This action-adventure game is based off the Redwall book series. Does it live up to being the first of its kind?
Genre: Action-Adventure, Stealth
Developer: Soma Games
Publisher: Soma Games
Release date: September 14th, 2018
I Am That Is
Everyone who was into reading growing up had that one book series that influenced them. For some it was The Lord of the Rings /The Hobbit, and for others the Harry Potter stories. Some kids had more obscure things they binged, though, and for me it was the Redwall series. Written by late author Brian Jacques, it’s often been described as The Lord of the Rings but with rodents, although much like Watership Down, the presence of cute animals often made the violence in the stories all the more shocking.
Unlike other book series though, Redwall never seemed to make the leap to video games, even though there was a cartoon of it which adapted three of the novels. There’s a lot of potential to that, and it wouldn’t be terribly hard to make your own story in the universe since, while there’s some continuity, for the most part the books are self-contained. While we have seen some games clearly based on a series in part, such as Ghost of a Tale, Lost Legends is the first proper Redwall video game to be released. It’s certainly well overdue, but is it any good?
A New Old Legend
Rather than a whole new story, The Scout takes place during the first Redwall book, uh…Redwall. Being the first one and all, it’s generally the most iconic for fans, so it makes sense to start here since going by the colon in the title it seems like they want to make further games. Now I say ‘during’, but you won’t be reliving the events of the book, as instead it chooses to focus on a group of scouts operating in another part of the country who suddenly find their home in the path of a bunch of raiders working under Cluny the Scourge, the first Redwall villain. They mentioned in the book that he had been pillaging his way up the countryside before finding the Abbey, so while they’re new characters it doesn’t feel like they’re too out of place.
You open the game controlling Sophia, a cadet on the verge of graduating, and this leads nicely into the game’s tutorial, guiding you through climbing, sneaking, exploration and scent. That last one is kind of a radar you can use to follow various scents, and it’s primarily used for keeping track of enemies and seeing where they’ve been. It’s a neat idea and makes sense since you’re a mouse and all, although sometimes icons for scents feel like they’re a bit too noticeable, cluttering up environments.
After the tutorial, Sophia is thrust into the task of alerting others to the pirate raid, and therein come the stealth sections. I found these a bit dissonant to each-other: the first, with you creeping through a snowy village, is a pretty easy stealth section since there’s a lot of cover and it’s simple enough to avoid the rats. The one right after is a lot more annoying since you’re in an area with mostly open hallways and cover isn’t quite so obvious. The game’s checkpoint system can be a pain here since it’s pretty strict about only saving at certain intervals, and a rat getting close to you is an instant kill.
It didn’t take me too long to beat the game though, or at least Act 1 of it. Going by the title screen there are going to be three, but the first ends on a cliffhanger after an encounter with the game’s original villain, Scumsnout (yes, that is a normal bad guy name in Redwall). Two of the levels I played were actually added just recently on the 26th, some time after the game left Early Access, so it seems like one of those cases where they’ve technically released it, but the story isn’t complete.
That isn’t the only way it feels unfinished, either, as I ran into a few glitches. While grappling to climb things I found Sophia would clip through them a fair amount, and at one point I ended up stuck in midair, requiring a load of the last checkpoint (which was thankfully just before). One of the mechanics for stealth is that rats are able to smell you under certain circumstances, but I had two of them get stuck sniffing the air, which obviously made sneaking past them really easy. An optional objective in one level was to get a few people in it to safety, but when I tried it the game froze, so I eventually gave up on it. Most glaring was a case in the second level where I was pointed toward a house, which I ended up clipping through, and that’s just something that shouldn’t happen I think.
I do have mixed feelings about the game despite critiquing the gameplay, though, as the presentation is quite good. The dialogue feels like it could have come from the books barring one or two lines, and the voice acting is delivered nicely. Even the art for cutscenes in-between chapters feels inspired by illustrations in the books. This is all stuff meant to appeal to existing fans of the series though, so I”m not sure how much appeal the game will have to people that aren’t.
Overall The Scout is kind of a mixed bag right now. The story isn’t finished, but the presentation for what’s there is quite nice. The gameplay has some nice ideas, but it doesn’t feel as polished as it could be. It seems like it will continue being updated in the future, so I think it could improve from that. If you like Redwall and don’t mind a game still in development, I’d nudge it up to a Save, but for everyone else I’d call it a Pause for now.