2021 was a busy year of games, especially towards the tail end of the year. Due to that, I’ve still got a massive untapped backlog of unplayed games that could see me through to the end of 2022… Welcome, to Metroid Dread.
Recently I’ve been enjoying (not sure if that is the right word, to be honest, but I’ll explain more going forward) Metroid Dread which launched for the Nintendo Switch on the 8th of October 2021. It’s set after the story of Metroid Fusion (which was on the Gameboy Advance) from 2002 and continues the story of the main character Samus Aran.
The game is a 2D side scroller with 3D backgrounds and has a beautiful art style with flashes of colour, those lucky enough to have picked up the new OLED version of the Switch are in for a treat. It’s great to finally have Metroid back and although it’s not Prime 4, which seems to have disappeared from the radar totally, this should be good enough to keep us going for a while.
When your gameplay style is so iconic that it takes part of your name, you know that you’ve done a good job. This is Metroidvania at its best, explore, upgrade and revisit and progress. It’s also one of the hardest games I’ve played in ages. In my first few hours, I quickly lost count of how many times I died, if you stick with Dread for the long run, it’s going to be time to “get good”.
This is not a game that’s going to hold your hand and tell you what to do, as |Ive quickly became lost more than once. When I go back to the game, I think it will be with a walkthrough in hand as I’ve become a little frustrated with not knowing where to go next. That’s all on me, as it’s not my style of game but something to be aware of before playing.
The gameplay is buttery smooth and only get better as you continue while getting more abilities and better weapons, but if you’re able to I’d recommend playing on the pro controller rather than with the JoyCons. The timing of counters and attacks just feels better and more direct.
In some sections, you’ll encounter EMMI robots, here the gameplay changes to be more stealth-based as getting spotted by them pretty much mean a one-hit death. There is however an incredibly small window to escape, in theory at least, but I’ve yet to pull this off. Most of my deaths in the game have come in these sections but there is a forgiving autosave feature which means you can jump back in a try again, or in my case again and again and again…
The boss fights are a major highlight of my playtime with Dread, showcasing some of the best I’ve experienced since Ori and the Blind Forrest (until now my favourite Metroidvania style game in the last few years), as you progress through the game they all vary and will make sure that you use everything that you’ve learned along the way. Just beware, your encounters here will lead to many more deaths until you’ve worked out what to do.
The story of Metroid Dread is good but you might want to refresh yourself on what has happened before, as newcomers to the series might feel a little lost. Bear in mind that this is 5th title in the game’s mainline story and there is quite a bit happened so far. It’s not going to be for everyone though.
In terms of playthrough time, you’re looking at anywhere between seven to eight hours for a normal playthrough and closer to 13 for the 100% completion time. Just this week Nintendo has revealed that the game is getting some features, the first being an ultra-difficulty mode and also one for players like me, Rookie Mode. Both are available now as part of a free update. Later in April, the game will also be getting a boss rush mode for players to attempt, featuring all of the boss fights in one go.
I’ve loved my time with the game no matter how many times I’ve had to try again, it never comes across as cheap deaths and so far at least, it’s only encouraged me to better my skills and progress further. The openness to explore and progress feel wonderful and it’s a title I can see me revisiting time and time.
Metroid Dread is one of the best games of 2021 and I’d recommend it to anyone, but now it’s only made me want Metroid Prime 4 even more, dam you Nintendo.