The following software was reviewed on an Xbox Series X.
If I could nominate a theme that represents sentient life of all shapes and sizes, it would be loss. In one way or another, us humans are bound to lose something or someone, and that is why it is a common theme in many a medium. We all have stories to share about missing something, and they are all worth listening to: its just how we execute and present those memories that can impact an audience. Röki, developed by Polygon Treehouse and published by United Label, talks much about loss, but looks for resolution and hope wrapped in a Scandinavian folklore blanket.
Röki is a point-and-click adventure game in which the player is placed in an unknown land and progression occurs through interaction with the environment and characters they will meet along the way. In this case, the player assumes control of a little girl named Tove, the big sister of a young boy named Lars—taken by a giant black creature, whom destroyed their home in the process—and it is up to her to save him and reunite their broken family once more. Through a forest of freezing cold and plentiful use of folklore, Tove has quite the adventure ahead of her.
The Secluded Forest
It would be a disservice to talk about Röki without first bringing up its gorgeous visuals. It is really lovely, and I will admit I was thoroughly impressed with the lighting, clean textures, and cinematography of the scenes I walked through. As Tove visited a run-down church, or as I guided her through the frozen lair of the distant mountain, each camera angle brings a sense of scale to the world I was exploring. Even the simplest of rooms were simply pleasant to observe. They were not kidding, a light shaft really does make things prettier. Animations complement the game’s style well, with expressive emotes that really bring life to the world I was interacting with. It helped that the game maintained a fluid 60 frames per second no matter the scene.
Speaking of interaction, there is plenty of things to pick up and a few puzzles to solve in the frozen forest of Röki. The core gameplay loop is finding items to unlock the next area or story beat, and you will be finding a lot of things to work with. This also means that you will need to think outside the box when using some items, because not all tools will work in the same place you found them in. A common problem with point-and-clicks is that, sometimes the solution might just be a bit obtuse, but thankfully Röki is not all that difficult. As a matter of fact, simply clicking on the left analog stick will cause all interactable items in a room to flash, and that alone cuts out the annoying middleman of dragging every single item onto every single clickable surface in hopes of finally progressing.
Make no mistake, this is not a difficult game. Heck, there is no fear of dying at all, as there is minimal fantastical violence present throughout the game (some brief references at most). This is a game I could recommend to just about anyone, from the core gamer to the avid Temple Run fan. I love point-and-click adventure games, but the frustration of obtuse puzzle design has kept me away from the genre for quite some time, which is why I enjoyed my time with Röki. Because I did not have to spend hours at a time picking at my hair in search for a solution.
Things Sound Pretty Cool in the Scandinavian Languages
I will be honest, my knowledge of Nordic folklore starts and stops at Hilda, but I do have an appreciation for the many portrayals I have glanced at over the years. Röki is all about this stuff and you will be interacting with quite the lot of trolls, funny looking monsters, and guardians that tower over little Tove. It would not be a stylized adventure about loss without adversity like this after all. For Tove, it is all about losing her mother. For Tove’s father, it is all about losing his beloved wife. The game presents these themes through the story about a forest guardian who was banished by her siblings for conceiving a child with a human.
When I think of how the story beats were used in conjunction with the folklore it bases itself on, I think this could be a story told by just about anything and anyone. No, the story beats were not what kept me going but rather the pacing. Röki is the first game I have played in some time that I felt did not overstay its welcome. Challenges came and went, characters were introduced with their purpose and bowed out when needed—in an era of chunky narratives, this was a nice surprise.
Röki does its best at being an adventure game that anyone can pick up and play. It is a safe play, and one that I appreciate. Its lack of violence is like a breath of fresh air for me, and by keeping a consistent pacing with its narrative and not being overtly difficult means that I am happy to recommend this game for all to play.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Playstation 4|5, Nintendo Switch, Windows PC|
|Release Date||October 28th, 2021|