The Metroidvania genre still has plenty of room left for innovation. Ultros is the latest proof—a psychedelic take on the genre by developer Hadoque, with an art style from El Huervo (of Hotline Miami fame).
You wake up stranded in an eerie, alien world with only a sword and a dozen questions in mind to keep you moving. Taking your first steps into its interconnected map, Ultros’ novelties become immediately apparent, from its cycle-based structure to a smart twist on gardening. As you explore vastly distinct regions, a series of enigmatic characters provide hints about your purpose—and their own.
True to genre conventions, you'll also stumble upon an endless number of closed paths. Thankfully, you’ll unlock an array of skills that improve your traversal toolset, as well as your sword slicing.
There's more than meets the eye in Ultros, though. Here are nine things you should know before embarking on your journey.
When should you eat?
Nutrition is a big part of our day-to-day, and the same applies to Ultros. Defeating an enemy or encountering a garden out in the wild can net you food. Eating increases one of your stats, so to speak, which are primarily used to unlock skills. As such, it's essential to know when to make use of the mechanic, and how.
The obvious answer is to eat when you're low on health, as food also heals you. If you know you're about to face a boss, I'd recommend holding onto the fruits that grant you the most health. You can tell how much a given food heals via an indicator in your health bar when selected.
Now, if you have food to spare, go ahead and spend it on skills. You won't be able to see the skill tree in full unless you eat and start unlocking new abilities, revealing more nodes. This is even more vital when you're about to end a cycle. Since you'll be losing all of your items, you should spend them, reveal a bunch of nodes, and start planning how to efficiently unlock the most useful skills in subsequent cycles.
How do cycles work?
As mentioned, cycles are a big part of the Ultros experience. Your main objective is to reach certain pods across the map and shut them off. Each time you do, you'll be encouraged to end the cycle. You can explore a bit further after destroying a pod, but many paths will be closed. If you know you're about to reach one of these pods but are thinking of checking out a different area, go do that first.
A good rule of thumb for cycles is to explore until you can't see another viable path. Many areas require you to have a specific upgrade. Each time you finish a cycle, you'll be given a new one, usually with a short tutorial detailing exactly what it can open and how. In the next cycle, picking up the transmitter again will return those upgrades to you. That's when you can return to the previously inaccessible paths.
As for your skills, don't worry—while you're essentially losing them, you'll gain access to a food item later on that allows you to lock skills for subsequent runs.
Pick up your loot
This might sound obvious, but I've lost count of how many items I almost forgot to pick up after defeating an enemy. Combat in Ultros can be quite intense, especially after you've unlocked some abilities. When fighting multiple foes, a food item or two might get caught in a sword slice or stylish kick, sending it flying across the room.
If you can't immediately find whatever dropped, head to the next room on either side. The item is likely right next door, so to speak, having escaped the area where the smackdown ensued.
Not every path is clear at first glance
In classic Metroidvania fashion, there are paths to be unlocked and paths to be discovered. Pay attention to suspicious walls that look like they could hide short corridors on the map.
If there's nothing there, you'll only lose a few seconds—but you never know when an item or secret pathway might be hiding in plain sight. And while it's often a suspicious wall, sometimes it’s water leaking from the ceiling that hints at a secret to uncover.
Strive for Perfect and Prime loot whenever possible
Yes, I know it's tempting to button-mash your way through Ultros, but that comes with a cost. During the first few cycles, enemies will encourage you to strike a few times, dash through them, and then continue with a backstab parry of sorts. In essence, you're being taught that there's an upside to approaching foes with patience, waiting for them to attack so you can then parry.
Avoiding spam attacks and varying the attacks you make are key to gaining better quality loot, up to Perfect and Prime. Considering enemies don't respawn until the next cycle, it's best to make the most out of each run by securing loot that will grant as much nutrition as possible, enabling you to unlock skills faster.
Don't miss out on this garden-related skill
As you progress through Ultros, you’ll discover that gardens aren't just a source of food, but also shortcuts that provide new traversal options, often opening paths or saving you from extensive backtracking. Knowing their exact locations is a must.
"Track Gardens," one of the first skills you can unlock, is essential. Basically, every time you drop a seed in a garden, it'll be marked on the map. If you use a Memory Lock on this skill—which I highly recommend—you'll know where your gardens are on all subsequent cycles.
Unlock the Wall Jump (and keep it)
There are quite a few skills in Ultros that can help you reach far-away spots. Wall jump, an essential movement technique in many Metroidvanias, needs to be manually unlocked. Depending on how much food you're able to gather, it might take you at least two cycles.
Here’s the skill path to unlock Wall Jump:
It isn't too hard to get to, but it helps to know the right path at the outset. Once again, I recommend adding a Memory Lock onto this skill so you can keep it for future runs.
If you need guidance, head to Vasa's Legacy
Once the objective of Ultros becomes clear to the main character, you'll see all pods pinpointed on the map. It's going to take more than a few long trips to get to all of them, though.
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed after completing your first few Ultros cycles. If you end up in that position, I recommend heading over to Vasa's Legacy. Some of the enemies in that region offer great loot, and there's an interesting storyline to pursue.
From the entrance at the start of a cycle, head east through the Temple of Motherhood, Gardner's Garden, and then Living Quarters. Vasa's Legacy is located in the southeastern corner of the latter zone.
You can plant seeds in mid-air
At times, you'll come across a gardening spot located horizontally on a wall. If you're in reach, go ahead and equip the seed you want to plant, jump toward the area, and press the plant button ('Y' by default on an Xbox controller).
You might not get a button prompt to do so, but it'll work regardless. This is often a great way to create somewhere to stand and reach a high-up platform that you couldn't have reached otherwise. For gardening spots located on ceilings, your best bet is to drop the seed and then kick it up in the air.
Feeling ready to brave this psychedelic spin on the Metroidvania? You can pick up Ultros in the Epic Games Store.