Thursday, August 16

Review: Galak-Z Variant S [Nintendo Switch eShop]


When I initially heard that Galak-Z was coming to Switch I was tremendously excited as it is an indie title I loved playing on the PC. When I heard the initial name followed by the words “Variant S” I got a bit of a chill and began worrying over what that distinction meant. Though I would imagine the Switch would be capable of running a port of the original title we were instead “blessed” with a port of the mobile version of the game. Though it does retain the amazing art and some of the gameplay elements of the original title, it being overrun with mobile-ness in the form of timed unlock content and an abundance of attempts to convince you to partake of its microtransactions heavily cripple the original experience.


Though the story is pretty significantly pared back in this version you’ll still be playing as the brash A-Tak, and the events of this game actually follow the conclusion of the original where he ended up in the Void. For the most part none of this amounts to much more than some chit chat once in a while, the emphasis is really on the action. Probably the most notable change in terms of the gameplay from the original title to this mobile incarnation is that they’ve taken away the ability for your ship to transform between its fighter and mech modes. Instead when you set out on your mission you’ll be choosing one or the other as separate crafts, each with their own set of enhancements you can manage through upgrades you’ll earn and bots that you can associate to boost specific attributes.


The primary gameplay experience is broken into major zones which each have multiple missions, some of which will allow you to play in either of your craft and some that will dictate one or the other. As you complete these the story will slowly advance and in most missions there’s an opportunity to take on a tougher ship in order to score a relic. Relics are the first place the mobile emphasis shows its head as you’ll need to either wait for them to unlock (while initially this is only takes 10 minutes as you get higher value relics the time will extend to an hour) or use one of a handful of type of in-game currency to unlock them faster. The more powerful the upgrades get the more times you’ll need to collect them in order to be able to make use of them, leading to the need to grind the same missions repeatedly to get upgrades and then either be forced to regularly check in every hour or so to unlock another, waste what little currency you’ll earn as you go, or spend real money to purchase currency to then use to unlock them. The thing is, as you move on in zones you’ll absolutely need these upgrades to be able to stay with the difficulty curve so expect quite a bit of repetition.


The bots I mentioned are completely tied to the in-game currency and come from crates that you can open using two different types. These are very loot box-y in nature and give you a random bot to work with, which can range in quality from common to elite and will have a variety of attributes. Bots have a variety of purposes, depending on which you get. They can be associated with your ships to provide perk boosts, one can be used to help incrementally unlock relics faster, and they also contribute to the passive PvP battle mode you can participate in. This mode is another mobile staple, which will allow you to define which bots you’ll use to defend yourself against other players (you’ll want to keep an eye on which craft are associated with the bot and how powerful they are to know which to choose) and then you can choose to attack players as well to help slowly build experience to upgrade your bots and make them more powerful. In addition there are rewards you can earn periodically tied to your ranking based on how well you perform and how often you participate. Here there’s another transaction lure as well, you’ll only be able to participate in 3 battles before you’ll get hit with a cooldown timer, but you’ll have the option to spend some currency to get by this again.


In terms of the total picture, aside from its persistent attempts to try to get you to spend real money to progress a little quicker, I’d say that while it’s initially some fun the more you play it the more the grind sets in. If you don’t mind the mobile format of a game you load up every few hours to play for 15 minutes and then go do something else perhaps it will suit you well but otherwise it may be grating. Of special note is that if you’re on the go and aren’t connected to wi-fi you won’t be able to do this either, so be sure your plans revolve around having internet access or you’re out of luck. To the developer’s credit special events appear to periodically show up but if you’re not too powered up yet you’ll probably struggle to take advantage of the opportunities it gives you for special event-specific gear. My worst problem with the title is that it’s a mere shadow of the original that I adored, and I’d rather have spent the money to buy that outright rather than play this neutered version for free.


Score: 5.5

Pros:
  • Retains the great look and most of the elements of core gameplay from the original title
  • If you’re willing to live with the grind, very mobile-like timers, and regular bursts of play you may not mind it
  • Special events provide some incentive for people who enjoy the game to return periodically

Cons:
  • This version of Galak-Z is absolutely a neutered and less fun one overall
  • Has blatant attempts to get you to spend money pretty well everywhere, though if you’re patient you need not spend anything
  • Even if you spend some coin to speed things up there’s no escaping the grind
  • Cannot be played without internet access, seriously harming its portability