Metroid Dread Guide: Tips To Know Before Visiting Planet ZDR

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Metroid Dread is here, and it marks the conclusion to the decades-long story that’s been told across the 2D side of the series, dating back to the original Metroid. While it may be a landmark game in that sense, the actual structure of it is very much still what you’d expect from a Metroid, as Samus starts out her journey stripped of her powers before slowly (and sometimes not so slowly) accumulating them again. It’s typical Metroid fare, but whether it’s been years since you last touched a game in the series or are making this your starting point, we’ve got some tips to help ensure your hours spent on the planet ZDR are dread-free.

Dread is a challenging game, but in many ways, it’s not especially punishing. The new EMMI enemies that have been featured all over the game’s marketing pose a serious threat to Samus, but thanks to checkpoints just outside of the zones you inhabit, an encounter going awry with one will only set you back a minute or two at most. Boss battles can also be quite difficult until you learn their patterns, but you can make things easier on yourself by putting in some legwork beforehand. With all of that in mind, let’s dive into the tips.

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Learn to love the melee counter

Developer MercuryStream has carried over one of the new features it introduced in the 3DS game Samus Returns, the melee counter, to Dread. You’ll learn about how it works early in the course of the action: Various enemies will have their own attack that can be countered, the timing for which is indicated by a brief flash on their body, and doing so will stun them and open them up for a quick kill. While it’s extremely satisfying to pull off, it’s also critical that you build up a habit for using it.

The counter is crucial not only because it can help you avoid damage and kill an enemy quickly, but also because you’ll receive more energy (the game’s equivalent of health) and missile ammo by killing a countered enemy. Those extra resources can mean the difference between life and death, so using the counter early and often will help you to build the muscle memory necessary for it to become a natural part of your repertoire. There’s no reason not to rely heavily on it (outside of cases where you’re full on energy and missiles or are just avoiding an enemy), so force yourself to learn the timing until hitting that X button becomes your natural instinct.

And for as useful as the counter is during standard combat, it becomes mandatory during certain boss encounters. Not every attack can be countered, but counters are sometimes the lone way to open certain bosses up to damage. As such, building up that habit in normal battles should help to prepare you for the game’s toughest fights.

Countering enemies is essential--and satisfying
Countering enemies is essential–and satisfying

Hunt down upgrades

Samus will need to collect various upgrades (both new and returning) over the course of the game in order to facilitate her exploration of ZDR. There may be some wiggle room in terms of how and when you get those, but alongside these gameplay-changing abilities (like the morph ball or beam enhancements) are upgrades to your missile ammo capacity and energy tanks. Both of these come in two forms: standard missile upgrades that increase your capacity by two, and + versions that give you an additional 10; for energy, you’ll either find full tanks that essentially give you an extra lifebar, or Zelda heart piece-style chunks, of which you’ll need to collect four in order to form a new tank.

Having extra energy tanks and a large supply of missiles will make Dread a much more manageable experience, giving you the wiggle room to take some extra hits or miss a few missiles during a fight. If you’re new to Metroid, you should know that simply tanking your way through boss fights generally isn’t a viable strategy; you likely won’t accumulate enough energy tanks to let you suffer hit after hit, but again, it’s more about ensuring you can make a few mistakes without dying.

What all of this means is that if you’re having difficulty with a boss fight, consider poking around and tracking down some extra energy tanks. Or, if you see one in sight, try to grab it rather than beelining it to the next objective. However…

Don’t think you can get all the upgrades right away

Again, if you’re new to Metroid or metroidvania games in general, it’s essential to know that your progress will be locked in numerous ways. Whether it’s because you lack the necessary jump ability, weapon, or other suit upgrade, you’re going to see areas and upgrades that you cannot necessarily access right away, no matter how skilled you might be. You’re meant to return to areas, sometimes multiple times, as you make it further into the game and unlock new abilities that will open pathways, let you destroy certain types of blocks, and so on. Dread will tease you with upgrades or routes that are just out of reach, but that’s by design–you just aren’t going to be able to do certain things until you have the requisite equipment.

Fortunately, Dread makes it relatively easy to keep track of all these. Come anywhere close to an upgrade, and it’ll be marked on your map so you know to return later. Likewise, the various obstacles that stand in your way will also be marked on the map. Initially, these will usually be labeled with a series of question marks to indicate that you lack the necessary tool to deal with them. Once you get the corresponding upgrade, you’ll see their proper name listed on the map.

Beyond that, you’ll also see areas of the map that are blinking. This indicates that a secret awaits you, likely in a hidden block in the walls, floor, or ceiling. However, you should again bear in mind that you may lack the ability to actually uncover said secret right away. There are a ton of upgrades in Dread, and you certainly don’t need them all (or anywhere close) to finish the game, so don’t stress too much if you’re having trouble with a particular secret.

Shoot every wall when you’re stuck

Sooner or later, you’re going to get stuck. It’s okay. Take a break, and don’t be too hard on yourself when you realize the answer was right in front of you.

Sometimes, you might be limited to a small area and need to figure out how to leverage a new upgrade; other times, you’ll be exploring the broader game world and be unsure about what to do next. Dread is a well-designed game that will gently guide you to your next objective, but it’s never going to stick an arrow right in front of you and tell you precisely where to go.

When you don’t know what to do, whip out your missiles and let ’em rip. Oftentimes, the way ahead is uncovered by shooting certain blocks with a missile. The missile itself (or your standard beam) may be all that’s needed to destroy the block and let you pass, but if not, the missile will reveal the type of block, signaling what’s required to get through. As noted above, you’ll frequently encounter obstacles you can’t yet deal with. But if you’re unable to progress, your best starting point is usually to shoot missiles at everything you can to find any possible unseen exits.

Pay attention to the shape of rooms on the map

This will require some careful examination and mental notes, but especially if you’ve played a metroidvania before, you can oftentimes suss out the existence of a secret based on the shape of a room. Check them out on the map, and you might be able to determine that there’s a secret passage connecting two adjacent areas, for instance, based on patterns that emerge over the course of the game. This may not give you a huge edge, but particularly if you’re looking to explore everything, the map can be revealing.

You can wall-jump

A tutorial will explain each new ability or upgrade you acquire throughout the game, but one thing you can do from the start–wall-jumping–is never mentioned. It works much like in most other platformers, as you’ll jump into a wall, continue holding that direction on the analog stick, and then press the jump button again. This can let you reach higher elevations and is even required to advance in the early going, so it’s important to be aware that it’s available to you.

Beware doors with an orange glow

Samus is vulnerable to extreme weather, be it the cold or heat. Enter an area that’s a bit too chilly or hot for her and you’ll immediately start taking damage. Hot zones are the first you’ll encounter, and you’ll notice a telltale orange glow emanating from the doorway before passing through it to warn you of what lies ahead. (Cold areas, similarly, have a whiteish blue glow to them.) Stepping inside for a brief moment may not be a big deal, but these areas are essentially off-limits until you’re equipped to deal with them, so you might as well avoid them. More importantly, if you’re low on energy, you definitely want to avoid them, as a brief sojourn could cost you that last shred of health and kill you.

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