30XX Preview – A Few More Bits Go A Long Way

Recently I was able to play the early access build of 30XX by designer Chris King and publisher Batterystaple Games. Luckily for me, the experience has been auspicious. While I was fortunate enough to play a demo last year at PAX East, several improvements have been implemented since that time.

The most notable difference I saw in this new build of 30XX is that the beautiful pixel art design has been updated in complexity but is still reminiscent of a classic 32-bit era sidescroller. It’s a huge improvement over its predecessor 20XX as the visual style really feels very consistent and extremely appealing. Vibrant cityscapes and sprites are eye-popping and somehow manage to recall the Mega Man X art design without feeling like an overly simplified copy-and-pasted job.

From the start you are given the choice to play 30XX with some heavier roguelite gameplay elements or with a more casual mode where you maintain most of the power-ups acquired throughout each run. While my stubbornness kept me more in the roguelite mode, it’s extremely nice to see this being offered and will certainly be more accessible to a larger number of players.

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Even during the one life roguelite mode, you can collect enough items to unlock some permanent features. Time will tell how intense the difficulty will get in 30xx’s final version and future levels, but it’s reassuring to know these systems are in place. If you’re a die-hard roguelite fan, who scoffs at such handicaps, they aren’t mandatory to acquire and are completely optional.

Each run, you are transported to one of 6 or so levels that differ slightly in layout to keep you from memorizing the design. Although there are certain consistent beats and section themes in each level, they keep things feeling fresh. Some roguelites suffer from level design when relying too heavily on this method, but 30XX surprisingly never came across as awkward or lazy. Platforms consistently encourage forward momentum, making gameplay feel fast-paced and exciting.

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The only drawback I encountered was the overall direction within the stages, and I didn’t always know if I was going the right way. This may be due to my curiosity when exploring levels and attempting to uncover secrets, even with this feeling that I never came across a dead end or became lost. Hence, it’s not really a problem and may even be more refined in the final release.

During gameplay, you can play as the Mega Man-like Nina with an arm blaster or the Zero inspired saber wielding Ace. Both are super fun to play and force you to consider your actions during gameplay based on their strengths and weaknesses.

The additional weapon power-ups you come across are also a blast to use and are well implemented and streamlined for ease of use. On top of this, there is a multiplayer option, just like in the previous title. It’s an ambitious mode, especially with the increased speed offered in 30XX. I’m extremely curious to see how it will be fully implemented after the Early Access period.

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After playing 30XX, all I want to do is keep playing. I’m anxious to dive back in for more fast-paced action, and I’m looking forward to seeing what new surprises are in store when the full game releases later this year on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

30XX is coming to Steam Early Access on February 17, 2021.

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