Project Nosferatu by Cartel Interactive
At first glance, I was ready to write off Project Nosferatu as yet another generic Zelda throwback. The trademarks are all there: top-down view, hack-and-slash combat, 8-bit aesthetic, and screen-by-screen exploration. Not exactly breaking the mold in the age of games like TUNIC, which aim to innovate on the formula.
While I wasn’t entirely wrong, Project Nosferatu does prove that there’s plenty of life and innovation left in the formula, as well as chances for deep storytelling. Most of the time, at least.
After being chased off the planet of Tatenia 250 years ago by the subterranean Umbrakhs, humanity is fighting back. The warring kingdoms of Elysium and Avalon have entered into an uneasy truce and sent their best warriors to the planet to retake what they see as theirs. You take control of one such warrior, Prince Regal of Elysium, who wields the mysterious cybernetic implant “Nosferatu.” Your quest? Reclaim the world by any means necessary.
For such an outwardly simple game, Project Nosferatu has a shocking amount of story to work through. The lore of the game’s world is extensive, and cutscenes involve quite a bit of interplay between the characters and political intrigue. It’s commendable for the amount of ambition present, but unfortunately, it also works to the detriment of the game’s pacing. Cutscenes are often loaded with jargon and meandering dialogue to the point that it all begins to become overly difficult to follow very quickly.
Fortunately, Project Nosferatu’s gameplay outshines its plot. While it adheres to the Zelda formula quite closely, it also adds in a dash of Metroidvania gameplay by offering upgrades that unlock previously closed-off portions of areas you’ve visited before. Mixed with the game’s responsive controls and quick movement, exploration is breezy and legitimately compelling. My only complaint is that the game could really use a map function.
The game also makes a show of its combat system, which allows for customizing your attack combos. You unlock multiple weapons throughout the game, and each weapon can be slotted into one of the attacks that will be performed as you press the button. This allows for a surprising amount of customization. You can choose between melee, ranged, and elemental attacks, and all of them are useful at different points in the game. Some are even needed to open passages to new areas. It starts off feeling gimmicky but soon opens up to some legitimately fun experimentation.
Project Nosferatu also wins out in the presentation department. The game’s science fantasy aesthetic recalls 8-bit gems like StarTropics and Phantasy Star with bright colors and distinctive levels. Its soundtrack is also pleasant and catchy, with each area and plot moment having distinctive themes.
Project Nosferatu isn’t without problems, but it more than makes up for them with satisfying and compelling gameplay. Anyone feeling nostalgic for the days of 8-bit action RPGs – and who doesn’t mind a convoluted story – could do much worse than journeying to Tatenia.
Project Nosferatu is available via Steam.
Watch the trailer for Project Nosferatu below: