Yaga is an indie title developed by Breadcrumbs Interactive and published by Versus evil originally landed on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch which is now also ready to debut on PC (via Steam). But what is it about? Well, obviously the reference is understandable from the title itself: Yaga is in fact linked to the Slavic folklore Baba Yaga. A terrifying but equally frightening lady who for the first time was transposed inside the videogame world. But let's delve into its history and gameplay.
A series of unfortunate events
In-game we will play the role of a blacksmith, Ivan, hit by a curse which made him extremely unfortunate. In fact, our protagonist hasn't always been like this. It was the mystical creature Likho who made his life a hell made of disasters and accidents. But what is Ivan's goal? Finding a very powerful force for the Tsar, who was in fact cursed by Baba Yaga, a premise from which an intriguing story full of characters will start particularly original and fun. In short, it is literally a series of unfortunate events surrounding our blacksmith. Despite being a well-written character, we will have the final say on what Ivan says. In fact, the protagonist will be able to follow various types of approach to the story: honest, selfish or unintelligent. But not only that, bad luck is not only a factor that launches the story and throws us into the gameplay, but it is a real playful mechanic.
The more time passes, the more the our misfortune will increase… And the peculiarities do not end there. Even misbehaving with NPCs, as well as eating bread, will in fact raise our level of bad luck. Obviously, there are ways to prevent this from taking over us, like the priest blessings or certain purchasable items. Also, don't forget that Ivan is a blacksmith. This in fact means that crafting will be a fundamental part of Yaga. Already in the first hour of the game we will be able to use materials to improve our hammer and create a makeshift shield, but many other objects will be achievable during our journey. Furthermore, since our weapons are not suitable for combat, they will break very easily, but this time we will not have to go looking for the town to ask the blacksmith on duty for help, since we will always have anvil with us!
During our adventure for the Russian Tsar, we will have to fight monsters and various types of animals, and to face them we will have two types of attacks at our disposal: close and at a distance, along with the ability to roll (which will consume stamina) to defend, as well as the use of the shield. The ranged attack is the throw of the hammer, which similar to that of Thor, will come back giving the possibility to do double the damage to the enemy. Unfortunately, the combat-system appears quite boring and often frustrating, not because it is difficult but because the fighting breaks up the exploration of the various environments too much. Ivan's adventure lasts about seven hours, a relatively short longevity although it is also possible to devote himself to various side-quests to lengthen everything. However, to make up for the short duration of everything, the developers have thought of giving a boost to longevity through the bad luck mechanic, which encourages the player to restart the game to discover new approaches to missions.
Visually a fairy tale
From a graphic point of view, Yaga has her own style. the team wanted to make use of a style that focuses on bright colors and imitates the drawings of fairy-tale books. In doing so, the emphasis was placed on the fact that we are facing a folkloric story. During our game we found no bugs or glitches and indeed, we should applaud the optimized work carried out by the software house, with the game that can easily run even on a very old laptop at its best. The visual effects are distinctly cartoonish and work very well in conjunction with the writing style and, above all, with the general design that characterizes environments and characters.
The soundtrack is instead something that alienate a little and break the magic of the fairy tale. Let's be clear, it appears very catchy and its various tracks often remain in mind even after a game, but despite the classic Slavic music at the base, everything has been combined with a more modern style that in part does not go well with the harmony created by writing and design; a real shame, although it is clear that this was a very specific choice of the developers to give a touch of originality to the experience. Mission accomplished, but at too high a price. As for the audio effects, these appear perfect for the style that oozes from each pixel.
At this point, the big question must be asked; Yaga is worth buying? Yes, but only if you are fond of Slavic folklore. Obviously, it is also fun to play, if it were not for the tedious fights, but we could say that we are faced with the typical "diamond in the rough". A visually splendid title, of course, with a soundtrack somewhat alienated from the context, but which manages to snatch a smile and teach something about Russian culture. A title certainly interesting also for its bad luck mechanics, which really manages to change the way you play. Everything looks particularly interesting, but unfortunately the final result fails to really shine. The great appeal of Yaga is all in its writing and in the mechanics including the bad luck of our protagonist, which turn out to be the real game-changers. In short, a rather simple game that does not aim very high, despite thevery high potential in the hands of the developers.