Metal Unit Interview – Telling a Narrative Within the Roguelike Genre With the Help of Waifus

There’s something about 2D action games that always pique my interest. I especially enjoy it when developers present unique mechanics and systems not found in other titles. When it comes to developer Jellysnow’s Early Access title Metal Unit, the team is taking the roguelike genre and making it work for them. This is in hopes that it also works for fans, which it seems to be doing.

During PAX East 2020, we were able to speak with Jellysnow founder Felix Soumpholphakdy to talk more about the title and what fans can expect.


Azario Lopez: Why did you decide to make your game a 2D action roguelike title, and what was your inspiration?

Felix Soumpholphakdy: Dead Cells is a big inspiration for us. We are a small team, but we wanted to craft a big world. That’s the best thing about the roguelike genre; you can create small pieces and rearrange them. It’s possible to do something like randomize the order of environments and items, which helps a lot with replayability.

Also, the roguelike genre is relatively new compared to others, which means that there are plenty of things that can be improved within it. Take Dead Cells, for example, I’ve played that game so many times, but I still can’t tell you what the story is about. Our goal is to have a more defined story in mind as well as an inventory for items. In my experience, people like to horde items to use across different levels, which you can do in Metal Unit.

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AL: You recently launched in Steam Early Access, how has that been going for you?

FS: It’s great. We have a Discord that so many people have joined. I saw the other day that people have already started modding the game. One guy just said that he added an item to the game, and I was shocked. They’ve also begun planning routes to speed run the game, even though it isn’t finished. The community is quick to find bugs and provide us feedback.

AL: How do the procedurally generated levels work in Metal Unit?

FS: Each level has been handcrafted, but the order that you progress through them is randomized. We also have logic to it that makes the game get tougher as you go through the levels.

AL: How do you keep players playing along with trying to tell a compelling story?

FS: Similar to something like Dead Cells, when you die, you lose your equipment. However, you can find them again in shops and levels still. The good thing is that players can keep Crystal Cores they’ve found to use to upgrade their character. Also, some areas are blocked behind objects, such as a big boulder that is blocking your way, but later on, you’ll learn an upgrade to get over there and unlock new maps. You aren’t forced to backtrack, but the game rewards those who do.

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AL: You mentioned that you are trying to build a narrative with these characters, what’s their story?

FS: So, this game might have cute art, but the story is very dark. You play as Joanna, she’s a human living on Earth as its being invaded by monsters. The bad thing is is that we are losing the war against these creatures. However, aliens offer us a deal to gain knowledge, which leads to the discovery of the Metal Unit for the price of losing our land.

There’s a catch though, the more you use the Metal Unit, the more it brainwashes the driver to become an alien themselves. This leads to part of humanity joining the alien cult. Now, Joanna is a new pilot who knows this, so she must balance how much time she spends in the suit, but she might have to face off against humans who have already been brainwashed completely.

AL: Let’s talk about these character designs and waifus, where did their designs come from?

FS: Definitely anime, Evangelion and Gantz, to name a few. We set out to create memorable characters, which we don’t always get out of roguelikes. This ties into our approach to telling a good story and have lots of waifus who pilot different Metal Units. We think that in the DLC, you can play as Joanna’s sister Hannah, who will pilot something new. There are some males in the game, but the Metal Unit is mostly compatible with females.

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AL: Do you have plans for even more characters in the future?

FS: For sure, there’s twelve in the Metal Unit squad. Right now, we’ve only revealed about four or five, but we’ll have more pilots for sure.

AL: Do you have plans for costume DLC?

FS: People have been asking for skins for the Metal Unit, so for sure, on that and maybe even the plug suits too if we figure how to do something like that.

AL: More specifically, bathing suit DLC?

FS: *laughs* You know what, I’ll make it happen. We already have beach balls in the game and a secret level that we are implementing called Wonderland, where things out of context can happen. That’s where we can put the Swimsuits.

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AL: How long will you stay in Early Access?

FS: We have a release window Q2, so expect to hear more in April, May, or June. After that, we will begin work on bringing the game to Switch, PS4, and Xbox.

AL: Is there anything you’d like to say to fans of Metal Unit or those just hearing about the game?

FS: Please join us on Discord, so many friendly people are there who have been writing guides and providing great feedback to make the game awesome. We want to create items or somehow put the names of these contributors into the game later down the line.


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Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.