Preview: Fallen Angel

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Matrioshka Games’ Fallen Angel, a top-down adventure game that, for better or worse, is a mix of nostalgic elements from yesteryear combined with newer design philosophies.

Right from the word go, it’s clear they’re going for a nostalgic aesthetic. The graphics are detailed pixel-art and, while it’s not always entirely clear what I’m looking at, it’s pretty gorgeous and I appreciate the extra effort. The level design feels like an older game as well, being a top-down perspective that, once past the initial tutorial and first boss, opens up into a wide open world with nary a word as to the destination.

The story is appropriately edgy for something titled Fallen Angel, centering around Lucifer slicing his way through the forces of Heaven on some quest for revenge. The game is still in development so it’s uncertain whether Matrioshka will be adding more cutscenes and dialogue to the story, or whether having a nebulous story that you piece together with bits and scraps of lore is the style they’re going for (the Steam page does mention Souls-like elements). But what is here is enjoyable, a bit humorous at times, and even fully voiced.

Speaking of Souls-like elements, Fallen Angel is HARD. You don’t have a lot of health and the lack of direction can lead to entering difficult areas a bit earlier than expected. That said, I feel the description of “Souls-like elements” is a bit inaccurate. Healing is done via found consumables rather than with a regenerating resource, dying sends you back to the last save point with all progress lost rather than retaining progress while losing some farmable resource, and most importantly the combat lacks the weight and consequence of its inspiration, instead using fast attacks that are easily dodge-rolled out of, lending itself to a fast and twitchy play style. If anything, it felt more like a top-down take on the “Character Action” genre.

Granted, I say that not as a bad thing, but merely a description of how the game plays. The combat actually feels really fun, especially as exploration adds more attacks to your arsenal. In just the short time I had with it, I unlocked multiple ranged options from shotguns to grenade launchers, a juggle, a ground pound, and a temporary super form. I look forward to seeing how the full game’s arsenal looks like.

Fallen Angel will be released for Steam on October 22, 2020, a month out from the writing of this review, but what they already have feels like a fairly polished, if punishing, action game. If you’re a fan of exploration, brutal combat, or subversive religious themes, go ahead and keep an eye on this one.