Subversion is to game design as plot twists are to narrative, not necessary ingredients, but when done well they can completely transform a game into something that’ll live on through player memory and conversation for years. Nectarmancer flips dodge-based combat on its head, taking the momentum and timing required by them and applying it to, well, gardening.
This wasn’t what I expected at all. In fact, most of my time with the Nectarmancer can be summed up as a series of rug pulls. It was fantastic.
My initial impression, from spotting it across a crowded showcase, was that it was going to be a lofty twist on Dead Cells; Some kind of jump-heavy metroidvania, roguelike where you bounce around a lot, using up the top half of the screen through sweeping melee or long-range attacks. The early introduction played into that welcoming, cool, fluid-animation-meets-retro-visuals that has taken plenty of platformers to success in recent years. Then, however, the tutorial prompts came in.
Deliberate timing and careful precision were essential, with little room for error between your slow-mo thrusting sting attacks. That delicate balance of knowing the exact size of your attack, the reach of your dash and the timing required to pull off certain aerial manoeuvres are essential to making your way through not only fights but also the levels in general. Its trailers filled with open plains and dramatic running do a great job of showing off its beautiful world however don’t convey the tightness of its platforming and the joy that comes from it.
After clearing through the tutorial, which at the time, maybe too predictably, ends with an undefeatable boss, you get introduced to the actual core of Nectarmanacer. It’s a farming/refining/upgrading game loop that uses the attacking abilities to sow, grow and reap plants between your missions. Unexpected, yes, but it feels just as satisfying as the combat you see in the exploration phase, and that I experienced during the tutorial phase. Quite a twist.
It all works incredibly well and makes Nectarmancer a really interesting smash-up of genres, leaving it feeling entirely like its own thing. I walked away from it really, really impressed. Obviously, there’s something yet to be said about the nectar theme that runs through the wider game, beyond simple puns. But we’re going to have to wait until the release date is closer before we get a proper look at that.
Nectarmancer doesn’t currently have an expected release date, when it does launch it’ll be for PC & Linux.