Review: Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior

Posted on June 11, 2024 by Victor Tan

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Rewinding time and fighting with remnants from your recent past is exciting. There’s a clear progression that doesn’t make a challenge too difficult or impossible. Replaying your challenges is also enjoyable. However, there isn’t an obvious reason to gather collectibles or clear time challenges. The Switch also has notable frame drops throughout the experience. A solid experience but not the action-packed adventure one might hope for.

Developer – Sand Door Studio

Publisher – Spotlight by Quantic Dream

Platforms – Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC

Review copy given by publisher

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get a hand from your past or future self? That’s one of the premises that Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior investigates as you play Imë, the titular Lysfanga. She is a warrior who investigates a city that has recently been freed of a time bubble. That time bubble was all that was holding back a evil race known as Raxes that threaten the lives of regular people. But Imë finds herself outmatched and gains an assist from the goddess of time, letting her fight alongside her past selves.

Imë moves from location to location, fighting groups of Raxes and getting stronger She learns new spells and gains more remnants to fight alongside more past versions of herself. As you progress through the game, you gain more options for clearing levels quickly. Enemies evolve and present new threats, forcing you to strategize and plan out your actions. If a challenge is too hard, you can come back after you feel more confident.

The time shifting is a great concept since it builds on actions you have done before. It takes some time to learn and master, but the mechanics are easy to adapt to. Every time shift is a strategic layer that you consider, allowing you visually plan and test. Restarting a battle is easy if you make a mistake and you gain new tools that expand your time shifting. Seeing your past selves come together in a battle is genuinely interesting and it makes combat more fun. Rather than being a traditional hack-and-slash, there’s actual strategy when you have a time limit.

That time limit also forces you to use the available tools on hand, especially if you want to finish challenges. While Lysfanga allows some degree of hack-and-slash, it becomes unreliable in later levels. Without proper planning and using all your options, it is difficult to progress through areas, let alone complete challenges. The best part is that no challenge is impossible to complete in the given time. While you might not feel confident, there’s no challenge that is out of reach.

Lysfanga makes it easier for players to revisit previous areas and battles. If you miss a collectible or feel confident to take on a challenge, it’s easy to move around. The UI is simple and is easy to understand, with a detailed tutorial in case you forget anything. Should players forget something they learned, a quick view of the tutorial helps them reinforce their existing tactical options. This makes Lysfanga beginner-friendly, allowing players to build their skills before going back for greater challenges.

However, Lysfanga’s unusual approach to the action genre is a double-bladed sword. As innovative as the time-shifting mechanic is, the battles feel less like action and more like puzzles. You are fighting enemies, but planning your attacks strategically doesn’t focus on the action. Victory comes with finding optimal ways to finish a battle quickly, as enemies aren’t that dangerous. While you can get hurt and this affects your past selves, enemies rarely pose a threat to your mission. The timer is by far the worst obstacle to overcome.

Eventually, battles become difficult enough that you aren’t really fighting as much as you are coordinating. You are thinking more than you are fighting, controlling pieces on a board and timing your actions. The process isn’t boring per se, but your coordination and skill aren’t as important as your strategy. For an action game to eventually feel like a puzzle game, the initial fun disappears after a while.

It’s also not obvious what gathering collectibles and completing challenges does in the beginning. While their purpose is revealed to you in time, it makes completing early time challenges feel pointless. Why is it important that you finish battles under a certain time limit? What are those orbs you sometimes find around the city? The tutorial doesn’t cover their importance and that makes it feel like you are wasting your time completing them early on.

Lysfanga also has auto-saves to prevent you from losing your progress. The Switch doesn’t handle these auto-saves well, with notable frame rate drops when they occur. Even starting a battle causes significant drops that can interrupt your planning. While these aren’t game-ending occurrences, they happen often enough that it does disrupt your experience.

Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior is a unique action experience that you won’t soon forget. Time shifting is an interesting concept to work with, adding extra layers of strategy onto a typical hack-and-slash. It’s genuinely fun to see your actions coordinate with your past selves and overcome difficult obstacles. But the experience feels less like action and more like a puzzle as the game goes on. Completing challenges and finding objects also feels out of place without their significance explained to you. If the Switch wasn’t prone to frame drops, this would be a great experience. But as it is, Lysfanga provides great action with the premise becoming muddied as time goes on.

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