems — moreover if its astir imaginative swings make nan escapade consciousness moreover much obtuse.

What instantly sticks retired present is Ultros’ astonishing creation style. Inspired by nan chopped activity of French creator Moebius, The Sarcophagus is simply a psychedelic travel that’s dissimilar immoderate integer world I’ve ever explored. Each 2D room is filled to nan brim pinch colorful details, from gnarly insects pinch rows of gnashing teeth to vibrant works life that intermingles pinch crumbling alien architecture. It’s a chopped operation of integrated and otherworldly; it’s for illustration I’m exploring nan wrong of a quality assemblage that shuts down astatine nan extremity of each cycle.

The subordinate stumbles upon an upgrade pod successful Ultros.Kepler Interactive

That’s arsenic matched by composer El Huervo’s positively hypnotic score. Like nan creation style, it’s a rich | soundscape of textures that makes accepted strings and woodwinds sound for illustration they’re beaming successful from different planet. Everything successful Ultros feels overseas and disorienting astatine first glance. The much I peel backmost nan layers, though, nan much I find acquainted DNA nether alien flesh. It pulls maine backmost into nan humanistic themes during moments wherever it feels for illustration I’m drifting successful space.

Struggling to reinvent

While that creator flair is its top strength, it’s nan first of galore areas wherever Ultros’ bold imaginative swings person immoderate unfortunate broadside effects. With truthful overmuch item on-screen, I often struggle to fig retired what I tin interact pinch aliases wherever I’m expected to go. I extremity up spending excessively overmuch clip successful menus arsenic I effort to parse a analyzable representation that doesn’t connection overmuch successful nan measurement of guidance tips. I often find myself lost, but not successful nan correct way.

[Ultros] has problem nailing down nan fundamentals of nan Metroidvania earlier pulling them apart.

Unfortunately, that’s a halfway problem that tin create problem for a genre that hinges connected freeform exploration. As a Metroidvania, Ultros’ analyzable creation twists often disrupt an elegant 2D action-adventure formula. That’s particularly evident successful its time-loop twist. Every clip nan rhythm originates again, I person to retrace my steps to find a limb and regain each my powers (including a double jump). I besides suffer each unlocked powerfulness connected my accomplishment “cortex.” While I tin find hidden items that permanently fastener upgrades successful place, each caller rhythm inevitably starts pinch immoderate other backtracking. It’s a thematically sound thought that visualizes its information nature, but 1 that doubles down connected nan astir tedious portion of nan genre.

The wider problem is that Hadoque has problem nailing down nan fundamentals of nan Metroidvania earlier pulling them apart. While I get my hands connected immoderate imaginative power-ups, for illustration a buzzsaw drone that tin trim done vulnerable foliage, I’m not ever judge really to usage them. My digging drone hardly gets utilized successful immoderate applicable puzzle aliases exploration context. When I do usage it to uproot plants, I struggle to grasp really precisely I request to position it to decently propulsion a seed retired of nan ground.

Both that and nan unclear ocular creation makes exploration a symptom too, which is simply a mortal misdeed for nan genre. When I bump into a dormant end, I’m often not moreover judge what nan roadblock is. I suffer that Metroidvania joyousness of taking intelligence statement of an obstacle and having a eureka infinitesimal erstwhile I observe nan caller instrumentality that tin enactment arsenic a cardinal to that lock. More often than not, immoderate find I make is an mishap that occurs while I’m aimlessly backtracking nan aforesaid corridors arsenic I effort to find my measurement to nan adjacent Shaman.

A characteristic faces down a monolithic insect successful Ultros.Kepler Interactive

All of this was compounded by immoderate frustrating bugs successful my playthrough. Some vulnerable walls wouldn’t decently break erstwhile I smashed them, forcing maine to reload my prevention and effort again. An overly sticky wall jump turns vertical platforming done constrictive exits into a nightmare. At immoderate point, I’m not moreover capable to show what jumps I’m expected to beryllium capable to make and which ones I’m not. That led to astatine slightest 1 business wherever I seemingly collapsed into a conception of nan level I wasn’t expected to get into and spent 10 minutes wandering astir confused earlier realizing I’d worked my measurement into a dormant end.

At nan very least, Ultros does connection immoderate imaginative 2D combat successful spite of stiff movement. I tin usage my slashes to juggle enemies successful nan aerial and moreover motorboat them into others for other damage. It gets aged yet owed to a mini fistful of enemies that don’t require overmuch strategy speech from dashing down shields, but it’s an area wherever nan stylish creation useful successful performance pinch immoderate arsenic flashy action.

Out successful nan garden

Ultros is overmuch much successful erstwhile it’s focused connected its astir unsocial aspect: gardening. Throughout my journey, I tin works seeds successful patches of ungraded to turn plants. That opens nan doorway for immoderate clever puzzling, arsenic I tin create a mushroom level to scope a far-off ledge aliases turn yellowish writer connected a wall that I tin tally on. The semipermanent joys of it travel from filling nan vessel up pinch works life, transforming The Sarcophagus into a surviving planet.

The 2nd half of Ultros becomes a overmuch much compelling puzzle platformer …

Like a batch of different systems, farming tin beryllium confusing. It’s not terribly clear which seeds do what. Eating plants and different alien parts besides raises up immoderate stats that let maine to unlock skills, but that’s ne'er good explained either. Most head-scratching of each is simply a precocious crippled power-up that allows maine to splice plants together. It’s a awesome idea, but it’s 1 that I only ever request to usage once, to advancement nan story. I extremity nan escapade not really knowing really it each works.

Even pinch those applicable problems, farming still winds up being nan astir compelling facet of Ultros. It’s not conscionable a beautiful visual, but a cleanable metaphor for its philosophical themes. I’m perpetually bringing caller life to nan ship, 1 described arsenic a “cosmic uterus” (really driving nan constituent location arsenic clear arsenic day). When I excavation up a plant, it becomes a seed that I tin replant erstwhile again. Death is only 1 shape of life successful Ultros; there’s ever dream that nan rhythm tin statesman anew.

A elephantine works grows successful Ultros.Kepler Interactive

Its astir powerful infinitesimal comes from nan 1 gameplay twist that doesn’t person an asterisk attached. Midway done nan story, I upwind up successful immoderate benignant of cosmic abstraction wrong nan ship. There, I unlock nan expertise to drawstring plants and different cardinal objects for illustration prevention pods together by moving vines betwixt them. The 2nd half of Ultros becomes a overmuch much compelling puzzle platformer wherever I’m linking nan full world into 1 earthy network, unlocking doors and accelerated recreation points arsenic I go. It’s an oddly moving visual, 1 that posits that each life is successful immoderate measurement connected.

Though I often consciousness mislaid and disappointment successful Ultros’ alien world, I’m ne'er alone. I tin ever clasp connected to nan dream that I’m portion of thing bigger moreover if I don’t understand it. Perhaps I’ll beryllium reborn into nan ecosystem erstwhile I die, my soma turning into ungraded for an alien character that’ll support increasing and producing seeds pinch each cycle. The beingness is ever expanding successful Ultros, and truthful excessively americium I.

Ultros was tested connected PC and Steam Deck.

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