[Review] Yaga – Nintendo Switch

Written by Paige Deltefsen
  • Developer: Breadcrumbs Interactive
  • Publisher: Versus Evil
  • Release Date: 12/11/2019
  • Price: £22.49 / $24.99 
  • Review code provided by Versus Evil

You See Ivan

Yaga is a top-down action rpg with its own story using the backdrop of slavic folklore. It features the pioneer of chicken leg home decor, Baba Yaga. However you play as Ivan, a one handed blacksmith, who is being set on made up quests by the Tzar in attempts to be rid of you.

If you go out in the woods today

With each quest you are given, your grandmother advises you to see Baba Yaga for help. Thus begins a cycle of helping villagers out to get what you need for Yaga before you can find what the Tzar wants.

The maps are partly randomly generated with key points within. As you traverse there will be locked in combat encounters. 

Your main weapon is a hammer which can be hit, or thrown (and called back). As you progress you will unlock new sub weapons to forge, such as shovels, grappling hooks and a bear hand. These use your stamina meter, which also gets depleted when hit serving as a shield for your health bar. Magic items are also available though I often used them by accident as they’re mapped to the R button. You can also equip talismans for effects. Most importantly is your ability to roll, especially as Ivan moves very slowly. As with most top down action games, combat is a little difficult. Though if you are a coward you can spend most encounters rolling away and throwing your hammer. Later additions to your weapons and person can increase your ease in combat.

As a blacksmith you are able to forge your own weapons, these are done with ores, and once you upgrade your anvil you can add extra enhancements. Instead of going through an upgrade path different ores have attributes, such as silver for the unclean or gold for a long reach. The additional enhancements give extra buffs such as more critical hits or chain lightning strikes.

In amidst the perpetual fetch quests, monster slaying and forging you have a bevy of choices. Any scenario you come across will have multiple approaches such as doing things for free, stealing or asking for money. In areas you may also find altars to pray or steal from. There are four personality paths being, righteous, foolish, selfish and aggressive. This ties into the bad luck system as you’ll gain bad luck from making choices contrary to yourself. 

There are various things that increase how fast your bad luck increases. Once full, Lihko finds you and breaks your currently equipped weapon, rids any blessings you had and might steal some items.

Playing the righteous path you might initially find yourself plenty broke, but after wasting my money on a blessing I didn’t bother much with spending. As blessings also increase your bad luck. From then on I would perpetually build up bad luck. Meaning I had to forge weapons for the sake of it, and ensure I wasn’t holding a good one if I was close to filling. Unfortunately you cannot escape the bad luck, as I was presented a moment where I could not make a choice fitting my path. While that mechanic ties well into the story, it also gives the feeling of never being ahead and needing to ensure I wouldn’t become defenseless. 

Not all choices are about avoiding bad luck. Before a trip you can choose what temporary buff to receive. When successfully returning you will have learned something giving you a permanent buff choice. Additionally upon death you have a few more chances.You can also influence the story through your personality which will give you different endings.

A rhyme for your time

The game has an illustrated style, which is always appreciated in a 2D game. Ivan’s sides are mirrored, which is especially noticeable because he has only one hand. While that’s disappointing, there are still various character designs. Including side track characters and a few different environments to traverse. Some monster designs are also based off of slavic mythology such as vodyanoy. New areas are given somewhat animated introductions.

The game has full voice acting, which is a welcome change for games around this price range. Yaga’s soundtrack is mostly done by the band Subcarpați. When I was in the village I had to turn it off as it was very loud and ill fitting. Asides from that track, the rest suits the setting in an interesting way and helps to make the game stand out.

Only one throwing arm

The only technical issue I had with the game was a possible bug, as a second time I fought a boss he hurt himself in his normal pattern (something that didn’t occur on the first attempt). Loading screens are a little long, moreso in handheld. One issue I had was that I couldn’t remap my controls and the second stick was useless. Sometimes I could hit what was in front of me and other times the game would auto aim to the closest opponent. Making the game difficult beyond intent. Many of the bosses would often move out of my reach, making it tedious without using the right sub weapon. I had to roll everywhere as it was much faster than walking, which once the maps got bigger became very annoying. Especially as you could only expand the mini map, not view it in full.

Overall

The game is full of choices, but mostly siphons you into a particular path. It could be ripe for repeat playthroughs because of these and the generated levels but I feel one trek through the story, even if only a couple of sessions long, might be enough for most  people. As someone who usually only plays this genre of game in multiplayer, the way the story was integrated with choices was a great way to make me want to push forward.

Pros

  • Choice filled
  • Weapon customisation
  • Unique soundtrack

Cons

  • Bad Luck System
  • Odd Aiming
  • No Way to Check Full Map

Verdict
Yaga has a rarely used setting, thematic integration with gameplay and full voice acting. These touches that are what adds to a great game, are slightly let down by its very systems and early basic gameplay.
3/5

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