Flight School Studio has only been around for a few years, but it's already making a name for itself in the gaming space. Creature in the Well is a refreshingly unique action game with a beautiful art style and atmosphere — we'd highly encourage you to give it a look. But what is the team working on next? What comes after its pinball-inspired dungeon crawler? Fortunately, we can tell you — it's named Stonefly.
Stonefly is a similarly original concept: it's an action adventure game about a world of folks living among nature, harvesting its resources using insect-like mechs. Set in a forest of giant trees and leaves, you'll pilot one of these bug-inspired machines to gather minerals and journey through natural environments.
Let's wind it back for a second. You play as Annika Stonefly, a mechanic and inventor working alongside her father. She's intelligent, but has little experience with the outside world, and one day loses her Dad's mech — a priceless family heirloom — while out on a mission. The game's story is Annika's journey to get it back.
Watching gameplay, you'll spend the vast majority of the game in the driver's seat of one of these mechs. You can scuttle about on the ground, but we're told that you'll likely be airborne a lot of the time, gliding about from leaf to branch in your pursuit of minerals. Wind and other environmental effects will help you get around. When you find a mineral deposit, it's likely there will be actual bugs consuming them; you'll need to fend them off to take the resources for yourself.
The game takes a non-lethal approach to combat; we're not even sure combat is the right word for it. An ability of your mech is a gust of air you'll use to blow away those pesky little critters. This will deal with the basic bugs, but some will require slightly more force. You can slam down to stun bugs and flip them over, and they can then be carried off by your air blast. Some bugs love shiny things, and you can drop a decoy to distract them, too. The larger the mineral deposit, the more bugs might appear — and they get bigger themselves, sometimes requiring multiple hits to stun them. Once any bugs are dealt with, you can scoop up those precious minerals and continue your excursion.
The vibe we get from the game is that it's pretty chilled out. There's little in the way of confrontation, and this mission type we've seen is about exploration and gathering materials. Once you complete your task — or, when you reach a checkpoint mid-mission — you can return to your campsite, a little hub where you can put those minerals to use.
What's pretty cool is that you'll be building and customising your very own mech throughout the game. Using materials you find on missions, you can acquire various new abilities and upgrades, as well as a wide variety of cosmetic options. Inspired by the insect world, all the designs we're shown look great.
But these campsites are more than just upgrading your mech — they're also narrative spaces where you can converse with Annika's allies and friends. The story is linear, but if you want more flavour and context about the game's world, there's more to delve into by talking with people and learning more about them. It's also worth mentioning that Annika herself will have a running dialogue while out on a mission, commenting on things you discover or saying how she's feeling.
As well as simple mineral-finding scout missions, there are story-focused missions and Alpha Aphid challenges, which appear to be a tougher mode. We didn't see this in action, but it'll involve gathering as many resources as you can within a time limit, getting rid of all the bugs at the same time. While this is clearly a relaxed game — there's little penalty for dying — it's nice that it'll have these more challenging aspects.
Speaking of which, the demo culminates in a battle with a bug as big as your mech. It's a sort-of mini boss, and will require strategic use of all your mech's abilities. It's here where the game's systems all start to play off each other; the enemy's attacks will affect each other, so you can use bugs against other bugs, and any wind or other environmental elements will interact with them too.
Stonefly is looking to be another stylish and unique adventure from Flight School Studio. We really dig the chilled out gameplay and the customisable mechs, and we're certainly intrigued to see where the story goes. It's coming to both PlayStation 5 and PS4 later in 2021. What do you make of this one? Will you be exploring the insect world of Stonefly? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below.