Looking at Foregone in action, as its heroine slides, slashes and air dashes her way through a succession of enemies, you can almost become hypnotised by its smooth pixel-art style and dancerly combat. That’s because the characters are actually 3D models, put through a pixel shader to achieve that old-school look while moving and feeling decidedly modern.
That’s just one of the ways in which this action-platformer - part Diablo-style loot-em-up, part Metroidvania - caught my attention.
Foregone casts you as an Arbiter, a preternaturally gifted warrior who’s searching for the origins of the Harrow - a blight that brings back the dead, drudges up dark memories, and causes formidable beasts to roam the land. And of course, you’re going to have to contend with all these dangers on your quest.
You’ll get help from the trustiest of allies: the weapons you pick up along the way. The beautifully drawn levels are handcrafted but loot is procedural, so as you explore the broken world you’ll find pistols, swords, and powerful legendary weapons that will tear through your enemies.
But not all of them will go down so easily. Colossal bosses will provide stern tests of your reflexes and ability to combine your weapons with your character’s skills, which you learn through a skill tree. This means that each playthrough can be a distinct experience. Will you lean towards quickness and grace, or favor explosively charged attacks that pack an extra punch?
It makes for a vicious gameplay loop; a mix of meticulous exploration that uncovers new treasures and world lore with fast-paced combat that makes you want to chain your kills into one seamless choreography of carnage. You’ll get rewarded for this too, as the quicker you dish out the damage, the faster your skills will be restocked and ready to go.
All this is enabled by quickly controlling distances between you and enemies. There’s the slide move which lets you dash in, slash at your enemy, and dash back out or - if you’re feeling ambitious - dash into the next enemy and hit them before finishing off your first target.
Then there are the classic Castlevania-like double jumps, as well as an air dash that lets you soar past enemies and into hard-to-reach areas. It’s a game of constant movement, forcing you to concoct your attacks in a matter of microseconds. You’ll need killer instincts and split-second strategising, thinking and striking fast, if you want to avoid getting overwhelmed.
It’s a good time for retro-tinged platformers that aren’t afraid to push the player and punish their mistakes. In Foregone, you’ll probably die. A lot. But this looks like the kind of game that wants to be learned and mastered. With its Tough Teacher ethos, Foregone will fit right into a gaming scene with a resurgent taste for the hardcore.
Foregone slides into Early Access 27th February on the Epic Games Store. You can purchase the game for $24.99 and join it on its journey to full release. It’ll be a fun ride!