Inexistence Rebirth

A game by Jonathan Brassaud for PC, originally released in 2020.
Inexistence Rebirth is an expanded and updated version of Inexistence, released in 2016. The new game strikes many of the same notes as the original in minute-to-minute gameplay, offering melee-based combat, ranged magic, and many of the same enemies, environments, and bosses. However, the new game is roughly triple the size of the original and offers a graphical overhaul, an interconnected world with a metroidvania map, tweaks to the level designs, and new unlockable skills, and it is built on a faster and more powerful game engine.

You take on the role of Hald. Hald and his sister, Hania, were chosen by the gods to be guardians of the land, acting as “Keepers” meant to maintain order and balance. However, a man named Claos (who stands twice the size of Hald, for reasons that are not explained) wants no part of this peace and casts a spell that puts Hania into a kind of stasis. Hald vows to break the spell and free her, but he’ll need to set out across the world to learn new spells and grow in strength before he can hope to defeat Claos.

You begin the game with a 2x variable jump and a 2-hit sword combo consisting of a forward slash followed by an overhead slash. You are able to duck but cannot crawl or attack while ducking. It is possible to attack while jumping, but doing so also interrupts the height of your jump, which is not intuitive and runs counter to the design of other action-platformers. This may also cause you to fall short of your target if you attempt to strike an enemy in midair.

You may also attack enemies from a distance using magical orbs, which draw from a magic meter that refills slowly over time. For dodging attacks, you have a backflip, which not only lets you escape attacks but also makes you invincible for the duration of the animation, acting as a reverse dodge roll. You may grab onto ledges and jump onto them or drop down, and you must occasionally climb up or drop down between multiple grab points in succession. Throughout the game, you unlock new abilities that allow you to reach previously inaccessible areas, per metroidvania standards, and these include a double jump, a more destructive magic spell, and the ability to run at high speeds.

New abilities are unlocked by defeating certain bosses, but there are also numerous secondary abilities that may be purchased by using skill points. Skill points are earned by levelling up (more on this in a bit) or by finding skill point icons hidden around the environment. Secondary abilities include a magnet that draws pickups toward you, minor auto restoration for health, an extra hit for your 2-hit combo, increased maximum health, reduced MP consumption, and the ability to see the outline of the entire world map, among others. Some of these secondary abilities are more expensive than others (e.g., the full map display is more than triple the cost of the 3-hit combo), so players will want to spend points to best suit their playstyles.

The player begins the game with a wooden sword and light clothing, but throughout the game, he encounters stronger blades, better armor, and magical amulets. Some equipment may be purchased from a shopkeeper as well, who also sells health restoring potions and poison antidotes. Each piece of equipment affects the player’s strength, defense, and/or magic stats. Each killed enemy drops XP orbs which may be collected to increase the player’s experience points, allowing him to level up at certain thresholds. In addition to unlocking secondary abilities, levelling up also allows the player to spend points toward permanent strength, defense, or magic stat increases.

The design of the world is very open, even from the start, allowing the player to venture off in multiple paths with little overt direction. There are two main geographical areas – the Isle of Hope and the Castle – and each of these is divided into themed regions, which include the standard fantasy locales of caves, snowy areas, green plains, and medieval structures, and there are even some underwater areas.

As the player explores, he slowly fills out the metroidvania map and discovers areas that he cannot reach with his default abilities. The map shows the outline of each room, which doorways connect between them, and the locations of save fountains. Save fountains not only restore the player’s health but also allow him to transport between any of the other fountains he has discovered (one of which is next to the shopkeeper's house), allowing him to quickly return to previous areas.

These fountains are doubly important because there is no other means of health restoration throughout the game, aside from potions that the player may purchase and stockpile. There is a fair amount of distance between save points, and getting killed returns the player to the last fountain he activated, with all of his post-save progress reset, which can mean replaying large chunks of the game if he is not careful. The player may select from Easy, Normal, or Hard difficulty settings at the outset of the game, and skilled players will find post-game content in the form of a new playable character.

Players may encounter small amounts of currency by breaking destructible objects, or larger amounts of currency in treasure chests, most of which are placed off the beaten path – often behind false walls – and these chests may contain equipment or potions as well. Players may also find puzzle pieces hidden around the world, and the shopkeeper offers an unspecified reward should you discover them all.

Enemies come in many shapes and sizes, from simple patrolling foes to gigantic demonic cats carrying 20-foot swords. Most simple enemies go down with a couple slashes of your sword, but you’ll frequently encounter enemies that take five or six hits to kill (at least until you have better stats and equipment), so you’ll need to make regular use of your backflipping dodge maneuver to avoid enemy strikes. Enemies respawn when leaving a room and returning.

Several regular enemies are so large and intimidating upon first meeting them that they almost seem like minibosses. That said, the game’s actual bosses aren’t much more complex than these larger foes, with most remaining relatively still and cycling between a couple of different attacks. Depending on how you’ve spent your skill points, it’s possible to defeat several of the bosses by simply standing still and slashing away while absorbing their attacks.

Boss encounters are at least visually impressive, and some are more agile than others, so they’re not entirely devoid of challenge. One painful aspect of boss encounters, however, is that they are often placed quite a distance away from save points, requiring you to retain health on the way to meet them, and then venture a substantial distance after the boss fight ends.

The game world is made up of multiple themed areas, although there are certain tilesets that get quite a lot of use (you’ll be looking at a lot of rocky walls). The aesthetics are roughly in line with 16-bit console games but with more advanced lighting and special effects. Character movements are noticeably stilted due to a lack of transition animations, but enemy designs are cool, varied, and often huge. The game is accompanied by an adventuresome retro soundtrack. The soundtrack loops are a bit short, which is on par for games of the 16-bit era, but it does mean that you’ll experience the same themes repeatedly over the game’s three hour length.

Inexistence Rebirth was developed by Jonathan Brassaud as an expansion and remaster of his original Inexistence, which was released in 2016. During the course of this game’s development, Jonathan worked as a UI designer at Ubisoft MontrĂ©al. Music for the game was composed by Fawzi Allouache.