This is gonna be a little bit of a review, because I wanna be through with this!
First things first, I adore this game already. It has flaws, but they're mostly technical ones. From the graphics to the dialogue, I was completely blown away. I'll start with a few things that really stood out to me as nice touches.
The level of detail is fantastic. Everything felt lived in and part of a larger world. Not just visually, but story too. The footnotes are perfect flavor text and I found I could get exactly the level of detail I wanted with them. And the more I played, the more detail I wanted, to the point where I was sad when something didn't have some extra flavor on it.
I especially loved the tone in this game, and hope it stays consistent through the whole thing. It's got some great humor, but also a lot of nice human elements to it too. The adult, and occasionally dark content was very welcomed by me, though I'm sure there's boundaries you'd want to respect for both legal and wider audience purposes. It's hard to deny I get a big kick out of adorable critters swearing like sailors and plotting murder.
There's little details too - like the save system I think is really clever. The stamina system works well too, though I have some gripes with it (I'll get to that). I would have liked a little more music, but the sound design was great.
Then there were small things like Rolo not talking to you if you're dressed like a pirate. Small character details that makes them really stand out.
With all that said, I did have some problems, but I feel like most of them are extremely solvable. I'll start with the technical ones first.
The worst one was with the AI. A few times I had managed to alert the guards in such a way they they'd never stop being alerted. Sometimes they were stuck on level geometry. One time the rat was just standing there, apparently now unable to move or see me. As a result, I had no way of saving!
A less disastrous but still annoying one was I found wearing the suit of armor meant it was difficult or impossible to walk up some choice steps. They were tiny, too. On a similar note, some of the jumps I found were kinda off and I couldn't tell if I had done it wrong or if it was just a jump I wasn't supposed to be trying to make. This struck me in particularly when I had pushed the wooden beam to use as a platform.
Another issue I had was the camera. I started off on the mouse and keyboard, but then I saw there didn't seem to be any way to navigate the held items that way, so I switched to controller. But for whatever reason, no combination of X/Y axis inversion felt natural. I always felt like I was wrestling with the camera and more than once got hurt because I couldn't see where I was going. It was difficult to figure out how I wanted it to be, not to mention whenever it would (rarely) get stuck on geometry from time to time. In turn, this would sometimes make selecting things in the world a pain.
Now for things I'd like to see changed about the gameplay. Most of them are little, but...
So, I ended up being lost for about an hour (maybe more?) in trying to find the sewers. I found a door that looked likely, but it didn't open. Then I asked Rolo for help and he directed me towards the door I just came from, but it wasn't opening. I was really worried the game was bugged. But nope! turned out I just needed a light source before I could use the lock! Man, sure would have been nice to have been told that, huh? I got even more frustrated because after giving up the first time after following Rolo's advice, I wanted to re-read it to make sure I hadn't skipped over anything? But there was no way to see that information a second time.
Next thing that bothered me was the costume and health system. Now, don't get me wrong, I *loved* the amount of customization, but there was one fatal flaw that immediately made me dislike it. If you've gone through all the extra effort to put on the armor and fill that health up so you can run for longer, it only takes you removing a single item of clothing to lose 70% of your health. That's like 5 healing items completely down the drain for no reason! and sometimes you NEED to take that armor off. Worse still, you move so slowly wearing it so you're going to WANT a full health bar so you can sprint for longer. Eventually I just stopped caring about my health meter, but it really discouraged me from trying new things. You might be able to fix this if, when you changed clothing sets you got a percent change instead of a flat number change? There might be balancing issues, but I'm not sure.
Those two were by far my biggest annoyances, but there were a few others. For starters, avoiding the rats was a little too simple. I don't think they should be like bloodhounds, but it was a little silly to see them get confused and give up when you sneak under a table literally 5 feet away from them. They should be able to pull you out from hiding if you do a really bad job of finding cover.
Speaking of being found, I'd have liked it if the death animations were a little more elaborate. I know some of them were placeholders, but you always feel it more if there's a unique reaction for getting stabbed, choked, burned or bitten. If you can make me cringe before that game over screen, I'll be a lot more scared of seeing it a second time!
Now that I think about it, I don't think I took fall damage even once, despite some pretty serious falls! Maybe that mechanic just wasn't finished yet? Ah well.
The Poison took me by surprise the first time around. I didn't notice anything on the UI that suggested I was in danger till Tilo simply fell over backwards. I pieced together that I should use the thief mask to solve the problem, but it'd be very possible for me to simply not have it. That could end up being very frustrating to players if they have no clues about the danger OR the possible solution.
If I wanted to get really nit-picky, I could say that some of the clothing was extremely hard to find (particularly the background-colored ranger set) and I was too reluctant to give Rolo 8 florins to find the location of a single piece of armor. It's a little important because a few of the side-quests required the costumes. Also I found it strange that burning the banners in front of the guards apparently didn't seem to bother them at all.
Oh, and aside from the ones that rewarded you directly with items or information, a few of the side-quests seemed pointless. I burned the banners and...? This put me off doing some of the others because I didn't know if there would be literally no reward for completing them.
Now, that negative block there is a lot longer than the positive one, but that's literally *everything* I could think of that I didn't like. As far as I'm concerned, if absolutely none of them changed and the game released as-is, I'd still consider it a worth-while buy. And you can bet that I'm already telling my friends about this to get them to jump on board the hype train as well. I could not believe this was made by a 5 person team. The amount of love poured into this game is obvious from the second you start playing. I think I first heard about this game 3 years ago? I wasn't too sure before, but now I'm absolutely confident the wait was worth it. If it takes another 3 years to make the rest of it to this quality, I'll still be there to pick it up again.
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