Archvale — An Indie Gem: First Impressions (Nintendo Switch)
A prime example of a developer deftly melding together diverse influences, Archvale is a masterpiece of bullet-hell combat, RPG progression and deep crafting mechanics.
Quietly announced on YouTube in December 2018, Archvale started life as an early proof-of-concept closely resembling the classic twin-stick Nuclear Throne. Over the course of several years, developers Jamie Bateman (aka IDoZ) and artwork collaborator phops refined the game’s core gameplay, graphics and sound until an eventual release on Switch, Xbox and PC in December 2021. The entire series of devlogs on YouTube chart the game’s evolution in fascinating detail and are well worth a watch.
The strategy was an inspired one, as the early hype and open development process generated interest for the game’s release which was by all accounts highly successful for a debut indie. The game sits at a respectable 82 on Metacritic with NME describing it as a ‘first-class combination of frantic bullet hell action and endearing RPG adventuring’.
The devlogs offer a first-hand glimpse into the development process, in which gameplay concepts and mechanics were tested, refined, and occasionally dropped in service of producing a cohesive final product. For example, Stardew Valley style farming was developed and implemented extensively before eventually being dropped in favour of a strictly combat and mining-based approach to resource gathering.
Likewise, the game initially featured a parry system that added tactical depth to combat, but was eventually replaced with a dodge mechanic that kept the combat feeling more fluid and ensured projectiles were always something to be…