Game Review: Noahmund
My latest game review just went up over at GeekNifty, so you know the drill. Check out the official review there, then swing back here for my extended review. Or... vice versa, I don't care. Just make sure you check those guys out.
So... let's talk about Noahmund. For starters, it's an RPG by Estudio Ábrego. Coming into this game I was really hyped. It looks beautiful, the combat sounds different, and the music is fantastic. Unfortunately this game didn't really live up to the hype, and the saddest part is, it really, really could have.
Let me get this part out of the way: my review is tainted by a bad user experience. From the start I was having issues with this game; I couldn't load it, it wouldn't recognize my Steam controller, it would freeze, the English subtitles wouldn't load, etc, etc. You can see that I was coming into this game already frustrated, so, if you feel you need to, take that into account.
What's the game about? Honestly, I barely know. It's not for lack of attention. The opening cutscene, while gorgeous, wouldn't load English subtitles and my Spanish is only so-so. So... I missed all that. What I did get was a girl named Gallina was rescued by an order and taught their mysterious ways of synergy or something to that effect. She acts as your party's healer and, if you have all three party members, you're joined by her guardian and a sort of rogue-type character, all in pursuit of a foe called the Divisor. Or the Divider. Seriously, the game's translation was a little rough and they changed their mind halfway through. Oh, and if you decide to go to the graveyard, bring your Spanish dictionary: nothing got translated there.
The characters interact well and the world seems interesting enough, but even with a colorful cast, the navigation, commands, and combat just drag the game down. First off, let me introduce you to the two keys you're going to use constantly. Q and E. Not Enter. Not WASD. Q to cancel, E to accept. Fine, whatever, your hand gets used to it. Time for combat.
You're on a grid that I believe the Kickstarter page referred to as "Chess 2.0." I don't know if all that's true, but you do move square by square. Oh, did you think this was a turn-based strategy game? No, it's real-time combat. Real-time combat that's restricted to up, down, left, and right movements within a defined grid. Weird... but you can get used to it. Now, attack with spacebar. Wait, scratch that. Attack with spacebar PLUS a direction. A little weird, but okay. By the way, make sure you understand what you're doing, because the tutorials aren't terribly helpful and they don't repeat any past lessons.
You'll control either Galina, who acts as the healer, her bodyguard, who can take stance and is your default tank, or the rogue character who attacks from afar and sets traps, and can switch on the fly. These would all be neat in either a turn based or normal real-time combat system. In this strange hybrid though, I can't say which role I do best because being limited in my mobility really makes all of them difficult. If you enter combat with a foe you can't defeat, you're kinda boned. You can restart the battle (by pressing "E") or return to your last save. And those save points are far between. And since you can't use Galina's heal ability between battles, you might go into battle with everyone at 1HP because of a poison attack in your last battle. And before you can heal anyone, you're all alone because your comrades rushed in and got ganked.
Let's get to the world. It's gorgeous. Hand-painted backgrounds and incredible music. The world looks great, if a little retro, and feels alive. It such a shame that moving across it is torture. Remember that grid stuff in combat? Yeah, why not do it on the world map, too? Yes, one square at a time, just pick your direction and hit "E" to confirm. Oh, and let's do it isolinear, so your cardinal directions are at an angle now. Does the up arrow move you up and to the right or up and to the left? Don't hit the wrong arrow or forget something on a previous screen, because you're in a for a long trek if you do. Oh, and two little things to top it off. I know the characters are perfectly capable of moving anywhere on the map without going square-by-square. There's a glitch in the second world where my party won't move the one square over to the next section, but instead run (nonstop) around the entire section of map to come to the other side. Because reasons. And just to remind you of how long you're taking on that map, moving one square at a time, there's a lovely little counter in the corner. Why? I honestly have no idea. It didn't help with puzzles. I was never on a time limit. All it did for me was remind me that I took 72 turns to cross this stupid map.
With the major frustrations out of the way, let's look at the weird stuff. For one, early on in the game the save points are rare and one use only. This is not a game to just pick up and set down, they demand commitment. Later on they become a little more useful and act like normal save points, but why they chose to do this in the beginning, when we're all making decisions about the game, baffles me. Speaking of save points, after a certain point you're allowed to use them to return to town for shopping. Do you teleport back? No. Make trades remotely? No. The main character remembers her town. Remembers. While remembering your town, you can barter for armor, potions, or accessories using whatever treasures you've picked up along the way (there isn't a currency, you literally have to guess how many leaves the blacksmith will take for a sickle). When you're all done, you move square-by-square back to the town entrance and... return to the present. And... I guess all those potions and better armor are just things you forgot you packed? Seriously, I'm imagining Galina and her crew barely surviving a fight, complaining about how they nearly died, and she's like "Oh! I forgot, I have a sword upgrade for you and some armor for you. I wondered why my backpack was so heavy!"
Look, there are some good things. I'm sure the story's nice if I knew what it was. I mean, what I was informed about was intriguing. The music is incredible (though again, I don't know what the singer was saying), and the characters are fun. Unfortunately the experience as a whole just fell short. It felt like it was so close in so many places to being a good game, even a great game, but... the experience, for me, was fundamentally broken. I had no fun playing it, and in the end, that's what makes a game good. Maybe if Estudio Abrego spend more time on the mechanics or even just on the localization, I could give it a recommend. As it stands, I can't. It's a game full of promise but with no substance.
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Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.