As always, let me preface this with a note of caution. This post is based on an Early Access Game, as such everything mentioned (both good and bad!) are subject to change. A follow up post will come either after a major update or final release.
I have to admit I picked this up purely because of it’s price, £12 over on GMG with vouchers. I was looking for a small cheap game to tide me over till the release of Secret of Mana. This caught my eye and since its so cheap I decided to gamble…this one paid off, unlike my other gamble (looking at you ARK)!
As you can no doubt tell from the screenshots and promo vid it’s got a very cartoony and stylized graphics, and does in fact at times feel like I’m playing a kids cartoon. Initially I found myself floundering between both liking and loathing the stye.
On the one hand it gives the game a unique look, something setting it apart from the usual, and giving itself something to build on, to attract players. Yet I also found the style a tad over the top after a while, and a little grating, to bright. Yet as I spent more time in the game it grew on me again.
The colourful, bright and almost too loud, art style is actually, ultimately, rather charming. It extends to the various monsters and animals you come across in the world as well. They all seem to have a cute and adorable aspect to them. In the end I feel the art team did an amazing job here, bringing the town of portia to life.
The game play itself is however pretty much what you’d expect from this style of game, with no real deviations. So you get up, go gather various resources, craft your items and then go socialise. In truth it’s very similar to the likes of Stardew Valley, only with a Workshop instead of a farm.
The animations, are for the most part really well done and give a sense of satisfaction to things such as swinging your weapons or tools. Even the various worktables have an animation that gives a good feel to things while you wait for them to finish.
However there does seem to be a bit of disconnect between swinging a tool (say an axe) and it hitting the target. Something that you’re sure is going to hit ends up whiffing, wasting your stamina.
This sadly also carries over to the combat, which I have to say is the weakness of the game. It revolves around hitting a single button repeatedly, no depth, and no nuances to make it interesting and satisfying. Though admittedly, combat is not the focus of the game, but because of it’s nature you’re going to be doing it a lot.
I would love to say that the voices are equally as good, but I cant. Sadly I found the levels to be off on some of the voices so they were significantly louder, or quieter than they should be. Which isn’t a huge issue per se, as it’s one easily fixed. However what isn’t so easily fixed is the bad VA that some of the characters have. One of them, has such an obnoxious voice I want to kill her every time I talk to her (think snooty stuck up sorority girl cliche!). But the personality she has is really nice, and totally not matched with the VA. I wonder if this is just part of the ‘charm’ that the developers were aiming for? If so it flops hard for me!
Sadly there are a lot of minor niggles in this game, which ultimately lead to a lot of frustrations. Lets talk about some of them.
Time, in games like this time is always a factor. In this game it’s not just a factor, it’s a crippling one. The day passes so fast that trying to do anything beyond a single task, results in you running out of time. What’s worse is that you end up running out of time when you’re doing the various tasks needed to boost your reputation in the town. It gets frustrating to know you only need to do one more thing to finish the task, but the game just wont let you.
This is further exasperated by stamina, which also depletes rather rapidly, more than it should IMO. To the point you’re going to have to spend you’re limited gold to buy stamina food, just so you can finish resource gathering. For the first time in a game I resorted to cheating, just to turn off the stamina depletion so as I could actually play the game!
Next you have the issues with placement of items, and the problems they generate. So placing the worktables, for the most part works as you would expect them to. However some of them can not be placed next to others, for no apparent reason, beyond their hit box being huge.. However this is minor, the big issue comes in the form of chests that you need to use for storage, and trust me, you’re going to need a lot of them! They can’t be stacked, nor can they be placed next to each other. As a result (as you can see in the screen shot), you can end up with your entire house being taken over by them. This is very frustrating as this is space that should be used for items that boost your stats, like sofas, clocks and tables and stuff. The crates, on the surface, look like at most they should take up 2×2 squares, but for some reason they take up 4×4, which wastes a huge amount of space.
There’s also a problem with items not being able to sit on top of each other. For example you’d thing you’d be able to place the lamp or electric fan on your nice new table, right? Nope, they sit on the floor and frankly make the place look like a trash heap rather than a house.
Finally lets talk about the targeting. Running around gathering resources is a time consuming job, made longer by the number of trees and rocks that are not mineable. (Let me stress here i’m not referring to the ones that you can’t ‘mine’ due to not having a good enough tool, as it tells you you need a better tool). Normally not a huge issue, but since they’re almost always around nodes that are mineable, you end up wasting precious time and stamina on these invulnerable nodes; and there’s a lot of them.
Since you’re going to be spending a lot of time running through the various mines lets talk about them!
Frankly I love them! The first two you come across are newb friendly, no monsters spawn in there. What you do get though are bits of the forgotten age. So you’ll come across furniture, engines, old parts and various household items, such as lamps and fans. You find these using the goggles you’re given and target a single ‘dot’ these dots are the items, but you wont know what they are till you did down and unearth it.
As well as these you get the other materials you’ve come to expect from a mine, iron, copper, tin, rocks, soil and others.
Now, I’ve only so far gone through 3 mines, the first 2 are in the middle of the town, and the last is a ruins in the wild lands. The problem is that the last one doesn’t really act as mine. You go through killing monsters and looting chests and crates which get you a predetermined (or so it seems) set of items. As you make your way down level by level, you waste a huge chunk of time going to each next level. So the way it works right now you’re probably only going to down two or three floors before running out of time.
Yet, as I said I like them, you’ve got two that are proper mines for your mining materials, and one (so far) for just looking for the old age tech.
Another aspect I rather liked was the relationship between the church and research centre. The church feels all technology is bad, and asks you to hand over any discs you find to them so they can destroy them. The research centre however, is, well, a research centre. If you give the discs to them they’ll unlock blueprints for you. That said, so far it’s only unlocking ones I already had, so the dev’s do need to tweak that a bit I think. Giving discs to the church lets you buy stuff from their stall, such as seeds, planting boxes etc etc. So it’s a play-style choice.
So lets wrap all this up. Let me say again, that this is an alpha build. That means that all of the issues I’ve mentioned have a good chance of being fixed before to long. However as it stands I really dod enjoy this game, it’s not a heavy game, nor is it a game I’d consciously sit down to play hour of. Yet it is a game where I’d start off with the intention to play half hour or so, and suddenly 6 hours are gone by.
For me that speaks volumes about the game. Given it’s asking price I’ve no qualms about recommending this game. It’s well worth your time and money, but as with all Early Access games, it is a gamble.
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