Developer: Twin Hearts
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, RPG, Simulation
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S)
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 02/09/2021
A code was provided for review purposes.
Welcome to Kitaria!
The description of Kitaria Fables on the Nintendo Store calls it “a delightfully cute action-adventure RPG with farming and crafting”. As someone fond of farming simulations like Harvest Moon, Story of Seasons and Stardew Valley, I was immediately interested in giving the game a try. I dove into it expecting a rewarding experience, and after playing for a few hours, admit that the aforementioned description is accurate. The game is incredibly cute, it does incorporate elements of action, adventure and roleplay into its gameplay, and it does involve farming and crafting – but, sadly, it didn’t turn out to be the dreamy experience I was hoping for.
To first summarise the loose, fairly generic plot of Kitaria Fables: the monsters around Paw Village have grown increasingly violent, and the village is in need of protection. Subsequently, Nyanza Thunderbunn and their partner Macaron are sent by the Empire to protect the village. Having sought the advice of Sage Alby, the pair set out to collect various relics that they hope will stop the monsters for good. They are also given tasks to complete by the villagers and can participate in other activities including farming, cooking meals, crafting and upgrading their gear, and shopping around for new resources to use on their many adventures.
An Unusual Genre Combination
This combination of elements gives the impression that Kitaria Fables has a lot of depth, and to an extent, it does. The crops you plant can either be used in recipes or sold alongside the resources you forage or loot. You can use the materials gained from combat and foraging to make new meals, upgrade gear, or acquire new items. You can also learn a variety of magical abilities, as well as utilise a variety of weapons due to the classless combat, creating combat variety. However, at least in my personal experience, this mash of genres also makes it unclear precisely what Kitaria Fables‘ primary focus is meant to be.
At first, the game focuses solely on the monsters plaguing Paw Village, and your mission to protect it. Farming is introduced soon after, with crafting naturally following. The time required to prepare or harvest crops, or use the shops’ services, makes deciding what to focus on difficult. With time passing rapidly, and actions taking so long to perform, you are essentially limited to one activity per day. Do you advance the story? Do you farm, and use a few in-game days to harvest crops? Or do you enhance your skills and gear in order to stand a better chance against monsters? It is up to you, with no clear sense of direction. While this can be enjoyable, and give the player freedom over their experience, it is disorienting at the same time.
Cute, But Not Captivating
What makes Kitaria Fables even more frustrating is its mechanics. First and foremost, it is not simple to switch tools or weapons. You have to manually equip individual items from the inventory, and this is time-consuming. Moving between areas involves a loading screen every time, reminding me of Animal Crossing on the GameCube with its jolting transition between each acre, but even more immersion-breaking. Even the teleporters are inconvenient, as they are few and far between and are not located in seemingly useful areas. Combat involves a lot of button-mashing, whether of your weapon or your magic, and there’s no skill to either. If you’re patient and can time your dodges to avoid the clearly-highlighted enemy hitboxes, then you probably won’t struggle. Having to visit the shop vendors to craft anything is also counter-intuitive, and consumes time better spent on other activities.
In terms of performance, I did notice tangible frame rate drops even with my console docked. Inputs sometimes feel like they are processing with a delay, and movement feels sluggish, both in terms of design and animation. The accessibility of Kitaria Fables is also a concern for me. Aside from adjusting the UI text size, there aren’t many other options for players to use to customise their experience. All of these issues were heartbreaking for me to contend with, especially given how vibrant the game looks, how energetic (though repetitive) the soundtrack is, and how adorable the character portraits are. I loved that I could customise my character’s breed to match that of my real-life cat as well. It is real a shame that the gameplay did not capture my attention like the graphics did, and that the advertised components feel underwhelming.
Not The Game I’m Looking For
I really wanted to enjoy Kitaria Fables, but in my case, each time playing the game felt exhausting. This won’t be the case for every player, as the simplicity of the gameplay will likely appeal to many, and the gripes that I have with the performance, navigation and inventory management also may not matter much to others. To me, though, these elements were lacking the depth and ease of use to capture my attention and imagination. The game certainly has potential, however, and I hope that Twin Hearts might improve the gameplay and performance through incremental updates.
Recognising the gameplay variety, the potential wider appeal for fans of games like Fantasy Life, and the adorable graphics, I rate Kitaria Fables a 2 out of 5 overall. It didn’t meet my personal expectations, and disappointed in several ways, but has room for growth. If the combat had complexity, or if the plot captured my attention, I would have enjoyed the game much more. Similarly, if the farming and crafting elements had been better-designed, I could have sunk countless hours into the game. If you’re after a relaxed RPG with elements of farming and crafting, then Kitaria Fables may be for you. The fact that the game can be played in local co-op may appeal as well, though the core issues I have discussed will persist. Be warned, though: those loading screens get real tiresome after not much time at all.
Rapid Reviews Rating
2 out of 5
You can purchase Kitaria Fables on the Nintendo eShop (UK).
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.