What a journey this has been. It’s very rare to say that I have played a game for years before it officially released, but I have had the immense privilege to do so with 30XX. First of all, I have to give a big thanks to Chris King and Batterystaple Games for allowing us very early access and allowing us to see the game grow and take on its final form. As someone who lives, breathes, sleeps, and bleeds Mega Man, getting to experience this homage to the X series from beginning to end has been nothing more than a very special treat!
So, without further adieux, let’s jump in and see what 30XX has to offer.
Title:30XX Platform: PC (Steam) (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch Developer: Batterystaple Games Publisher: Batterystaple Games Release Date: August 9, 2023 (PC), TBD (Nintendo Switch) Price: $19.99
What is 30XX?
30XX is a roguelite with a very, very deep amount of content that pays homage to the Mega Man X-style of games. It features two characters, Nina and Ace, who are your arm cannon-shooting and sword-slashing heroes, respectively. The main goal is to go on a run in which the order you tackle the levels, and the different segments throughout the levels are all randomized. Power-ups can be acquired from a multitude of sources, all of which are random as well. You need to put together a build with the choices you are given and blast or slash your way through 8 boss stages as well as the game’s challenging final stages.
Along the way, you will collect currency called Memoria which will allow you to permanently upgrade your characters to make meeting the challenge a bit easier. I’ll detail all of this, but this is the gist of the game. While that sounds a bit simplistic… just wait because there are TONS of features here that offer a massive pool of things to do, and it’s not just doing roguelite-style runs!
There are three main game modes in 30XX: Standard Mode, Mega Mode, and Community Mode.
Standard Mode is pretty much what I highlighted in the What is 30XX intro, so I’ll leave it at that for now because I will have an additional section that breaks down Standard Mode because there is a lot of meat to chew through in that mode alone so it deserves its own section.
Mega Mode is for those who want to enjoy the game without having to worry about losing your one and only life and having to start over.
Here, you are given all eight bosses to choose from in a Mega Man-style select screen; however, when you walk over a boss portrait, you’ll notice it says something like Normal, Bold, or Spicy next to the name. This indicates the difficulty level of the stage you’re about to enter. Each time you start Mega Mode, the bosses are randomized in their positions; however, while the stages are initially randomized, if you die and re-enter a stage, it will not randomize again. That way, you don’t have to worry about facing the unknown twice in a row.
In addition, unlike Standard Mode, you can save your progress in Mega Mode.
You can have up to three saved runs going at the same time, or you can reset a save slot and start fresh. Just like in Standard Mode, you can collect nuts during the level, which is your currency. You can visit a shop in between each stage and power up your character to take on some of the tougher stages. There is also the option for Co-Op and Entropy as well. As a quick note, Entropy is also found in Standard Mode. It’s a way for you to customize the difficulty of your run for added rewards. More on this later.
Finally, Community Mode is where you can do a run through community-created levels!
You can browse the level catalog and tackle them one at a time or start a run and even customize it by choosing how many lives you have, the difficulty of the level, and the quality of the levels based on used ratings. You can even select tags such as Traditional, Short and Sweet, Puzzle, Kaizo, Metroidvania, Weapon Challenges, Remakes, Experimental, Automatic, Combat, and Platforming to filter the kind of run you want to have. My recommendation is 1 Life, Spicy Difficulty, Amazing Quality, and just the Kaizo tag. Trust me, it’ll be fun for the whole family!
Of course, if you want to make things harder, Entropy is available for Community Mode as well as Co-Op, so you can make your friends suffer with you.
Breaking Down Standard Mode
Standard Mode has a lot going for it. I already touched upon a few things, such as playing as Nina or Ace to change up your experience, as well as Memoria and Entropy, but let’s dive a little deeper into those systems first before we talk about other things such as Power-Ups, Challenges, etc.
