Wallachia: Reign of Dracula – Review
2020 – PixelHeart
The crew a Pixelheart have just released a great new game that is a retro throwback to some of the best 2D Action Side-Scrollers such as Castlevania and the Valis series. I recently got my hands on a copy and decided to give it a go.
Vlad the Impaler is storming through the region of Wallachia and impaling all who oppose him on spikes (it’s what he does!). As his reign of terror spreads over the land he burns down the home (and town for that matter) of Elcin Floarea. Killing her family and taking her brother to serve him.
Elcin is taken away by a sage old man by the name of Christian Rosenkreuz. She will train for years and seek her revenge on Dracula.
Mehmed, the rightful ruler of the land eventually sends you out to bring back Vlads head. You are accompanied by Silviu your trusted wolf, Christian and Mehmeds cohorts Konstantin and Radu, Vlad’s brother.
Wallachia is a side-scrolling action game. Much like the classic games it gives nods to, you will run, duck, jump and attack your way through hordes of bad guys. Fortunately you have your trusty bow and sword to dispatch any who stand in your way, and there will be many.
Your main weapon is your bow. You can fire continuously while on the run with unlimited arrows. You can aim in eight directions while running or while standing your ground. Along the way Christians birds, enemies and containers will drop upgrades to your normal arrows, and special arrows that have limited supply. For enemies that get to close you can use your sword which can also receive upgrades. In addition it can be used to hack projectiles out of the air.
There are seven levels with a great variety of locations. Forrests, burning camps, rolling caravans and mountain caves all make an appearance along with many more. There is a good amount of platform jumping but nothing to challenging. Your biggest threat will be cleverly placed enemies and bosses. Speaking of bosses, each level ends with at least one boss fight and many levels and sub-bosses.
The action is face paced and non-stop. Enemies don’t respawn, but staying on the move is the name of the game and there will be no shortage of arrows flying your way.
To absorb all the damage thrown your way you start out with four hit points. These can be upgraded to six with drops. Health gems are rare but often appear before a big fight thankfully. In addition to loosing health when hit, you will loose an upgrade you have.
Your four companions are used only as special attacks. You pick up power orbs as you play and each companion has a normal and strong attack or assist that uses the orbs. Your wolf can charge forward in a deadly attack, Christian can heal or protect, Radu can bring down screen clearing fire and Constantine can upgrade your weapons. In my first play throughs I found it very rare for me to have enough orbs to use the upgraded attacks of your companions, you simply don’t get enough orbs. I’m sure honing your skills would imporve their availability.
The controls are tight as you would expect. Running, jumping and double jumps are easy and responsive. If you press down on the controls and press jump you can slide forward. As you maneuver you can (and often should) constantly fire your bow. There is a button to switch to your powerful arrows which will default back to your normal arrows when depleted. As you run you can angle the control up or down to shoot in those directions. There is also a stand your ground button that will lock you in place allowing you to easily fire in all eight directions.
Your companions are activated with a button push and you can cycle through them with a shoulder button. You can also switch between their level 1 and level 2 attacks by pressing up and hitting the shoulder button at the same time.
While everything is fairly easy to control I did run into a couple issues. While constantly firing it seemed I would overload the buttons and nothing would shoot. I switched controllers to see if that was the problem, but they both did it. Shooting arrows non-stop would sometimes result in no arrows coming out for a brief second, but sometimes that’s too long!
Two other issues I had are first, you can’t use your sword while running, you have to be standing still. It would have been nice to just slash bad guys while on the move, but instead your sword is used as a last resort or for opening crates. And secondly the slide maneuver doesn’t do any damage to enemies. It will help you dodge some attack, especially on bosses, or pick up items quickly before they disappear, but I didn’t use it much for most enemies as you will just slide into the middle of them to be hacked apart.
The game is very colorful and pretty. The artwork is very much a throwback to retro gaming days with a pixel look and a forced limited color pallet. This could easily have been a SEGA Saturn game.
As mentioned above there are some great looking locations and no two look alike. Some of my favorite highlites are the burning villages, driving wagon caravan and Vlad’s castle. There’s plenty of parallax scrolling the backgrounds and fire everywhere. The locations are graphically impressive.
The enemies all look good, the art style is more “realistic” than fantasy when it comes to the bad guys. They’re not the most detailed or animated sprites I’ve seen but they get the job done just fine.
Wallachia has a great soundtrack. The music is varied and very impressive. Level 2- Scorched Earth is one of my favorites, but they are all high quality.
The voice acting is also fantastic. All the characters were voiced by talented voice actors. Another great feature is that enemies will yell things out at random that I think is a nice touch. Overall the sound is top notch.
With the game being a nod to older/harder games, it can be a bit tough at first. One thing I really like is that there are no real cheap shots. If you can figure out the pattern and practice, you can get though most area without getting hit. But, it will take some time and patience.
You start with three lives and unlimited continues. The game doesn’t have a continue count so you can keep starting at any level you die on, which helps, unless you reset the system and then you’re back to the beginning.
You can watch my play though below, which used about four continues. I do however think I could get it down to none with just a little more time. The game is built to speed-run (it keeps track of your best time on each level also). I would say the difficulty is spot on.
I am a sucker for retro style games. Even more so when they are done this well. If it wasn’t for some of the control issues I had it would be perfect. Still, this game easily gets a 4 out of 5 trogs!