Developer: Breadcrumbs Interactive
Publisher: Versus Evil
Genre: Action, RPG
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 18
Release Date: 12/11/2019
Price: £22.49 – Rapid Reviews was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Smash, clobber and bash the murderous legends of Slavic mythology in this darkly funny action role-playing game that changes every time you play. In Yaga, Play as Ivan, a one-handed blacksmith with incredibly bad luck, who must take on the impossible tasks given to him by the tzar. All the while the mysterious witch, Baba Yaga, watches over Ivan’s fate.
The world of Yaga is a world steeped in Slavic folklore and ancient Pagan beliefs. Featuring a head-bobbing Romanian hip-hop soundtrack from Subcarpați and striking, hand-drawn 2D artwork. Yaga is an authentic love letter to childhood fables from Romanian indie developer, Breadcrumbs Interactive.
I Am The Lore!
Right from the get-go, you’ll notice that Yaga is heavily entrenched in Slavic Pagan mythology. From the settings and environments to the down-to-earth characters and writing.
Take control of Ivan and carry out missions for the manipulative Tzar. The Tzar, fearful of all the bad luck in his Tzardom, considers you, a lowly one-armed blacksmith, a bad omen. Thus he will stop at nothing to exile you, or worse, execute you if it means cleansing his lands of bad luck.
Your mother, on the other hand (no pun intended), simply wants you to find a wife. The story then is split into two parts. Keep the ruthless Tzar happy and make your mum proud.
Luck Of The Draw
It’s fair to say then, that bad luck plays a pivotal role in Yaga and is the games central mechanic. It works like this. As you carry out your missions, you’ll be gaining bad luck. Whether this is from using magical items, certain dialogue options, or receiving blessings from priests.
Whilst acquiring bad luck allows you to level up faster, use caution, as accruing too much bad luck incites the wrath of Likho, a powerful entity who’ll smite you, causing you to lose some of your gear.
Choose Your Adventure
It’s no secret that Yaga is designed with multiple play-throughs in mind. This is thanks mainly to the various dialogue options and choices you make as you progress.
Broken down into 4 main choices are Righteous, Selfish, Aggressive and Foolish. With each choice subtly affecting your path.
Upgrading also carries its own choices. These are Body, Mind and Fate. These will determine how you upgrade and how your stats grow.
Even choosing a mission gives you choices. It may be which day of the week to set off or time of day. These will grant you passive buffs, such as faster movement, better defence or weaker enemies.
Breadcrumbs Interactive certainly have done their best to make Yaga one of the most “craftable” experiences you’ll ever play.
Yaga contains a light crafting system for your weapons. Simply combining different types of ore with talismans and all manner of body parts that drop from monsters. This will make your hammer more powerful and also add perks to aid you in your adventure.
Did You Say Something?
All cutscenes and character interactions in Yaga are fully voice acted and to great effect. I’ve always appreciated developers that go that extra mile to include voice acting, as I feel it really helps tell the tale and improves immersion into the game.
You won’t be disappointed here, as Yaga includes some very humorous and fourth wall breaking lines, delivered to a very high standard. In fact, the sound design as a whole is very high quality. From the aforementioned voice talent to the authentic sound effects and the soundtrack.
The latter of which, composed by Romanian hip-hop group Subcarpati. It’s an odd fusion of pounding hip-hop and Slavic folk music, however, it works so well.
A Slippery Slope
Yaga combines rogue-like elements with procedural generation to keep things fresh. Each environment you fight in will change slightly and move things about, including the enemies. Herein lies the rub. I’ve never been a fan of rogue style games, however, if implemented well can be very intuitive and addictive.
Sadly this wasn’t the case with Yaga. Mainly due to some poor performance later in the game. I noticed a lot of slow-down and dropped frames. Couple this with ever-increasingly tougher enemies and the monster hordes growing in size, this led me to some very cheap deaths, which unfortunately rendered the game unplayable for me.
It wasn’t so much the fact I kept dying, but more the fact of what happens when you do. It goes something like this. If you’re killed in combat, you get one free revive, but at a reduced health bar. If you’re killed again, you have to give up, which leaves some of your gear behind (including your weapon!)
You then have to craft your weapon again, in turn costing you precious resources. Some of which might need to be purchased with Kolpeks, which is the games central currency.
This, of course, being easier if Likho hasn’t paid you a visit. I thought I’d have to fight the witch if she ever showed up. But I was wrong. Not only is she seemingly unavoidable, but she too will break your weapon and help herself to your already stifled inventory and even some hard-earned Kolpeks!
Combine all these events together in a single run and it’ll add up to much frustration. As each time you fail in your mission, it’ll get harder and harder to get back into the fray. The performance and the unbalanced mechanics was a deal-breaker for me.
Yaga shows a lot of promise. It has some very clean and stylish hand-painted 2D visuals. The music and voice acting is also very high quality. With a unique take on the action RPG genre, story-driven narrative and characters, it’s very easy to fall in love with the world of Yaga.
I feel that fans of the rogue-like genre will enjoy this and relish in the challenge. It has some very clever mechanics at play, however, with the performance in its current state, combined with the difficulty spikes, I feel that even they may struggle.
I’m all for developers trying new things and I feel that Breadcrumbs Interactive has done just that with Yaga. Here’s hoping they can make a patch for the performance and balancing of the mechanics, but for now, it’s hard to recommend at its current price.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Yaga from the Nintendo eShop on the following link, https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch-download-software/Yaga-1665348.html
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.