Indie games are known for their daring and often groundbreaking approaches to visuals and storytelling. Ultros is a new indie title coming to PS4 and PS5 on February 13. The game is a twisted, time-looping sci-fi adventure. It’s packed with high-stakes action, clever twists on classic game design ideas, intriguing, and often unsettling environmental storytelling, and crazy-colorful pop-psychedelic visuals that makes you wonder if the game came with its own built-in blacklight.
This eye- and mind-dazzling adventure comes to PlayStation courtesy of Sweden-based developer Hadoque. It tells the story of a spacefarer trapped in a nightmare time-cycle within a bizarre, seemingly demonic black-hole acting as a womb for an unspeakable cosmic horror–the titular Ultros.
In the words of game director Mårten Brüggeman, “It’s a psychedelic sci-fi platforming adventure, a combat- and gardening-driven experience. It also asks a lot of existential questions if you dive into it, as you explore the sarcophagus spaceship and try to understand what it is a metaphor for and what is dwelling inside.”
Fight or foster
Ultros is fundamentally a search-action game where you explore an ever-expanding map that opens up further and further as you acquire more abilities for navigation and combat. It’s a popular indie game genre, and Ultros expands on it with some unique gameplay twists centered around the ideas of karmic cycles: creation and destruction, nurture and killing.
“It’s a game about choices,” explains Brüggeman, “where you can choose to play in a destructive or constructive way, and the choices you make change your interpretation of your in-game actions.”
The environment oozes with otherworldly threats, requiring skillful combat to neutralize the assorted hostile lifeforms. Variety is a big emphasis here. Ultros encourages you to use a diverse arsenal of moves in fun and creative ways to dispatch foes: dodge-and-strike attacks, jumping strikes, and even launching foes into the air to turn them into a living projectile weapon.
“We want to combat to feel intimate and visceral to emphasize destruction, ruining the balance of disruption and construction within the current cycle. We focused on movements, forcing you to be near them to fight them are integral to what we wanted to do, the intensity and intimacy of one-on-one combat.”
As your foes fall before you, they drop all manner of edible offal–which varies in quality depending on how skillful your killing blow was. Eating these remains isn’t just a health restore: it provides you with valuable nutrients, which allow you to access skill tree upgrades at save pods, which enhance your movement, fighting, and navigational abilities.
But if eating mystery meat makes you feel a bit queasy, there’s another way to obtain sustenance: raising the seeds you find scattered around in gardens, then partaking of that plant’s fruit. Aiding you in your horticultural pursuits is your Extractor, a special device that gains numerous abilities throughout the game.
The plants that grow over time will leave behind assorted benefits, like creating platforms to alternate routes and making planning and tending to your gardens