Memoria is a currency you earn from defeating a stage’s mini-boss encounter as well as the stage’s main boss. Once you acquire enough Memoria, you can unlock permanent upgrades for your runs, such as increasing your maximum health and your maximum NRG (weapon energy), unlocking salvaging to turn unwanted items into Scrap pieces, a Sub-Tank that you can fill by picking up health drops while at full HP. The tank will then heal you upon taking fatal damage. You can increase the number of choices at the end of a level (up to 3) so you can control your destiny a little better, start a run with nuts, and more. Once all of these are maxed out, you can spend excess Memoria at a vendor that will give you a choice of items to start your next run with.
Entropy goes hand-in-hand with this system. Entropy increases the difficulty of the run, but you can control that difficulty. You can make enemies faster, have more health, do more damage, make spikes and pits lethal, make the stages longer, make enemies retaliate when slain, make healing do nothing, give enemies a chance to spawn as their higher-level versions earlier on, etc.
There is a meter at the top of the screen that will keep track of your progress. If you complete a run, you will be rewarded with a special currency that you can then spend in the Memoria shop to empower your character even further beyond the max limit allowed by Memoria alone. You cannot earn more currency if you finish a run at a lower entropy level, though… so… if you finish a run at an Entropy level of 4, you must finish your next run at 5 or higher to earn currency. 3 or lower will yield nothing.
But, getting through a run requires you to power up your character, and there are several ways to do that in a run. The first is getting an Augment from a chest. Chests are randomly spawned throughout the levels and can be one of over 240 different augments ranging anywhere from increased attack power, increased weapon damage, enemies dropping more nuts, health, or armor, gaining armor, increased run speed, and more.
Another thing these chests can drop is Cores. Think of these are armor pieces from the Mega Man X series, but there are a lot of them. There is a set that focuses on giving you multiples, such as charge shots or double jumps, another focused on air dashing, dashing with a shield, or dashing and firing a blast, and one dedicated to empowering your repros (more on that in a second), another that can cause hovering/flight and life-stealing, etc.
You can mix and match set pieces or even wear multiple pieces from different core sets (like 2 different helms, etc). You have a resource called CP, and you need to spend it to equip cores. Memoria can increase the amount of CP you start with. The rest comes from Chests or the Shops/Scrap Trader that can spawn throughout the levels. If you collect all 4 pieces of the same set, you will gain a set bonus!
There are also teleporters in each level that are called Glory Zones. Make it to the end without taking damage (or 3 damage or less), you will be rewarded with a chest; however, keep an eye out for Blue zones as those contain a gauntlet that protects one of four mini-bosses. Defeating the boss will net you a piece of Resonant Armor. Resonant Armor is visible on your character, it doubles the effects of core pieces of that slot.
For example, if you have the air dash boots from the Oxjack set and get the Resonant Boots, you will now have double air dash! If you have the double charge shot hands from the Dracopent set, then the Resonant hands will give you a triple charge shot! Needless to say, Resonant armor is very powerful. What’s great is if you get a piece of Resonant armor and do not have a core armor piece in that slot, it will just give you a random one for free!
I mentioned Repros and 30XX has a lot of them. These are companions that will fight alongside you during your runs. They can deal a ton of damage and if you find a duplicate, it will level up the one you already have to do even more damage!
Another power-up you can get is the Prototype augs. These are found in special white-techy-looking teleporters. They are unique because they are what’s called a kiss/curse effect. For example, all of your attacks and powers are disabled, but you gain 1 of every repro. Another would be to sacrifice all of your current HP down to 10, but for every 30 HP you sacrifice, you gain 10 maximum HP. Another flat-out state is that everyone’s attack power is increased greatly. They are optional but can be fun if you want an extra challenge!
