Developer: Aurelien Regard Games
Publisher: Playdius, Plugin in Digital
Review Context: Although FPS games are not really my genre, I’m willing to compromise when the game has an interesting concept. I’m also a big fan of rogue-lite games.
Date of Playthrough: February 13, 2019
PC Specs Game Played on:
OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM) i3 CPU 540 @ 3.07GHz
RAM: 8 GB
Video Card: GeForce GTX 950 2GB GDDR5 ACX 2.0 SC+
Disclosure: This review is based off of a review copy.
Away: Journey to the Unexpected, developed by Aurelien Regard Games, caught my attention due to the trailer and the art style of everything happening. The game is described to be a charming 3D journey, as you recruit other characters to help you in a rogue-lite genre experience. I’m generally a fan of the rogue-lite genre, and the genre usually requires some level of grinding and dying in order to further yourself in that particular game. Usually it is quickly clear in this genre whether the game will be enjoyable or not.
The game opens up to a very nicely animated backdrop behind the menu, which clearly gives an implication of high production value. You start off naming yourself followed by finding yourself in your house, as you are wondering where your parents are, who are doing a very secret job that can’t be talked about. Soon you are alerted to a disturbance in the basement about creatures trying to break through the walls and you have to check it out.
Not soon after, you are introduced to this first-person combat experience, where you only wield a stick. While the graphics and visuals are very well done, as the art style is probably the strongest thing of this, it is quickly apparent that the game feels a bit stiff, as you are swinging away with your left-click mouse button, but the hitbox seems a bit hard to gage as you whack down your first enemies. You finally enter the open world, and while I was a bit mesmerized to start because it seems like a vast area, I am quickly disappointed because the space is very small. You are also introduced to the first major item, the friendship qube, which is used to recruit new teammates. Not soon after, you can recruit your first teammate, in my case it was a tree named Woody. This process is done through dialogue, is not too bad, but takes little effort to complete the recruitment. Suddenly, Woody is on my team and I can now switch between myself with the stick and Woody, who has a special attack that uses energy.
The rogue-lite experience in Away: Journey to the Unexpected is a concept that probably read well in theory on paper, but isn’t executed creatively, as the concept is to defeat a static cave that has randomized instances at least once and twice in a different cave. The objective is to get to the lever in the cave instances 3x to unlock entry to Labiworks, a factory that is creating monsters and causing the problem. Labiworks also has randomness, plus a boss you have to defeat to get to the next area. The rogue-lite elements kick in when your hearts deplete, as you are given experience and the experience gives you upgrades in an order that can’t be chosen by the player. Gold acquired in the journey, the number count of friends made, and any shortcuts you unlocked carry over to your next run. This is the gameplay loop of the game, which sounds good in theory, except the major problem is that each new open-world area is a different setting, new people to make friends with, similar layout, enter a dungeon area 3x, unlock another area, followed by defeating a boss, until eventually reaching the end.
The gameplay in Away: Journey to the Unexpected is just incredibly bland, as you wave a tiny stick around in the same areas over and over, doing little damage. The first upgrade you get when you die is a charged attack, which requires you holding both left-click and right-click, something the game never tells you. The lack of tool-tips on items, and even in the open world store where you can spend your gold on a few things are shockingly missing, but the mini-map seems to be done well. The disappointment in Away: Journey to the Unexpected is that the trailers and the menu animations made the gameplay be the completely unexpected part of the experience. Even with all these faults, the soundtrack is a bright spot that the game deserves credit for.
Unfortunately, I can’t recommend Away: Journey to the Unexpected because the rogue-lite elements are just not that enjoyable in this short tedious experience. The art style and concept of the game is appealing, but the gameplay is just not well executed.
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