Ghost Song Review: A melancholy Metroidvania on Xbox Game Pass

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An interesting metroidvania with Soulslike nuances has arrived on Xbox Game Pass: did we like Ghost Song? Find out in the review.

 

We wake up alone, abandoned and without a Samsung reveals its memory ambition: 36 Gbps GDDR6 and 1,000-layer V-NANDof what happened before our long sleep. We are a simple overalls, one Deadsuits although the word currently has no meaning. We do not know our true identity or how we got to this beautiful alien planet. Here appear some strange long-limbed creatures, sleeping, crouched on themselves. Will they be hostile? Or maybe they will be able to tell us what happened to us. Luckily we have a weapon to defend ourselves: Our robotic arm is actually a dangerous cannon. There is no reason to shoot yet we have a bad feeling.

The last few months for Xbox Game Pass subscribers have been nothing short of crackling. Scorn, A Plague Tale: Requiem and Return to Monkey Island just to name three big names. Even for metroidvania lovers, surprises are certainly not lacking: after the test of Moonscars (if you missed it here is our review of Moonscars), in these days we have dived into the discovery of Ghost Song, a small indie gem that has attracted our attention since the first presentation trailer. The title was developed by Matt White and the Old Moon studio after nine years of long development and a Kickstarter campaign that began in 2013. Published by Humble Games and available from November 3rd, Ghost Song arrives on all consoles, PC and day one on Xbox Game Pass.

Looking for ourselves

The first hour of Ghost Song is a long wander without a precise destination, waiting to meet someone or something that can change our destiny forever. A little trip to discover the Lorian moon, in the company of the Deadsuit, the protagonist of the game as well as a mysterious figure with no apparent identity. The sweetness of this character, his loneliness and the reactions of genuine disbelief to the vision of normal natural phenomena such as the blossoming of a flower from the earth, immediately fascinated us.

The strength of Ghost Song is precisely that of binding the player and the virtual counterpart: the Deadsuit sends us a cry for help, pushes us to help it in the difficult task of finding meaning in this awakening. To accompany us, a melancholic background music that does nothing but immerse us further into the game.

However, if you are imagining eight hours of play – the time it took us to reach the end credits – without any interaction you are wrong, therefore don’t just expect a dreamlike journey with an evocative atmosphere. During the free wandering on Lorian, we meet a group of survivors of an emergency landing who ask for our help in finding five spare parts for a spacecraft, scattered in as many points on the map.

Helping others to find ourselves is perhaps the only solution to answer all our questions. The story of Ghost Song (not localized in Italian) is well written and told through several dialogues with i numerous NPCs that we will meet in the course of the quest. Another great point in favor of the narrative is the ability to make Deadsuit evolve and to bring out his human side little by little, thanks to the interaction with these castaways who, at the same time, see this soldier as a real outlet valve , a figure to talk to, tell and reveal one’s emotions, even if only to escape for a few seconds from the brutalities that populate the satellite.

A classic Metroidvania

Matt White’s first work looks like the most classic of metroidvania: Lorian is divided into different biomes, populated by numerous monsters and rather difficult mechanical skulls to deal with.

The long exploratory phases will allow us to find different skills, such as the forward dash useful both in dodging combat and in the platform phases (never really complex), mandatory to continue the story and necessary to enter otherwise blocked areas of the planet. The advice is always to highlight the points of interest on the map using special markers made available, to avoid losing important places along the way that would otherwise remain unexplored.

Exploration therefore rewards the most curious and courageous players ready to do anything to make the Deadsuit stronger in combat also because, at least initially, the challenge can prove to be decidedly demanding. In short, the play structure it does not present particular flashes of originality. the combat system instead tries, with good results, to mess up the cards on the table. To get the better of hostile enemies we can count on our rifle arm for a distanced approach, and on melee attacks, enhanced by a good feeling pad in the hand.

But be careful: the more shots we shoot, the more the gun will overheat, inflicting less and less damage. At the same time, weapons for close combat significantly increase the wounds inflicted, forcing us to move close to the creatures to be more dangerous, always keeping an eye on Deadsuit’s stamina. Ghost Song therefore invites you to skillfully alternate the offensive from a distance with melee to take full advantage of this synergy.

There is also an important role-playing component that further enriches the gameplay. Every time we kill an opponent, we get green gel (the equivalent of souls in Dark Souls) with which to enhance, once the rare energyless robots scattered throughout Lorien have been found, one of the four Deadsuit parameters: health – which increases in parallel with another energy bar essential to activate the weapon’s secondary fire – stamina and shot power. However, the accumulated experience is lost in the event of death, which also involves a small permanent reduction in health that we can restore by repairing the suit at the aforementioned robots. In addition, it is possible to equip, within the transportable load limits, a good number of armor and weapon mods, to be chosen carefully also based on the preferred combat style, melee or ranged.

Now, to better understand how all these nuances of gameplay fit together within the experience, it should be noted that there is a substantial difference between the first four hours of the game and the subsequent ones.

A fluctuating rate of challenge

The first part of Ghost Song can prove to be brutal: the mobs are real sponges for bullets, the save points are rare and the risk of losing all the collected essence is high. In addition, once a spaceship component has been recovered, the teleporter cannot be activated to quickly return to the base camp.

This triggers a typical backtracking of the genre which still requires you to walk for several minutes with a few health refills, moving one stage at a time from one save point to another with the impossibility of spending the accumulated gel (robots do not necessarily coincide with the save points).

All these factors added together affect our long journeys by generating a large load of tension. However, after the initial hours, the overflowing capabilities of Deadsuit emerge with arrogance partially breaking the balance of the game: the pleasant sense of progression, combined with learning new skills that partially reduce the aforementioned backtracking, is not perfectly balanced by the forces that try to oppose our path.

The variety and level of enemies remains, for better or worse, the same as we get stronger and stronger. Thus, alternating fighting styles is renounced to abuse secondary fire instead. During our tried, for example, we found a special weapon mod that shoots flying insects with a limited duration capable of causing continuous damage over time.

At this point, it was sufficient to position ourselves at a safe distance from the fight and repeatedly press the alternative shot button until the energy bar was depleted, leaving these flies to do the dirty work. The only concern was dodging opponents’ blows while waiting for the gauge to reset to repeat the operation again. As a result, the accumulated experience ends up being spent mainly on the health and energy fronts, to the detriment of the other parameters. In other words, the level of challenge does not grow over time and not even the boss fights – sufficiently varied from each other – have managed to deny us. We speak more of a regret if we think of the great potential of the game and its visual component.

From an aesthetic point of view, in fact, Ghost Song is a jewel. The care with which the various characters, enemies and Lorian himself are represented, in all his melancholy solitude, is remarkable, but the the real highlight is the monster killing animations, with really well done gore effects. Finally, we point out an excellent optimization work on Xbox Series X, where the title runs perfectly without any slowdown.

 

Ghost Song
Ghost SongXbox Series X Analyzed VersionGhost Song has left a slight bitterness in our mouths considering its considerable potential. The story conquers, the maps and in general the level design of the game are well built, while the variety of clashes and the role-playing component work (initially) very well. Unfortunately, the average difficulty does not increase over the hours and indeed turns downwards, thanks to some devastating power ups and a general repetitiveness of the enemies. Despite these critical issues, Ghost Song amused and fascinated us, which is why we still recommend you try it, especially if you are an Xbox Game Pass subscriber.

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Brian Adam
Professional Blogger, V logger, traveler and explorer of new horizons.