The side-scrolling RPG is an underserved genre. While there have been some excellent examples of the form (from games like the classic #CastlevaniaSymphonyOfTheNight and #DustAnElysianTale to #Vanillaware’s excellent entries #MuramasaTheDemonBlade and #OdinSphere), it’s not exactly a space that’s been flooded with modern options.
That's a shame for me personally, because it’s always been a favorite of mine, and some of my favorite games have been examples of the genre.
It’s heartening, then, to see indie developers stepping into this genre and advancing it, as they have with so many other neglected genres (or genres that have fallen out of fashion after a boom, like space sims or real-time strategies).
And Kova, the latest from #BlackHiveMedia that just launched on Steam’s Greenlight platform, perpetuates this welcome trend.
Kova puts players in the shoes of its eponymous protagonist, Kova Rimor, a space mercenary who finds herself in dire straits when her ship is interdicted and she’s forced to crash land on an uncharted, desolate ice world. There she encounters a beacon, seemingly alien in origin, that propels her into a vast mystery, fueled by one powerful question: are we alone in the universe?
And if not, why haven’t we, in this far flung future, ever encountered other species as we’ve stretched across the galaxy and colonized worlds?
Kova proudly wears its Metroidvania influences on its sleeve, tasking you with exploring a variety of different planets to expand and upgrade your arsenal with new tools and weapons, and improve your suit and spaceship.
The universe of Kova is shaped by three distinct factions, all of which are distinctly motivated and offer their own perks and side missions. Those side missions will provide valuable credits players can then apply to upgrading their skills and expanding their personal armory.
As the game progresses, players will travel to distant planets and uncover new beacons that will expand on the central mystery, and discover new towns that serve as hubs from which they can base their operations.
These hub towns promise to provide a bit of local flavor and some insight into the state of politics on their homeworld, as well as offer missions to advance the main narrative or side jobs for players looking to earn some extra scratch.
Kova’s aesthetic presents as a blend of lush, artfully lit landscapes, like the frozen world Kova finds herself initially stranded on, rimed in ice with trees laden with heavy snow, to cyberpunk influenced looking bars and facilities bathed in neon light from signs in stylized fonts, written in several languages.
It’s a gorgeous looking game, stark at cold at times but with bold, eye-catching flashes of color and light that arrest your attention and stand out from the oft-monochromatic (but beautifully rendered) backdrops. The animations, particularly around character traversal and weaponry, are slick and fluid, and the teaser trailer reveals an interesting radial HUD for accessing tools and equipment on the fly.
The trailer also features some moody, atmospheric music that helps establish a theme of isolation and mystery (with some fairly ominous undertones).
The creators at Black Hive, a studio founded in 2009, are leveraging fifteen years of development experience on Kova, and have a background working on a broad range of platforms, including mobile, PC, and consoles. Kova’s Greenlight page is up now, and the team has announced an upcoming Kickstarter campaign, slated to launch on March 28th.