A welcome, but unprincipled sequel, in which the usual formula for the series no longer works.
The last original 2D Metroid game, Fusion, was released almost twenty years ago on the Game Boy Advance. During this time, Nintendo changed three presidents, six main consoles and an endless number of Mario games were released. In general, almost everything has changed and more than once. And in the new Metroid: Dread, nothing has changed. This is the same Metroid as in the early 2000s. And in a bad way: this is not the case when the game evokes a pleasant nostalgia for the era. For Dread, there is a whole train of problems in the series that had to be solved even then.
And in general, it is clear why this is so: the developers from the Spanish studio MercurySteam, to which Nintendo entrusted the series, are not good at generating new concepts. Whether it’s a matter of copying and scrupulously transferring other people’s ideas from past parts to your own. This was noticeable back in 2017, when MercurySteam released a remake of Samus Returns, which almost everyone missed because it became an exclusive barely alive Nintendo 3DS at that time. In it, recall, there were 40 identical bosses. Sounds boring?
Yes, especially if you remember that Hollow Knight was released in the same year, where there was much more original content.
Unfortunately, Metroid: Dread is only slightly more interesting than Samus Returns. Dread is not a “love letter” to the original from grateful fans, but a sterile sequel that has no face of its own. Sometimes you can even enjoy it, but it immediately disappears when you realize that you are playing an AAA product that somehow feels worse in everything than low-budget indie games.
Metroid: Dread starts off briskly and interestingly, but an hour later, the initial charm is gone. Metroid: Dread lacks the same graceful and gradual progression feel inherent in any good metroidvania. You regularly get new upgrades and skills, immediately use them to go through the story to the next location, and that’s it.
After that, you forget about them. In general, the game has a rather strange pace: you will receive the first full-fledged upgrade only after a few hours, and in the second half of the passage, the game will literally overwhelm you with new abilities every half hour, when most of them are no longer needed.
A good metroidvania is a puzzle game that constantly forces you to strain your memory and apply logic, change the usual approaches to gameplay. Metroid: Dread doesn’t force you to think, remember the location of the paths. For all the passage you will never have a thought in the spirit: “I finally got a new gun, it’s worth trying to open that closed door from the beginning of the game!”.
It will not, because by this moment you will have forgotten about that door. Metroid: Dread has a huge map, but instead of a variety of biomes, the game fills this space with gray and dull corridors. There is no visual history in these locations, there is nothing to say about them and they can be described with one epithet. Here are unsightly ice corridors, and here are unsightly tropical corridors. There are no gameplay differences between them. To be fair, in dynamics they look much more tolerant than in the screenshots, but nevertheless, Dread is an ugly game.
The planet ZDR is conditionally divided into seven regions, but there is no connection between them. In the previous parts, there was often a feeling of genuine childish delight when you finally get a new ability, destroy the wall and it turns out that all this time the underwater world and the forest were separated only by this unfortunate wall. This time the regions are connected artificially with the help of teleports. These teleports are sorely lacking, they are all located in very inconvenient places.
They also perform the function of fast travel, although there is no full-fledged and precisely that there is no fast movement in the game. The game does not save your time, forcing you to engage in meaningless and unnecessary running to your destination. Yes, backtracking is a feature of the genre, but if even small studios have long learned to make it interesting and not like torture, then why can’t Nintendo do the same? It is terribly inconvenient to navigate through this map, in the later stages of the game you will have to look closely at it in order to understand where you can go and where you have not yet been.
If you are a perfectionist who loves to clear the entire map from the gray “fog of war”, then in Metroid: Dread you will have a hard time. The game registers movements in a very strange way, sometimes it forces you to climb into empty corners, just to close an eye-catching area on the map. In the same Fusion or Samus Returns, everything was simpler: you enter a room – the game immediately notes that the player has been here and paints the room in a blue square.
It’s sad that the game, being a metroidvania, doesn’t reward the player in any way for exploring the world. You have no incentive to explore the optional locations, because the only reward that awaits you there is either an additional rocket or one fourth of a health upgrade.
There won’t be much sense in another rocket already in the middle of the passage, because by this moment Samus already has about a hundred of them. Full-fledged health improvements are distributed almost according to the plot, you still have to try to skip them, so the collection of additional “quarters” does not change the overall picture in any way. The game clearly lacks additional content.
As expected, it is very easy to get lost in Metroid: Dread. You will idly wander around for forty minutes, and then it turns out that all this time you had to shoot at the floor, although, of course, there was not a single visual indicator. And if fans of the series sooner or later come up with this, then beginners will have to use the guide.
This problem has been dragging on since Super Metroid, but why not finally solve it? And it was solved – back in Samus Returns, where a scanner was added to the series for the first time, allowing you to find secret passages. This scanner is MercurySteam’s best creative solution in two games, but the studio practically ditched it in Dread. In this part, you will receive a scanner only at the end of the game, when the most illogical moments are over, and the game is practically leading you by the hand.
