A new, unique, and culturally-refined Romanian action RPG.
I recently had the pleasure of previewing an advance copy of the award-winning indie game “Yaga” from Breadcrumbs Interactive and published by Versus Evil.
Breadcrumbs bills Yaga as an action-RPG, but it really is more of an experiment cultural storytelling. The game takes place, according to the developer, in a world steeped in Slavic folklore and ancient Pagan beliefs.
The story of Yaga follows Ivan, a one-armed blacksmith who seems to be haunted by bad luck. That bad luck is central to the gameplay, as it builds over time and can be increased by performing certain actions, such as interacting with NPCs in a way that isn’t consistent with Ivan’s previous actions. See, you influence Ivan’s character as the game progresses. The choices you make can affect who he is, as well as how he fights.
The art in Yaga is hand-drawn and really impressive. Animations are fluid, the settings are interesting, and character sprites look good. The camera works fluidly to zoom in during important exchanges, and zoom out during exploration. It’s subtle, but it creates a more interesting experience, emphasizing certain moments.
Ivan must complete a series of impossible tasks given him by the Tzar. As he does so, he consults with a local, legendary witch, Baba Yaga. She advises him and helps to guide his quests. Each time a quest is completed, Yaga and her entourage will consider Ivan’s actions as he sleeps. This is when you make choices to develop Ivan’s skills or character. The choices you make will affect how the game plays out.
What’s interesting about Yaga is that it was created for replay. Unlike most RPGs, this once can be completed once in about 5 – 7 hours, then replayed again and again. Ivan’s fighting can develop differently, his interactions can go differently, and the game never needs to be the same twice.
My opinion is that this feels a bit like a board game. As Ivan wanders through the randomly-generated maps, he encounters semi-random groups of beasts. The area where he encounters them will become barricaded and he can’t leave the area until he’s cleared all the monsters. In essence, you “flip” the next dungeon tile to see what/how many enemeis you’re fighting. Clear ‘em out, and it’s on to the next tile.
Along the way, Ivan picks up lots of loot with which to craft, buy, or enchant his hammer, shield, or pitchfork-arm attachment. That pitchfork is especially cool. It’s a hookshot that fits onto his missing arm stump.
Over time, and over incidents, Ivan’s bad luck meter rises until something terrible happens to him. His weapons break, things go missing from his back. But it drops his bad luck back to zero for a while.
The music in Yaga is very cultural. There is a blend of Romanian hip hop, folkloric chanting, and some chiptune/folk tracks. It’s very moody and very unusual to hear in a video game.
You can tell Breadcrumbs is proud of Yaga and is happy to immerse players in the Slavic culture.