Imagine, dear reader, that you’ve just come home from a long day at work. Perhaps you have a meal or a light snack first, but then you sit yourself down to play some video games. Time to have some fun, right? I mean they’re video games! They’re supposed to be fun. Unless they’re work, of course. The recently released Kitaria Fables is one such title which can quickly feel like it’s a lot of work. Yet, if you’re an absolute weirdo like me, that work can be oddly satisfying.
Developed by Twin Hearts, a studio with an adorable logo, this action adventure RPG sees you stepping into the shoes of Nyanza. This courageous kitty-cat warrior has ventured to the humble Paw Village due to a recent world threatening invasion of evil forces. However, as you progress through the story, you’ll find that there are some mysterious happenings afoot; there’s more going on than your standard “rising darkness wants to kill everything” fare.
While the setting may sound incredibly rote for the genre, it’s well-written enough and adds just enough new ideas to keep things interesting. One example being the townsfolk who tell you to remain hush-hush about magic lest you or those you speak to get dragged off by secret, militant forces. That’s pretty intense subject matter for a game where you play as an adorable little cat and receive quests from equally cute bunnies, chinchillas, and puppies.
Perhaps the anthropomorphized cast is what keeps the story feeling fresh. They’re all exceptionally designed, and it’s always fun to run into new critters along the way. You are confined to playing as a cat, but there are a few different customization options to spice things up. Not that playing as a cat is a bad thing, because cats are the greatest. These developers clearly understand that since Nyanza’s ears wiggle in the wind delightfully.
The visuals succeed in other areas as well. The world is colorful and interesting to explore, the UI is well-designed, and both enemy attacks and your own are well-animated. Enemy designs aren’t too impressive, honestly, which feels like a major bummer for a game that is visually pleasing in every other regard.
More importantly, however, the enemy attacks are easy to read because your sole line of defense is rolling out of the way. Combat happens in real time, and you must swing a sword or cast spells in order to defeat your foes. Every single enemy attack is telegraphed through their animations and in shining cones or lines on the ground. While part of me appreciates this approach, it kills immersion. Sure, it’s nice to know where you shouldn’t be standing, but that’s kind of what the animations are for. Having the world constantly flash not only reminds you that you’re playing with a bunch of ones and zeroes, but the combat quickly devolves into staring at the floor rather than engaging with the enemies.
Even if there weren’t giant warnings of impending damage, the combat, as is, would still get old quickly. There isn’t enough going on, really. You have the same three-hit basic attack and a few different spells for the entire game. Reducing enemies to their glowing hitboxes makes them all feel incredibly similar, and there isn’t any strategy or depth to the fights. Dodge. Smack. Repeat. Dodge. Smack. Repeat. Of course, you can unlock new spells that do slightly different things, but that is one of the Kitaria Fables’ many grind-filled flaws.
Getting a new spell means killing loads of enemies for specific parts and pieces. Just like how completing side quests for characters means killing loads of enemies for specific parts and pieces. Or just like how upgrading your sword means killing loads of enemies for specific parts and pieces. You are met with large, grindy, shopping lists at literally every turn. The worst of all is the main quest that comes to a screeching halt for a grindathon which goes on for way, way, too long. This part is a crying shame since the primary quest, up to this point, was progressing at a nice pace.
You might recall at the beginning of this review that I called myself, and potentially you, a couple of weirdos. The reason for this is that despite an immense amount of grinding usually being a bad thing in games, I left each successfully completed grind immensely satisfied. Sure, it all felt like work but a job well done can often be its own reward. I mean the in-game rewards are pretty great too. A stronger sword makes combat much less grindy, and a new spell even more so. The feeling of optimizing my efforts kept me coming back for new, grindy quests over and over.
What didn’t keep me coming back was the farming. If you see an advert for Kitaria Fables, you’ll probably notice the farming gameplay. Yet, it’s something that feels as if it was shoehorned in at the last second. It’s incredibly shallow, and ultimately pointless. It helps with a few specific sidequests, but there really isn’t enough there to warrant its inclusion.
Kitaria Fables is certainly not for everyone, but neither are donuts. Its visuals are mostly great, the music is a delight, and the story is charming. Sure the combat and quests are a grind, but if you enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from completing lengthy tasks and you don’t have a gluten allergy, grab yourself a donut and give Kitaria Fables a try.
The Xbox Store holds the key to Paw Village and Kitaria Fables