Dandara Review: Savior
Kalvin Martinez / Feb 27th, 2018 No Comments
It’s rare to find a game that catches you completely by surprise. As unique as any given game can be, you can spot its influences or know a game with a similar sort of element or gimmick. It is exciting to find a game that catches you off guard.
Dandara is one of those games. It is a Metroidvania, and in that regard it doesn’t stray to far from the genre. However, it does have one hell of a surprise in the form of its movement system. It is lyrical and beautiful, but also one of the game’s biggest drawbacks.
Break the Shackles
Back in the golden days of the Salt, Creation and Intention merged together into Learning and Growth, leaving the people of Creation prosperous and in a glorious age of peace. The peace wouldn’t last forever. A cancerous idea grew, throwing off the balance between Creation and Intention and ushering in a new age of oppression. With the Colossal Bridge severed by the Eldarian Army, Creation cowers in fear awaiting the end.
Yet, hope sprung from the Crib of Creation with the birth of Dandara. The monumental task of saving the Salt and Creation from the Eldarian Army lies before her feet. It won’t be easy, but with the support and artifacts of the citizens of Creation, she might stand a chance. As she brings order back to Creation, she must venture into the Eldarian lands and kill Eldar, the villainous leader to restore balance.
Dandara places players in an imaginative and inventive world populated with cool characters. The story itself is subtly told as you gain information sporadically by finding Creation survivors. By interacting with these characters, you start to unlock the bigger picture about how the world has come undone and what Dandara must do to make it right.
This manner of storytelling means players aren’t constantly being told where to go or given more information than necessary. It puts an onus on the player to make assumptions and draw conclusions, which is a mature way to tell a story. Despite giving players a lot of room to breathe, the story doesn’t feel incomplete.
Gravity is a trivial thing to Dandara. It is merely a suggestion. As such, her movement is fluid and striking. She is able to bound from wall to ceiling to floor to ledge and anything in between.
If a surface is covered in salt, she is able to flit from surface to surface like she is a bullet shot from a gun. Her graceful movements between surfaces of salt are what makes Dandara such an unique game. However, it’s also one of its major flaws.
While Dandara’s movement system is undeniably unique, it does have a huge learning curve that never seems to go away. As the difficulty amps up, there is a larger margin of error.
Aiming where Dandara lands on salt-covered surfaces can be bothersome. Your ability to aim accurately at the spot where you want to land lags behind your desire to move. Dodging and maneuvering through attacks is hindered by this sluggish aiming. This makes it rough to master boss fights and tougher areas of the game.
Much of the game’s difficulty spikes as a result of this. While it makes success that much sweeter, it also can get wildly frustrating. But it doesn’t completely suck the fun out of the game. If you’re able to preserve and account for the sometimes imprecise aiming, there is a lot to like in Dandara.
Although movement is one of its most unique features, the way its map is set up also sets it apart from other Metroidvania games. In fact, the map is kind of amazing. It bottlenecks at the beginning of the game to ensure players get the main point of the story, the core powers and a handle on how to play the game.
Once you beat the first boss, it opens up and allows players to travel to the Eldarian lands without too many speedbumps. Obviously, those occur as you encounter areas where a specific powerup is needed to advance further, but you can get a lay for the various areas in the game and a feel for how tough its enemies are.
Another thing that is cool about Dandara is the simplicity of its upgrade path. Players can upgrade Dandara’s health, energy and the efficacy of the respective items that restore them. While these are the only upgrades Dandara can boost, she gets relics and different special weapons throughout the game.
Using salt gathered by defeating enemies, Dandara can upgrade her attributes at camps. The only issue is that when you die, your soul and salt is left where you fell. In order to re-gain your salt, you need to make it back and reclaim your previous soul. It can be hard if you died far from a camp with a lot of strong enemies along the way. Failing to gain a huge amount of salt is one of the most crushing aspects of the game.
Combining the way the map works with the unique movement and the sparse item/upgrades makes Dandara a cool riff on the Metroidvania genre.
Dandara does some cool and unique things that make it stand out. Some of those elements have a little clunk to them, which holds it back. In spite those drawbacks, Dandara is a fascinating game that is worth trying out.
Dandara was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a code provided by the publisher
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