In space, everyone will hear you cry
In space, everyone will hear you cry
The main innovation in Metroid: Dread is the EMMI robots. Ideally, they should constantly chase the heroine, not letting them relax for a second, as Tyrant and Nemesis did from recent Resident Evil. The game immediately warns you that it is almost impossible to escape from them. This intensifies suspense, but in reality everything, of course, is much more prosaic: you just need to counterattack in time.
Unlike their cousins from RE, EMMIs only annoy and interfere with the usual pace of the game, when once again you have to break out of your usual routine and run away from them into the next room. They never get out of the allocated location, they never suddenly attack you, and you always know where they are.
Battles with each of the eight EMMIs take place according to the same scenario: globally, robots do not differ in any way from each other, except for the color scheme. Sometimes and very rarely, it is really difficult to escape from them, but only because in the narrow corridors of Metroid: Dread there is not much room for maneuver, and the responsiveness of the controls leaves much to be desired.
Towards the end, the control problems become all too obvious. For example, Samus gains the ability to fire multiple missiles at once. To make such a shot, you need to hold L to aim, hold B for about five seconds to lock the target, and only then press Y to finally shoot. And during this process, you cannot move. Of course, bosses will not tolerate such slowness, given that almost all battles with them take place in a very confined space.
This is where the main difficulty of these battles arises. Metroid: Dread has the perfect balance of difficulty if you have a background in previous games. But often the player simply does not have enough space to run away from the boss and learn the patterns of his attacks. As a result, you will have to die at least a few times – just to understand where to hit in the next phase of the battle. The game once again creates artificial obstacles that could have been avoided.
A new feature of the combat system in Dread is the ability to counterattack. It really refreshes the familiar gameplay, parrying the attacks of ordinary opponents – fun and cinematic. But the counterattack becomes a real curse in the boss fight, because you never know at what point in the battle you will need to press this button. Parrying is necessary to defeat the boss, otherwise you will not see the finishing scene, and you will have to replay the last phase of the fight.
The most annoying drawback of Dread is its bosses. For the second game in a row, MercurySteam has for some reason considered it normal to force you to replay the same boss by simply changing its color, or to release two previous bosses at once on you at once. This time, the developers changed their minds a little: now Samus is opposed by eight almost identical, but multi-colored EMMI and five identical (but also multi-colored!) Other robots.
This “variety” is diluted with a couple of monsters, just as predictable. Of course, in an underwater location, the heroine will have to destroy something with tentacles, and she will also definitely meet one of her nemesis, because this is an old tradition of the series.
Metroid: Dread is a much more story-driven game than its predecessors. And in vain. The appearance of cutscenes spoils the atmosphere of oppressive loneliness, which was correctly set by previous issues. The script in the game is predictably lame and seems to have absorbed every possible cliché of the genre.
An “unexpected” betrayal? There is. Is the heroine’s past suddenly connected with the main villain, whom she sees for the first time in her life? And this is also there. Samus’s only friend will appear in one cutscene, and in five minutes he will be immediately killed? Yes, it was not without it either. It would be better if there were no cutscenes in the game at all: the absence of a plot is much more effective than a cliché plot for show.
The game is fully translated and dubbed into Russian. There is nothing to find fault with: the translation is done with dignity, and the Russian voice acting sounds even more authentic than the original. The only human-speaking character is the ADAM supercomputer. In the Russian version, his voice began to sound more mechanized, more artificial and more distinct. The perfect voice for a soulless machine.
Finally, Metroid: Dread has an unremarkable soundtrack. The musical accompaniment of the previous parts sounded great apart from the games themselves, it skillfully conveyed the atmosphere of the oppressive cosmic loneliness of the main character. By the end of the game, all of Metroid: Dread’s music turns into one long, continuous and dull track. Sad omission.
It is wrong and unethical to say that Metroid: Dread is not worth the money. An infinite amount of human labor is invested in any franchise project of this level. But is it worth buying this game, thereby supporting the absolute absence of new ideas and the dominance of old flaws with your wallet, when there are much better analogs from smaller and budget studios? The question is open.
Metroid needs an update for a long time, and Dread could be a reimagining of the series in the spirit of Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. Instead, the game clumsily flirts with the player’s nostalgia, hiding its lack of content. Sadly, Metroid: Dread doesn’t feel like a Nintendo game. It simply does not have the usual gloss.
What we liked
What we liked
- The same Metroid as 20 years ago.
- The combat system has been refreshed and deeper.
- The complexity is perfectly balanced.
- Samus’s costume designs are the best in the entire series.
- In some places, Russian dubbing is better than the original.
What did not like
What did not like
- The same Metroid as 20 years ago.
- The game lacks a variety of locations, enemies and bosses.
- All boss battles take place according to the same scenario.
- A clipped plot.
- A dull, lackluster design overall.
- In terms of graphics, Dread is not pretty.
- Lack of full-fledged fast travel and meaningless backtracking.
- Dull soundtrack.
- Overloaded controls are closer to the end of the game.
- In many ways it is inferior to its predecessors and even indie metroidvania.
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