Metroidvanias are a dime a dozen these days. But where you don’t see them used often is in first-person shooters, despite the excellent blueprint and success had by Hexen back in the early ’90s. But Hexen‘s brand of gameplay is coming back, in the form of GRAVEN.
GRAVEN is a grim dark medieval shooter from Slipgate Ironworks, a Danish studio which is co-developing Ghostrunner, the Rise of the Triad reboot, next year’s Sin: Reloaded re-release and the upcoming Kingpin: Reloaded remaster. GRAVEN isn’t due out 2021, but the initial launch trailer and opening half-hour of gameplay are already hitting all the right beats.
The game opens with a boat ride that’s almost a little Half-Life-esque, with a nice blend of stylised and pixelized art that complements the medieval fantasy setting nicely. Upon arriving at Cruxfirth, you learn that it’s infected by a plague of “unknown origin”. So it’s up to you to clear it out, in classic video game fashion, exploring and unlocking secrets, spells and weapons along the way.
In good Hexen fashion, you’ll be returning to areas throughout the game as you unlock new weapons and abilities. You can also pick up and move objects, which is handy for some environmental puzzles, as well as dealing with hordes of enemies (think throwing explosive barrels, setting up traps in small corridors, that sort of thing).
Below you’ll find a 1440p trailer of the first 30 minutes from GRAVEN. It’s a slow start compared to games like Dusk or Ion Fury, as the game establishes its setting and the layout for the player to explore.
I’ve been wondering for ages how we didn’t get a spiritual successor to Hexen, given how much appetite there’s been for Metroidvania-style design over the last decade. It’s nice to see the wave of retro shooters is bringing it back, and hopefully the slightly slower pace of GRAVEN compared to something like AMID EVIL (or the recently-released ULTRAKILL, which is fantastic) finds a strong audience.
If you’re interested, there’s more info on the official Steam page here.