Although it’s been around for a few years now, Early Access on Xbox One still doesn’t feel right. I’m not entirely sure why, but given that some of my favourite games have come through the program, it probably isn’t something I should be criticising. But the general feel of playing a game in an unfinished state, whilst slumped on the sofa, is something that will likely take a few more years of getting used to.
Nevertheless, new additions continue to be added to the Xbox Game Preview program and with my intrigue never failing to get the best of me, I jumped into the newest addition, Ghost of a Tale, to see if this was another cracking title that we should all be keeping an eye on.
Ghost of a Tale is an action-RPG game, mixed with stealth and adventure elements, straight from the mind of Lionel Gallat, the man well known for his work on films such as Shark Tale and The Lorax.
As the game begins, players are told the centuries old tale of the unconscious green emerald flame that destroyed the creatures of the world and anything else in its path. Whilst many gave a fight, each would fall one by one, before rising from the dead as a puppet of the emerald flame. However, the rats didn’t succumb to death, and fought off the flame. That is as much as you are told from the start, as from here you begin your adventure, and come into play as Tilo, a mouse, and the main character of the game.
Play begins inside a jail cell. Some quick snooping around gives off more information. You’re in search of your wife. She is missing – having been beaten and taken by the careless Baron. It is up to you to find her. Under some food is the cell key – someone is obviously trying to help – but then any further information comes to an abrupt end. Exploration and progression is where the rest of the story comes from, which is worrying as the world is no longer as described as it was in the beginning. Something has happened, rats are patrolling the prison, and being caught is something you’re looking to avoid.
Why you’re there, and why the rats are no longer the saviours, are just a few of the questions you’re left to wonder and unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be anything to bridge the gap as to what has happened since the downfall of the green flame. But remember, this is currently a Preview title.
As for the gameplay, the current build of the game is roughly representative of about a third of the overall game. Nevertheless, there is still enough on show to get a general feel of things. Unfortunately, the feeling it gives off is one of hope that the full release won’t be full of as many fetch quests as the current preview build. To find your wife, you need to escape the prison, and this is done by avoiding guards and completing a vast amount of fetch quests, none of which are particularly difficult… with only a couple bringing any type of puzzle into play and nothing which delivers any really engaging difference to the experience.
My time with Ghost of a Tale had me playing through the Jail, Courtyard and Sewer areas, which, as I mentioned before, make up about a third of the overall game. Whilst they may have you going backwards and forwards, completing quests and avoiding the rather foolish guards at present, it must be said that each area looks incredible. The level of detail present is enough to give off a true feeling of the area represented and it goes without saying that when final release rolls round, this is certainly going to be an impressive aspect of the game.
Sadly, the rest of the game is still in need of a lot of work to bring it up to scratch, with the stealth elements currently feeling quite unnatural and particularly dull. At present stealth is only really needed to avoid guards, and in typical stealth fashion, each of the guards has a meter which shows the player how far they are from being noticed. Unlike many other games, movement of any sort seems to be enough to get the meter to rise, even when a guard is facing the other way, with the only real way of stopping it being to stop moving altogether. This makes the best option that of a quick sprint past the enemy, rather than to sneak by unnoticed, which is something made exceptionally easy given the rather dumb AI.
At present, Ghost of a Tale has plenty of potential, but is still in need of a lot of work to bring out the real shine that we could possibly see from this game. That said, if the same level of detail that has been put into the environment is put into the rest of Ghost of a Tale, we could very well have a masterpiece in the making.