Game update: Galak-Z for PS4

Let’s get out of the way that this is not a proper review. If you want my review of Galak-Z, you can find it here. But as I wrote in that post, I planned to come back and give this another shot when season 5 came out as a patch, something set to coincide with the PC release. That came to pass finally and…folks, I am so, so angry.

The patch notes listed a new Arcade mode that claims to make the game less punishing, and a new endless mode with daily challenges and leaderboards. This sounded okay to me. Spelunky has daily challenges and leaderboards, and while I don’t play them every day, it has given me a reason to keep dusting it off every few weeks on my Vita and PS4. It adds life to a game I might have otherwise deleted long ago. It shows promise, in other words.

So I fired up Galak-Z after a lengthy 1.8 gigabyte patch downloaded, and I went to look at the story mode. Wait, where’s season 5? I thought maybe the problem was, I needed to play season 4 over again to unlock it, and because it’s been forever since I’d played, I thought it best to just start over on the new Arcade mode to get familiar with the controls again before taking on the tougher levels.

This reintroduction was a painful reminder of why I ended up disliking a game I wanted to love at release, and it’s actually much worse in several ways. The lag that plagued the game even in moments with no enemies on screen is now even worse, with the screen randomly freezing for upwards of two seconds. With nothing on screen, this is already enough to get me swearing. In the middle of a dogfight with multiple enemies, it’s a death sentence. And it happens CONSTANTLY. How can a game get a patch this large and still not address one of the biggest issues the core game had? No, better yet, how can a game get a patch this big and feel even more broken than it did on release day?

Let’s just set aside the lag for a moment to talk about the enemy fighters. The insects are still mostly okay, so nothing to report there. But in the case of the Imperials and the Void Raiders, their ships’ movements are now so spastic that it looks like someone is controlling them through an epileptic seizure. This was already a hard game to play because I could roll the thumbstick up and down along one side and not once hit the enemy even if they were stationary. Now I’m trying to hit a target that skitters around slamming into walls and traps, often dying due to its own incompetence instead. How is this an improvement?

Around season 3, I ran into a familiar problem, with the game’s available upgrades making my gun weaker and weaker, and with no ship upgrades that could level the playing field. I was forced into playing stealth style because fighting even one ship required such a huge amount of time as to be a pain in the ass. If there was more than one ship, attempting to engage meant dying and starting over.

Imagine if in Dark Souls III, with every new area unlocked, the game took away all your equipment and levels and demanded that you fight tougher enemies with the starting equipment and first level stats. It would be extremely demoralizing. That’s what this game is, and no, Arcade mode does not address that problem. All Arcade mode does is allow you to start a level over instead of having to replay the whole season. I have to be honest, if I’m stuck in a bad build, I might as well start over and hope for a slightly less painful loadout.

I should also mention that during this playthrough, I had only one season with a genuinely good, FUN, build. Even that was hampered by the constant lag. I’m okay with a little bit of jitter now and again. But a total freeze for one to two seconds? Oh. My. God, y’all.

I also had crashes at the worst possible times, including a doozy where I had beaten level 4-4 and was in the process of warping back to the mother ship. There was a lagging screen freeze, and I started chanting, “No, please don’t crash.” My powers of persuasion failed, and it crashed. SO I GOT TO PLAY THE LEVEL AGAIN.

Before I did 4-5, the damn thing crashed again. Instead of going back into it, I decided I’d try out that endless mode. The Void starts off with a little animated trailer that says there is no season 5. There is only endless mode. WHAT?

I tried playing the endless mode, which now restricts the combat to extremely narrow corridors, and many of these areas have barriers that will instantly strip the shields off the ship if they’re even so much as grazed. This already had me groaning, but while waiting for a pair of enemies between me and the end of the level to dogfight to the death, I realized those cloudy barriers were collapsing, and I had to race past several enemies and through a collapsing pile of debris to reach the warp point. I may have accidentally made that sound fun. Let me assure you, it is not.

So I went back to the game and played through 4-5, and that doesn’t unlock season 5. That’s because there is no season 5. The conclusion to the story is an endless mode that cannot be beaten. Fuck you for paying us for a story mode, you get bubkes.

I was furious. I put down the controller and stomped off to dinner, and after calming down, I thought, “Well hey, maybe season 5 is coming later and this is something tacked on to entice the PC crowd to buy into a year-old game.” So I got on Twitter to ask 17-Bit would there ever be a season 5, and would they ever address the lag and bugs? I got my reply back today that The Void IS season 5, and the bugs are all but taken care of.

No, they are not.

So now I’m back to being angry. I just wanted closure on this game, a chance to see if A-Tak, Beam, and Admiral Akamoto defeated the Empire and saved Earth. I suspected the same things that annoyed me would still be there, but hey, if the maker wants to have a game be stingy and cheap, that’s their call. But The Void feels like a total cop out. It’s like reading a series of books, only to have the last book never come out. The author announces they’ve instead started a comic series with the same characters in a different setting, but they will never complete the series even though the last book ended on a cliffhanger.

There’s no score to offer this time, folks. I might try to play endless mode a few more times to see if the tighter corridors at least address the lag problems. But I just want to conclude this by saying how cheated I feel by 17-bit with this patch release and update. There is no end to an endless mode. There is no closure, no final boss fight or trophy for beating the game, and it’s far too late to ask for a refund.

So, okay 17-bit, you got your money out of me this time. But I can promise you this: you will never see a dime from me for any future games you release. You had a chance to turn this around and at least give me some closure on the story, and you decided that even that wasn’t worth doing right. So no, I’m not buying whatever you publish next. You killed my interest in your company forever.

And I want to say to my regular readers, I’m okay with hard games. I’ve played a few recently that I really enjoyed, both AAA and indie. I’ve played the hell out of Dark Souls III until my hands were swollen. I’ve played every class in Salt and Sanctuary except the Paladin, and I plan to give that a run sometime in the near future. Transformers: Devastation was intense and hard, and I WANT to play it again even though I had problems with certain levels. It’s not the being hard part that makes me dislike Galak-Z. It’s being stingy and laggy, and now, it’s being denied a proper ending even though I’ve waited a year for the final season. I’m so angry that I have to take breaks from angry typing because it’s hurting my fingers. So if you were on the fence about Galak-Z, please don’t buy it and support this kind of bait and switch behavior. There are so many better games to spend time with, in my opinion.