Dr. David's Indie Spotlight: Savage: The Shard of Gosen takes Zelda 2 and throws in barbarians
I've been following Savage: The Shard of Gosen on Kickstarter since it first appeared on the crowdfunding scene. I've also been keeping an eye on the game since its arrival on Steam Greenlight. I've seen all of the screenshots, watched gameplay footage, and even talked with developer Tobor Prime. Most recently, however, I played the game's alpha build which is downloadable on IndieDB. Even though the alpha only covers a small portion of what Savage has to offer, it's quite telling of the NES-inspired nature of the upcoming adventure.
You play as an angry barbarian who's escaped captivity. You explore the land of Lor and take down your oppressors one by one. Thematically, Savage is inspired by Robert E. Howard's Conan series of fiction. Gameplay, however, takes cues from Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link and Super Mario Bros. 2. In addition, the action is reminiscent of Ninja Gaiden, and the open-ended flow of the game harkens back to the Metroid series. Matt Fitzgerald of Tobor Prime also lists the Gargoyle's Quest and Castlevania franchises as major influences.
My time with the alpha reminded me of playing an old school NES game. There was a brief opening cinematic with some quick dialogue, and then it was all action. Combat in Savage is fairly intuitive, and I was mostly whacking dudes in the head with a wooden stick. Along the way you can pick up different weapons and health items. Two of the most useful weapons I picked up were knives and axes, both of which can be tossed at enemies.
In addition to serving as long-range weapons, knives can be thrown at walls and trees. Once stuck, knives serve as perches to help you reach great heights and access new areas. Along with clobbering dudes, platforming is an essential part of Savage. You can access different stages and useful items by engaging in tricky jumps. A lot of the time, you can uncover some of the game's bigger secrets by having a few trusty knives handy to use as perches.
Like in Zelda 2, your weapons and abilities can be upgraded. Collectible orbs are scattered all over, and these grant you strength, harder hits, and more health. Fallen enemies also drop armor, which can be used to make your pixelated barbarian more resistant to punishment. It's especially cool that you can actually see as he dons more and more armor as you continue to snag more pick-ups.
A major element of Savage is its open world design. An overworld map allows you to visit different areas at your own discretion. The map is somewhat reminiscent of Zelda 2, and enemies roam the overworld waiting to strike. If you played the classic NES sequel, you'll instantly recognize the design of these encounters as you're tossed into short stages with minimal enemies. Like in Zelda 2, these are great if you want to snag some collectible upgrades quickly.
One of my favorite things about Savage is its graphical look. The game fits right in with other indie titles that properly emulate that vintage NES look. Some areas look a little washed out, but stylishly so. Enemies and levels sport a heavily pixelated design, and it's not hard to imagine this game running on a big, gray NES cartridge.
As far as development is concerned, Savage is 90 percent feature complete, which is to say its foundations are almost entirely all there. If you dig classics the likes of Zelda 2 and Castlevania, Tobor Prime is readying something that's right up your 8-bit alley. You can give the game your vote on Greenlight to ensure its arrival on Steam. If you're interested in helping fund the development process, you can check the Kickstarter campaign, where it has two weeks left. Keep an eye out for Savage, as it has the makings of a pleasantly barbaric quest.
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