How Castlevania, Studio Ghibli Inspired the Action Gardening of Ultros | Push Square
12.02.2024 - 23:53
Not only is February a big month for the AAA titles of the world, but it's also lined up some fascinating indie games for PS5, PS4 owners to digest. Alongside Pacific Drive is Ultros, an incredibly colourful platformer promising just as much brutal action as there is calming gardening. It is out for Sony's two systems on 13th February 2024, and to learn more ahead of release, we caught up with game design director Mårten Brüggemann to ask maybe one too many questions.
For those who missed its announcement, could you share a brief introduction to Ultros?
Mårten Brüggemann: Ultros is a psychedelic sci-fi platform adventure where players explore lush, richly detailed landscapes aboard the strange and cosmic world of The Sarcophagus. Ultros features daring blade-based combat that rewards expertise and finesse, exotic flora players can cultivate and grow, plus mind-bending time loops that have players revisit familiar – yet strangely different – locales. Ultros explores spiritual and philosophical themes regarding karmic cycles and our relation to nature and hopes to expand the hearts and minds of players who explore its depths and uncover its darkest mysteries within.
Could you explain how the loop-based nature of the gameplay works? Are we looking at a rogue-like experience just as much as a Metroidvania? How will the environment change as you progress through these loops?
While we don't consider Ultros to be a roguelike, we still had to take the notion into consideration that using semantics like “loops” and “cycles” would lead to comparisons with roguelikes. So, I see it more as if the game flirts and plays with the use of roguelike mechanics without them being the core of the experience.
Instead, it focuses on the exciting parts of retreading familiar ground but with new knowledge and priming of situations in previous cycles. The loop gives the player chances to explore “what if I do this instead” scenarios. It directly ties into the game’s philosophies of a karmic cycle, and lets the player explore this through their own agency. It means you will relive certain things and scenarios but get to see them from different perspectives. But as with a karmic cycle, the secret of it lies in what survives the loop. Some aspects of the world live on through the loop and allow you to evolve the world over loops.
Real gardening work is also based around cycles, or seasons, what you plant at one point can either grow larger or die during the course of a season. I’m also very fond of stories based around closed timeloop concepts, such as the movies Groundhog Day and Primer. There’s usually a stage of acceptance and overcoming the hurdle of living in a timeloop instead using it to achieve a larger goal, which are
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