As my first game preview, I took a look into a game from Still Games, a tiny studio of just two people. This game has reached it’s Kickstarter goal and a demo is freely available to download. It’s not a huge demo, but from what I played, this game has serious potential. The link to the demo is on their Kickstarter Page.
The game itself places you as the protagonist, Thistle, in 15th Century Europe, armed with a magical (and rather natty) cape, and a 200 year old Bronze Age sword. Two things hit me like a Spartan phalanx when I booted it up. The first, to say that this game is pre-alpha, the graphics are simply beautiful. Powerful colour combinations and bright sharp edges, mixed with shadows that resemble tribal markings, give this game a very stand out appearance. Resembling a Zelda: Link’s Awakening top down view (which was the designers intention) this game doesn’t suffer in comparison, it appears to want to build on that and make it wholly theirs. The second thing was the musical score. It was both haunting and catchy in a Halo choral choir sort of way. I found myself humming it later on and not being able to place it until I played the demo again.
The demo is a few short screens introducing me to a very simplistic control system (that on the personal computer formats screams for keypad support), allowing for both left and right handed people to play quickly and easily. I enjoyed the mechanics of swinging the sword, and using the magical cape to avoid pitfalls and other traps. There was an odd moment where input lag killed me, happily this only set me back to the start of the current screen. As this has already been Nintendo verified it is available on the Wii U controller, so movement will be a lot crisper than WASD/arrow keys pressed in conjunction. The end of the demo shows Thistle dropping tantalising hints as to his mission and the missing Animal Gods.
There are very few negatives that I came across, and all of them can be forgiven as pre alpha bugs/glitches. The sound dropped out once or twice, and the directionality of movement failed due to input lag. If the keyboard stays as the primary movement option then more difficult dungeons within the later game will become an exercise in absolute frustration. Saying that however, the dash effect from Thistle’s magical cloak was generous, that allowed a two or three pixel leeway when dashing across some of the larger gaps in the game preventing them from becoming anything more than a minor obstacle. Also, the movement lag wasn’t too bad as the sword swipes seemed to protect the character in a 180 degree arc, preventing you from being utterly overwhelmed (this may also be in part to a sparkle effect from the sword tip when it is swung) from all directions. Anyone who has ever played Z:LA on the NES or Gameboy will feel immediately at home.
All in all this game will be kept on my wish list for now, as the stretch goals seem rather promising, with weapon upgrades, a hard-core mode, a port to the PS4 and a bartering system all due in the near future as backers pledge more funds. I’m personally excited to see how far down the jRPG route they take this game and how they develop the adventure as a whole. You can clearly see the direction the studio want to take, and still have more than plenty of options to make it unique and yet familiar at the same time.
Developed by: Still Games.