Valfaris programmer and designer Thomas Jenns speaks with GamingBolt about the fast-paced action platformer.
While major AAA developers and publishers in the industry have moved away from the furious, fast-paced action platformers from the golden age of gaming, talented indies across the industry have, thankfully, picked up the slack, and they’ve filled that void excellently. One of the more recent games to do so is Valfaris, a chaotic, frenetic game with bombastic combat, stylish visuals, and excellent platforming. It’s a game that has rightly caught the attention of many, ours included. We recently sent across some of our most burning questions about it to developers Steel Mantis- you can read our conversation with Valfaris programmer and designer Thomas Jenns below.
NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to the game’s launch.
"It’s supposed to be challenging, although hopefully not unfairly so. There’s no easy mode!"
Valfaris sports an absolutely beautiful eye-catching aesthetic. Can you talk us through the process of how you landed on that look for the game? Did you look at anything for inspiration?
[Valfaris artist and game designer] Andrew [Gilmour]’s process for creating this kind of look is a trade secret! I don’t think he looks for inspiration, but I believe his art has been influenced by games like Doom, Heretic and Diablo. And of course, there’re influences from heavy metal.
Action heavy shoot ’em ups like Valfaris generally tend to be gruellingly difficult experiences- can we expect something similar from Valfaris, or are you going for something more accessible?
It’s supposed to be challenging, although hopefully not unfairly so. There’s no easy mode!
What can you tell us about the variety of weapons in the game? I imagine the game’s setting opens doors to some pretty unique and crazy weaponry.
A lot of the earlier weapons aren’t too out of the ordinary in terms of their functionality. We have something like a pistol, a shotgun, a flamethrower and a couple of machine gun like weapons. We have some pretty crazy ones that you’ll find later on though, like the Bishop’s Reach, which uses tendrils to latch onto enemies and absorb their lifeforce. Most of the weapons are hi-tech, but there are quite a few medieval fantasy style ones too. Some are a mix of both!
What can players expect from the game’s bosses, in terms of variety and the frequency of these set piece fights?
There are quite a few bosses, usually at least 2 per stage. They’re all pretty unique and you’ll probably need to pay attention to their attack patterns if you want to stay alive.
"There are quite a few bosses, usually at least 2 per stage."
Similarly, what can you tell us about enemy variety for regular, non-boss enemies?
There are new enemies in every stage, and I think there’s quite a lot of variety. They’re on foot, flying, crawling, hopping etc. Some attack with guns, some with magic, and some with their fangs and claws. No matter what they come at you with though, you can usually reduce them to a pile of gibs.
Do you have any plans to add any multiplayer to the game? Is co-op on the cards?
It’s not going to happen. It was designed as a single player game from the start, so it would too much of a fundamental change at this point. Maybe in the next game!
Valfaris obviously seems to differ from your previous game, Slain: Back From Hell, quite a bit, but what lessons have you taken from your work on that game and applied here?
I’ve gotten SO much better at coding since working on Slain. I was able to create some much more ambitious systems and mechanics this time. There are all sorts of inefficient things going on in Slain like over-the-top particle systems, enemies running their AI and collision happening far off-screen etc. Things are running much better in Valfaris, but I know my programming / design skills still have a long way to go!
What resolution and frame rate does the Switch version run in docked and undocked modes?
It runs at 60 FPS in both modes, for the most part. When things get a bit too intense the framerate may dip though! The screen resolution is 720p when docked. You probably wouldn’t notice any difference at higher resolutions than this though as it’s a pixel art game.
"There are new enemies in every stage, and I think there’s quite a lot of variety. They’re on foot, flying, crawling, hopping etc. Some attack with guns, some with magic, and some with their fangs and claws. No matter what they come at you with though, you can usually reduce them to a pile of gibs."
Backwards compatibility is a big feature PS5. How will it help your past library to evolve and grow?
It will be cool if people can play Slain, Valfaris and whatever the next game will be all on one console!
The PS5 was recently confirmed to have Haptic enabled controllers. How do you think that will help games to evolve?
You’ll be able to really feel it when you wade through a pile of body parts.