The upcoming Metroidvania Biomorph captured my attention almost a year in the past with, as developer Lucid Dreams Studio described it, a “Hollow Knight meets Kirby” monster mash formula. The game really interested me after trying its brief, 10-minute Steam demo (still playable right now). Following my experience with the greatly extended demo (coming soon in the February Steam Next Fest), I am extremely enthusiastic about it. I feel like I’ve gained a much better understanding of the scope and feel of the game, and due to this demo as well as a conversation with Lucid Dreams CEO Maxime Grégoire – someone who has been in games for more than 10 years, mainly at Eidos Montreal, and established this studio with former Far Cry developer Francis Lapierre – I’m extremely eager to play the whole thing on PC (or Switch) later this year.
The perfect kind of game
Biomorph is a side-scrolling action game where you play as a fierce yet cute Lombax-looking critter named Harlo, joined by two talking, floating gauntlets that are both weapons and friends. Harlo feels good to control thanks to an intuitive jump arc, a smooth dash where you liquefy yourself to slide under attacks and enemies, and – even among the limited demo selection – some punchy melee and ranged weapons that allow for surprisingly intricate combos and juggling. The new demo’s final boss is miles ahead of the previous one, and after defeating it following three close deaths, I was disappointed to see the “thanks for playing” screen come up simply because I wanted to hit more stuff.
One thing I found fascinating – since I absolutely cannot avoid myself when it comes to this stuff – is that Lucid Dreams has purposefully moved away from the Soulslike label compared to Biomorph’s earlier marketing. Why? Grégoire states the team didn’t want to set anyone up for disappointment.
“In Soulslike titles, a really, really large part of the game is based on the difficulty,” he says. “And something that we didn’t want to do is for the game to be extremely difficult. There’s some extra content that will be harder, like some platforming parts that, well, you need to be good. And that’s fine. But it’s extra content. We still wanted to create a game that can be played and completed by somebody that, of course, has played games before, but is not like a super expert. Initially, when we were conducting some play tests, the game was just too hard. And we’re like, do we genuinely want to do that? We’ve seen reviews about other Metroidvanias that came out the past few years, and most of the time, people are just, I don’t know, there’s people tired of playing, you know? I just want to have some fun, be able to play and complete the game that I bought.
“So we think, well, if we call it a Soulslike game and we do not offer a Soulslike experience, we could upset some people. And we don’t want that. We just want people to at least know what they want. Not that the game is not hard, the extra bosses will be harder, but the main path will be achievable. And this is not the case for most of the Soulslike games out there; it’s the full experience that is hard.”
Injecting the morph in Biomorph
The real game-changer with Biomorph is that Harlo can transform into – that is, biomorph into – a wide variety of creatures, taking on their physical form and replicating their attacks and movements. Need to break a thick wall? Mimic a big, strong golem. Can’t reach a ledge? Perhaps morph into something with wings. Where many UI and gameplay elements are leaning on Hollow Knight, this is where the Kirby DNA comes through in a cool way – but Grégoire states we can actually thank another Nintendo classic for the initial idea.
“When we completed our first game, Legends of Ethernal, we did it as a team of three people,” he explains. “It was a work of love to ship that game. And it was action-adventure, so we had all the technology to build another game. And I was playing Super Mario Odyssey at the time, because it came out when we started thinking about the second project for the company. And I was like, well, that’s pretty neat. I like, when I throw my hat, I have the skill set of the creatures. So we thought, why don’t we do a prototype based on that? And we did, and it was pretty fun. It was great to be able to have different moves. So we said hey, let’s push that further and create a game based on that.
“There are so many Metroidvanias out there that we didn’t want to release a game that was only a twist on the lore. There are many where it’s always the same mechanic but some are sci-fi, some talk about different aspects, but there’s not much new mechanically. So we thought that by adding that biomorph mechanic, we actually add something that is quite different. It’s a player fantasy sometimes, that you get to play as creatures that you killed. So this is how the idea came to be. Initially, it was really Mario Odyssey.”