Mecha Therion: Blending Heavy Metal Mayhem with Fresh Gameplay

In 2019, Steel Mantis released “Valfaris,” a game that captivated me with its intense, thrash metal-influenced run-and-gun gameplay. This title, which built upon and significantly improved their first game “Slain,” has remained one of my top action games in recent years. Now, four years later, Steel Mantis returns with a sequel to continue Therion’s story, but with a surprising shift in genre and style. While aesthetically aligned with the original “Valfaris,” the new game, “Mecha Therion,” swaps platforming run-and-gun for a more conventional horizontal shoot-em-up format. The question is, does this genre shift enhance the game or backfire?

“Mecha Therion” picks up where “Valfaris” left off, with protagonist Therion pursuing his tyrannical father, Vroll, for vengeance. Armed with the powerful sword Bathoryn, which embodies his brother’s soul, Therion confronts Vroll’s forces on a new planet. This revenge-driven plot aligns well with the heavy metal theme, providing a solid backdrop for the game’s action.

Visually, “Mecha Therion” continues Steel Mantis’ signature heavy metal-inspired pixel art style, featuring vibrant neon colors that bring the artwork to life. The game’s character models, including Therion and his enemies, are large and detailed. However, this isn’t a pixel-perfect bullet hell shooter but rather an interesting blend of traditional shooting and the series’ original run-and-gun mechanics. The graphics are striking, though at times the screen can become cluttered, leading to unavoidable damage.

The game presents a variety of enemies, from Warhammer-like space marines to malevolent jellies, each with unique attack patterns. Boss battles are a standout feature, offering a real challenge, especially on higher difficulty settings. Compared to “Valfaris,” “Mecha Therion” is somewhat easier, but additional difficulties are unlocked in New Game Plus (NG+), enhancing its replayability.

Players utilize both ranged and melee weapons, with the latter being a unique element for a shoot-em-up game. This hybrid approach is evident in weapon choices, ranging from standard firearms to more unique options like flamethrowers. Melee weapons play a crucial role, as using them replenishes your energy bar, which is depleted by ranged attacks. This dynamic encourages a balanced use of both weapon types. Upgrades are available for all weapons, and melee attacks can also destroy enemy projectiles, further emphasizing their importance.

In addition to weapons, players can equip auxiliary attacks and support modules offering passive abilities, including energy recharge acceleration and secret area detection. Collectibles in the game include hidden modules, new weapons, and upgrade materials. All upgrades are permanent, so it’s advisable to focus on enhancing a few select weapons.

In summary, “Valfaris: Mecha Therion” is a brilliant expansion of the series, adopting the visual and audio style of its predecessors while venturing into a new genre. Although not the longest game (I completed it thrice in 12 hours), it offers substantial replay value through various difficulty settings, weapon upgrades, and challenging achievements. Whether you’re familiar with Steel Mantis’ previous works or new to the series, “Mecha Therion” is a highly recommended, exhilarating heavy metal experience.

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