Cathedral

A game by Decemberborn Interactive for PC, Mac, Switch, iOS, and Android, originally released in 2019.
Cathedral is a retro-style metroidvania inspired by the classics of the 8- and 16-bit era. The player takes on the role of an unnamed knight who is suddenly transported from another world in a flash of lightning. With no knowledge of who he is or what he is meant to do, he begins exploring a sprawling cathedral filled with enemies and traps. Early in his adventure, the knight meets a mysterious spirit named Soul who guides him on a quest to collect five elemental orbs and bring them to a mysterious door.
The game takes place across a large environment and several themed regions, with the player facing enemies and solving environmental puzzles along the way… and facing off against the guardians that protect each of the orbs. As you fight and collect treasure, you are able to buy better armor and perks, allowing you to survive tougher encounters, and you learn new abilities that allow you to reach previously inaccessible areas, per genre conventions.
At the start of the game, the knight is able to move to the left or right and perform a 3x variable jump. He can swing his sword while standing or jumping, and - while he has no multi-hit combo - his sword strikes are fast and he can perform multiple strikes in quick succession. In addition, he can point his sword downward while jumping to break through certain blocks (often leading to hidden areas), as well as bounce off of objects and enemies to reach higher platforms, and attack enemies from above. It’s possible to do heavy damage to enemies with repeated downward strikes, Scrooge McDuck-style, and this is a valuable skill for taking on many tough foes.
As the game goes on, the player earns new attacks and abilities, including a shield that can block projectiles, a double jump to reach higher platforms, a gauntlet that fires arrows that pass through walls to hit distant targets, a dash maneuver, and the ability to take control of Soul for a few seconds to reach tight areas and activate certain switches.
The player discovers and purchases equipment upgrades, allowing him to sustain more damage and granting him more powerful strikes… which is important since some of the toughest enemies in the game take eight hits to destroy before the player has powered up. Stackable armor perks include increased chances to avoid damage when hit, increased health upon respawn, and reduced cooldown for using healing potions. There are also perks for reduced knockback and a loot magnet.
Money is extremely important, as most upgrades must be purchased from a shop. Fortunately, the world is positively packed with gold coins, gold bars, and gems of varying denominations that drop from killed enemies, destructible objects (sometimes hidden), and treasure chests. There are plenty of treasure rooms and other optional areas that can be reached by clever players, offering additional monetary rewards. On the other hand, there is some risk involved, as getting killed causes the player to lose 10% of his cash. Money can be saved in a bank, but there’s a limit to how much the bank can hold… unless you spend additional money to increase this limit.
The player begins the game with three hearts, which can be lost in half-heart increments – with a long invincibility period after each hit – and health can be restored in half-heart increments by collecting hearts dropped by enemies or found in chests. By exploring the world, and sometimes by defeating bosses, the player discovers heart containers that allow him to extend his health meter. There are also pickups that increase the player’s maximum arrow capacity by five, operating identically to the missile tanks in the Metroid series.
The player begins the game with a healing potion that restores two hearts, and finding additional potion bottles allows the player to store more health restoratives. Here again, money comes into play as potion upgrades allow each bottle to restore more health, which becomes important as the player encounters tougher enemies and bosses. Getting killed returns the player to the nearest save room with his progress intact.
A metroidvania map and exploration completion percentage help the player on his journey to navigate the world, and there’s also a minimap that appears in the HUD (which can be toggled on and off, as it sometimes obscures level elements), as well as map fragments that fill out unexplored areas of the map. The map shows save rooms, statues that restore the player’s potions or arrows, portals that allow for fast travel between regions, and doorways that allow the player to travel between level layers. The player moves into background layers when entering doors in towns, which is typical of the genre, but even outdoor areas have foreground and background areas, sometimes making it difficult to tell how to navigate from one region to another, as it may require passing between layers more than once. The player can toggle between layers when viewing the world map, and regions are color coded.
As you travel the world, you encounter villages and a number of NPC’s, many of whom present you with quests. A quest log keeps track of any active quests, progress toward completing active quests, and a separate list of completed quests. There are also some game-spanning quests, including your primary mission to find five orbs, but also a mission to return missing library books to a rather muscular individual named Conan. That’s right, Conan the Librarian… one of many bits of humorous dialogue to be found throughout the experience (and there's a fun cameo).
The player is free to explore the world and hunt for secrets as he likes, with plenty of false walls and hidden rooms awaiting those with sharp eyes. Many areas are designed with shortcuts that return the player to earlier sections, making backtracking less cumbersome. The player can also find a compass that allows him to warp back to the most recent save point, and exploring the world slowly opens fast-travel locations in the form of warp doors. For the most part, environmental puzzles remain solved on return trips through each area, but enemies respawn during screen transitions.
Puzzles come in a few varieties. Some are local to a single room and involve activating switches to open gates, rotate objects, alternate certain blocks between transparent and solid, or remove obstructions that block your path, such as deadly waterfalls. Other puzzles span entire regions and require the player to move between several rooms - often leaving and returning to rooms from different sides - in order to solve one or more large puzzles that open the way forward or grant access to a new powerup. One area sees the player navigating between spike-filled rooms where some spikes aren’t real, eventually leading to a powerup that turns false spikes invisible. Given the size of the world, large interconnected puzzles can take a long time to solve, which can lead to some tedium as the player continues to navigate within single area, with some frustration added by the appearance of tough respawning enemies.
Progress is occasionally blocked by boss creatures, and these can be pretty tough… at least on a first attempt. Bosses tend to be faster and more agile than the player character, resulting in quick deaths until the player learns the boss’ behavior patterns and telegraphs. As such, boss battles often require a bit of trial and error, with memorization ultimately bringing the player to victory. Players must also be mindful of all the tools at their disposal, including arrows to strike from a distance, a shield to block projectiles, and a downward strike to attack from above. There also appear to be some optional encounters with excellent rewards, such as a battle against a gargoyle that grants the player a +2 sword, greatly increasing his ability to deal with enemies and bosses.
Aesthetically, the game uses a limited color palette, with inspirations taken from classic 8-bit games, and a chiptune soundtrack to accompany the action. The game world is massive, but shortcuts and warps make backtracking easier, and the map does a decent job of conveying which areas remain to be explored and where secrets may lie. That said, the large game world can also mean quite a bit of aimless wandering if the player has overlooked an objective or isn’t sure where to go next.

2D CRED
Cathedral was developed by Decemberborn Interactive, a studio based in Helsingborg, Sweden and founded in 2014 (in December). The game was developed part-time over the course of five years. The development team was comprised of lead developer and level designer Eric Lavesson, developer and level designer Mattias Andersen, composer Aron Kramer, and artist and animator Justin Alexander.
The game was published by Elden Pixels, a studio based in Gothenburg, Sweden, and the developer behind Alwa's Awakening and Alwa’s Legacy.


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