Ultros Asks: “What if Games Were Drugs?”

Visited any cool space uteruses lately?

Ultros preview
Ultros preview

Ultros is the kind of game that immediately grabs you, pops open your mouth, and then plops a couple of LSD tabs under your tongue while also giving you a watering can. Hadoque’s unique metroidvania is a psychedelic dream that is hard to tear your eyes away from, though it’s more than just its good looks.

As a modern metroidvania, you shouldn’t expect to immediately understand what is going on here. I played a couple of hours of a press preview and still couldn’t really tell you what Ultros is about. Inspired by the opaque, dense storytelling found in the likes of Hollow Knight, Ultros seems like the kind of game where some mysterious, tormented figure will go: “Oh, the Zargon prophesied by the Jibble, we must wash the Kathmandu,” and then disappear forever. The gist is that you’re stuck in The Sarcophagus, a cosmic uterus that is trapped in the loop of a black hole (that old chestnut), with you having to cleanse the labyrinth of seven bald lads in vats called Shamans.

While Ultros is not immediately comprehensible from a storytelling perspective, the combat is easy to grasp and your surroundings simple to parse due to just how distinctive everything is. Ultros doesn’t waste much time in adding more rather genius systems on top, though, with a few really interesting mechanics that I can see other developers taking inspiration from.

Rather than a flask of a possibly chthonic description, you heal in Ultros by eating the parts of enemies you cut off. However, chomping on these will also help you fill up specific nutritional bars that will help you to unlock new skills, with the nutritional value of a random sac of mutant eggs being dictated by how varied you are in combat. It’s like Weight Watchers mixed with Krav Maga. While a new loop will reset your skills, you can also use specially grown materials to help you save skills between loops. Oh yeah, there’s gardening in this game.

Players can also find seeds across The Sarcophagus that can either be reaped immediately or in the next loop, giving players plenty of reason to stick around. Planting seeds is also necessary for progression, as vines can unblock obstacles and maybe even help you reach new areas. I’m sure there will be a seed meta for Ultros once it eventually launches, but for now I just had fun planting seeds and chopping limbs like LSD Bill Odie.

Ultros game
Ultros game

However, I’m not sure you even need to go around chopping limbs in Ultros, as there were certain sections of the map that I couldn’t access after having picked up the blades. I don’t think you will be able to live out Harvest Moon in space, but it will be interesting to see just how deep this goes. Luckily, if you want to just do violence, Ultros seems fairly accessible due to an absolute glut of ways to heal and not overly bastardly enemies, including bosses. It’s not a walkover, but it isn’t a frustrating time either.

Ultros feels like a breath of fresh air in a rather crowded field, and I can’t wait to play more if it (and maybe try and figure out what’s going on) when it launches in 2024.

Steam preview key supplied by PR.

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