Hands On: Animal Gods Preview
When I first heard of Still Games’ Animal Gods, I heard a mythology-inspiring name and the Zelda reference. Then I looked at the game and trailer and thought “Eh.” I’m not a big graphics snob, but I still have standards, and at least in the previews of the game, I didn’t think much of it. I’m not a backer, but when a recent opportunity to try the finished PC version of the game came up, I figured I had nothing to lose. So far, I’m not disappointed.
The game’s opening lines make me think of the style used by the Ainu in their mythology. Lots of other mythologies employ similar tactics, so it’s not Ainu based, but definitely meant to evoke a feeling of a more primal, spiritual tale. If it’s not obvious yet, I have a bias towards anything with a mythological angle, and Animal God’s narration really emits a feeling of being in a myth. From the start, I’m already interested in why my character is named “Thistle,” since traditionally it’s a symbol of both pain and protection. Although this draws me in, I wonder if other gamers might not catch these details.
Even if you miss that though, the game still might have a chance to hook you. I don’t know what’s different now, but the visuals feel better when you’re actually playing. The text displayed off the map and on it are dramatic, and slightly immersion breaking, but maybe it’s a good thing. It makes the game seem more cinematic. The use of overhead objects like tree tops and clouds to cover paths creates an illusion of exploration, despite the strict paths.
However, the game feels bare bones at times. There’s no death sound effect, either for me or for the enemies I’ve killed. If you’re not careful, you might miss the diary entries of another character, which feels like the center of the game’s story so far. Missing them seems like another potential area for the game to lose it’s audience. We’re not reading them within the whole context, so it’s our only link in the start as to what’s really going on. If someone doesn’t like that style, they’ll be turned off to the game. I, however, love it.
I’m slightly frustrated by the gameplay though. I’m not into the bow so much, but the flame cloak gameplay actually is interesting. The bow’s shooting puzzles inspired nothing but tedium and boredom, but the cloak puzzles have you dashing over pits and through lasers in some creative ways. It’s nothing revolutionary, but not as common in my gaming experiences.
I’ve “released” two gods, and supposedly I’m on the final chapter. The game feels short, and I’m not sure how much more of the story I can learn. maybe there’ll be a game+, or maybe this is a trick. From the diaries and gameplay, without spoiling anything, I’m really not sure who, if anyone, I can trust. I do feel compelled to finish the game though, and that should count for something.