Another way to get augs to is to complete a challenge from Delta. Delta is a character that will appear in stages and make a stage harder. He can cause you to be haunted by enemies, cause enemies to respawn seconds after killing them, disable your cores for the level, and make it to where if you take damage, you can’t attack for 3 seconds and more; however, if you complete the stage under those conditions, you will gain a reward in the form of a random aug. It will tell you the reward before you accept to see if it is worth doing. Sometimes Delta will just challenge you to a fight. Enter a special yellow teleporter and do battle with him. Beating him will just give you the augment.
Lastly, in true Mega Man fashion, when you beat a boss, you can get that boss’ weapon… or just ignore it! Starting on Stage 3, you will be offered more than just the boss’ weapon at the end of the stage. You can pick up a power-up for an existing weapon you have to make it stronger… or… just get 10 free nuts to help you buy more stuff if a shop pops up.
So, once you’ve explored your options and powered up your character, and completed a run… it doesn’t end there. As I mentioned, there are Daily and Weekly Challenges that you can take part in, and depending on how well you do, you will be placed on a leaderboard! There are two leaderboards… one for co-op and one for solo.
Graphics, Gameplay, and Soundtrack
30XX’s graphics are all custom, hand-drawn sprites, but it’s not quite like the 8-bit games of the past. Think more HD but still old school. The backgrounds are simply breathtaking, and each stage is filled with unique art and tilesets. Highvault looks different than Clockzone, which looks different than the Temple. Every level has a unique flair about it, and it really sucks you into the environment. Attacks and effects look crisp and high-resolution, which you would think would clash with the HD pixel style of the game; everything just meshes together well.
As for the gameplay… everything is as smooth as butter. Controls are very responsive, making movement feel intuitive and natural. I can’t tell you how many times I thanked the amazing response time when air dashing or double jumping out of sticky situations. Even with the smooth controls, sections in Watergrav that flip you upside down will rattle you, but at least when you misjudge a jump and screw up, you can’t blame the controls… only the player.
Now… on to the soundtrack. If you buy this game. GET THE SOUNDTRACK BUNDLE. It is one of the best OSTs I’ve heard all year. Trust me, at 76 tracks, they didn’t skimp on anything.
Every stage has its own theme. Every miniboss section within a stage has a remix of the stage theme. Every stage boss has its own unique battle theme. Every boss victory theme is unique. The post-run stages have some of the most epic tracks I have heard in an endgame OST PERIOD. Heck, when you’re using the level builder, there are separate themes for each of the different tileset editors, too. There is no shortage of music in this game, and every track sticks out like a sore thumb in a good way. They all command your attention, and they will all have you humming them at work the next day and making you wish you were back home playing more 30XX.
If you are a Mega Man fan (namely Mega Man X), 30XX is a must-have game. If you’ve never played a Mega Man game and just like action platformer roguelites… this is a must-have game. There is no other way to say it.
With three different modes, customizable difficulty, customizable runs with different builds, hundreds upon hundreds of options, challenges, leaderboards, co-op, infinite content through community-made chunks (parts of a level) and full levels, a customizable community level-only run option, 50 achievements to hunt and collect, and more, you can tell a lot of love and passion when into 30XX and the fun you will have playing it is a direct reflection of that love and passion.
At $20, this game is a steal! Since it just came out, they have an introductory sale going on where it’s $15.99 (I’m sure the older this review gets, this line will become more and more outdated); even at full price, it is worth every penny, and then some.
That feeling and sense of progression, the “just one more run” mentality, the addiction, it’s all there. Add in the fact that augments and items are named in a cheeky way to add a bit of humor, and you just have one giant recipe for an incredible game and an incredible game it is.
I’m not just saying that because I’ve been playing 30XX for 2+ years in early access. I’m saying that because after 2+ years, despite having nearly 100% completion in the game, I still fire it up almost every day because it is just that fun. When you’ve collected and unlocked nearly everything, and you still want to come back and play it just for the sake of playing it, you know you have a winner on your hands.
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30XX is an action platforming roguelike that provides incredible depth in its content that is fun, addicting, and will always keep you coming back for more!