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Yaga

Posted by GG Goblin On December - 2 - 2019

An action RPG about an unlucky blacksmith.

 
Slavic folklore may not have had the same amount of coverage in video games as Norse or Greek mythology, for example, but that hasn’t stopped developers Breadcrumbs Interactive from taking these strange fairy tales and myths and creating a strangely entertaining world in which a player can become a one-handed blacksmith with incredibly bad luck. Played as an action RPG, Ivan the blacksmith will have to take on quests, avoid as much bad luck as possible and, if his Mum has her way, find a wife.

 


 
The world in which Ivan exists is quite bizarre, but very enjoyable to experience, thanks to a humorous streak that runs through it. As for Ivan’s motivations, he is being tasked with impossible tasks by the Tzar, with the penalty of death for failure. Then there is Baba Yaga, the famed witch of myth in her house on chicken legs, and a demonic entity that exists only to make Ivan’s life more difficult. And Ivan’s Mum just wants him to settle down. The extended cast of characters are all weird and wonderful, and excellently written to provide both depth and chuckles as the player takes on quests that will see Ivan leaving the hub village and heading into procedurally generated areas to fight all manner of monsters and enemies.

 
The core mechanic that seems intent on dictating everything the player will do in the game is that bad luck. This is represented by a bar on the screen, and there are so many different ways of increasing that bad luck. Early in the game, Ivan will take on a fixed personality, and acting outside of that fixed personality will add more bad luck to the gauge. Bad luck can also be increased with various other actions, such as using certain magical items or accepting help from certain characters. Should the player manage to fill the gauge, a demonic creature will hunt Ivan down and destroy some of his items. This gives a whole risk and reward mechanic to how players progress, making them wary about how they act around others and which equipment they equip.

 


 
This is a great idea for a game, but it is not in the players control as much as it should be. At the end of the day, it is impossible to avoid the bad luck increasing, meaning the player will not be able to avoid having some of their equipment destroyed. This obviously reduces the importance and appeal of obtaining new equipment. This is something of a shame as the crafting system, where Ivan puts his blacksmithing skills to good use on materials found during the adventure, is quite deep and allows for a wide range of new weapons and such. It’s not just the bad luck that will result in Ivan’s equipment being lost either, as dying in combat can also lead to losing items, which can make it quite difficult to progress.

 
But progress Ivan must, and so once he is prepared for whatever is to come, he heads out of the village and into a selection of fairly generic landscapes. Enemies will come for Ivan in groups, some of which can be totally overwhelming, and the progression through the level will halt until these enemies have been taken care of. The enemies are quite varied, and the combat is satisfying, if a little uninspired. Ivan has a grapple hook and can throw his hammer as ranged attacks, but they are not very effective, and so most of the combat will be getting up close and personal with the business end of a hammer. In reality, this weapon is more than capable of taking care of enemies if the player is careful, and makes good use of the ability to roll out of harms way. Once the player has taken care of whatever enemies the game throws at them, they can use their spoils to improve Ivan and head out for more. However, upgrading to a more powerful hammer brings the chance of losing it to luck, so the loop is more difficult to invest in.

 
Accepting the potential disappointment of losing hard-earned equipment for every failure, Yaga manages to be quite a fun game set in an interesting world. It is not especially long, but then the player is encouraged to play through several times to experience the different endings that come from the different choices that the player makes, and unlike many titles, the choices do actually seem to make a difference. The visuals are great and have a storybook quality that suits the game and look great on the smaller Switch screen, while the excellent soundtrack is a real highlight.

 


 
Yaga is a fun little action RPG featuring an entertaining cast of characters. The bad luck system may not work as well as intended for the player, and the combat is nothing special, but the great setting, bundles of humour and solid choice system mean that Yaga is still fun to play. Yaga can be challenging, but anyone wanting to try their luck in Slavic folklore will enjoy their time in the game.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 



 

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