Dandara Trails of Fear Edition is a metroidvania game that literally turns everything you know about this genre of games and flips it upside down delivering one of the best gaming experiences I have had in a while. I’ll cut to the chase, if you like this style of game go ahead and get this. Yes, the unique gameplay will take you a while to get use to, but once you do you’ll be glad that you gave Dandara a chance. I want to begin this review by saying, Dandara draws inspirations from games like Metroid and Dark souls, and this game is not afraid to show that. Dandara really wears its inspirations on its sleeve. From the way the doors open to the way you discover camps where you can upgrade your equipment, Dandara really is not afraid to show its roots. But before I continue writing about its roots and gameplay let me take a minute to write about its story.
You play as a woman named Dandara who is born into a world filled with chaos. It is your job to return the salt to this world that has lost it. It is your job to save your world from descending into completely madness. The story that you encounter here is nothing to write home about. In your play through you’ll come across interesting NPCS, and come across soul like creatures that expand on the lore of the world, but the story is not something that stuck with me. What did stick with me however is the gameplay of the game.
Dandara plays unlike anything I have ever played before, and I have been gaming for a long, long time. The way you move in this game is so unique, so different, that it took me a while for me to get the hang of it. The way you move is simple on paper. Instead of your typical horizontal movement where you can jump up and down, Dandara limits your movement by only allowing you to jump diagonally. At first I thought this would slow down my play through, but I was quick to realize that was not the case. Every time I had an encounter with an en enemy I was looking for places to move to where I would not be touch. Every encounter I had felt like a chess match where every move counts. This game style, although unique, also brought many frustrations. There were times, especially during boss fights, where I was trying to make it somewhere but the game did not respond to my command on time or correctly and it led to my demise. Now, this was not the norm but rather an annoyance.
Another aspect where I feel the game falls short it’s on its map and how hard it is to read it. In a metriodvania game, being able to read a map it’s critical. Dandara falls short here. The map doesn’t give you any clues or anything that will help you differentiate the areas you can explore with the areas you can’t. I get that this is a metroidvania, but in a game where it is exploration is already hard as it is, I wish it would give you more help.
Once I got the hang of the map and traversal I was flying through these stages and I was on my way to fighting some of the best boss fights I have ever fought in a video game. Every boss fight I encountered felt intense. Every boss fight challenged me in ways I didn’t expect to be challenged. Every time I would come across a boss my heart would begin to race and my hands would begin to sweat and I was not expecting that from a game like Dandara. The challenge that’s in this game made me think of Darksouls and just like Darksouls you will die a lot. In this game once you die you are able to recover the salt that you dropped by revisiting that area where you died ala Darksouls. But like darksouls dying is just part of the learning process and here in Dandara you will learn patterns and you will overcome any boss by dying over and over again.
By the time I was done playing this game I thought of all the boss fights I fought. All the weird areas I had discovered. All the skills and new “weapons” I had acquired in my play through. I was left thinking how Dandara had become one of my favorite games in this genre and how I cannot recommend this enough if you are into this kind of games. Yes, you are going to be frustrated by its movement and map at times, but the positive outweighs anything negative I have to say about this game. Go, buy this game and let Dandara turn your world upside down.