A highly unique and evocative RPG that suffers from short length and lack of better challenge.
Genre: RPG, Action
Developer: Significant Games
Publisher: Significant Games
Release date: 08 October, 2019
Rarely is there a game that I play that manages to be so original with the way it presents itself. While unpolished in most regards, Insignificant carries itself with genuine dignity and passion that is valuable in any game. The bad news is that some flaws seep in through the cracks, and turns out to be an ever-so-slightly lacking experience.
Amidst its unpolished surface however lies a lot of original ideas and content that is needed in the industry of today, and there is much to learn from Insignificant and how it is what it is.
Insignificant’s narrative is not entirely clear off the bat, and it requires a little bit of detective work on the part of the player to figure every facet of it out. You start off as an Outsider, a being who has been cast out from the Insiders society after doing an unknown crime. After getting quite literally dumped out of dimly lit halls and darkness into the broad and bright world, you’re on your own from there.
While at first the story may seem a little non-existent, the further you explore the world, the more you will discover about your surroundings. As you progress, the real story that is being told comes through more and more, and eventually you will understand most of what is actually going on, which is a satisfying feeling that is done right in Insignificant.
The narrative provides a short but nonetheless thorough discussion on escapism and how most games are developed purely for the grub they make rather than the true worth they have as an art form. The story of Insignificant is told in very innovative and unique ways, especially at the end, and that is where it rises above itself. For most of the experience though, the primary way that the story is told through is through the use of orbs that are mechanically the same as audio logs. These orbs fill you in on the stuff that’s really going on behind the scenes. The voice acting itself is more in the middle, neither terrible nor worth an award, but it fulfills its duty.
The main theme of escapism is explored fairly well, and the symbolism that is presented throughout does a good job of conveying it too. The story fulfills its purpose nicely and it ends on an interesting note depending on your choice as a player. Ultimately though, Insignificant’s story, while undeniably told in great ways, could stand to be slightly more well-fleshed out and lengthened, and truthfully, the whole game could be too, so we’ll touch on that next.
I keep mentioning how the length of Insignificant is not good enough, and its where one of its main problems comes from for me. It only took me about 6 hours to complete my first playthrough, which for an RPG, is noticeably low. There were parts throughout that I feel could’ve been longer and more developed to really deliver the story it wants to tell in a more polished manner.
The second main problem with Insignificant is that it is simply too easy. Almost, if not every enemy that isn’t a boss, can easily be defeated by simply circling around them while hitting them over and over again until they collapse. It doesn’t help when the combat, in general, is not very pleasing at all, and it more or less amounts to merely swinging your weapon again and again monotonously.
It’s just not a well-designed system, and it fails to be engaging, and instead almost soul-crushing to fight an enemy. For extra mediocrity, if you really want the game to be on a brain-dead difficulty level, using a ranged weapon kills almost any incentive to try, as most of the enemies in the game are melee-based. The bosses are not anything to write home about, and they have your standard weak points that you need to hit in order to kill it. The bosses are tougher than normal enemies, but they can still manage to be push-overs. Thankfully though, the spells save the system from being absolutely dull, and it’s fun to try them out. There is a fairly wide range of magic to employ, but it still doesn’t rectify all the flaws of combat.
Other than combat, for upgrading your character and their stats, there are actually a lot of ways to go about it. There are different forms of “mancies” which basically act as skill trees that tailor to different abilities and classes. Each time you level up, aside from getting three stat points, you also gain a mancy point which can be spent on a useful skill. There’s even a special mancy tree that will be required to reach the final area and gain some of the best stuff.
An interesting mechanic is presented in the form of Tamagacha buddies that all have their own little personality to all of them. Each Tamagacha buddy does something different that aids you in different situations. Some can regenerate health while others can buff your damage when you are low on health, and more.
Insignificant also has crafting and enchanting, and while both aren’t needed, they add a little more dimension to the gameplay. Crafting, however, is extraordinarily useful, and provides some of the best gear obtainable. The enchanting system is not complicated though, and it pretty much is just a tiny upgrade to your existing gear, which is a bit of a disappointment, but nonetheless adds to the available customization that it is for the player to mildly experiment with.
Exploration in Insignificant is required to get the story, so how does that fare? Well, there are both good and bad parts to it. While the game prides itself on being able to explore environments as a small person, its potential is never explored to the fullest as one might hope. Certain details are placed here and there across the world, but besides that, there’s almost nothing of interest to the player when traveling. Soon after booting the game, you’ll simply be jumping everywhere, as it gets you across land the fastest. With the jumping as fast as it is, it makes me think that the developers knew running over such large terrain would be more of a chore than anything else.
The world itself could stand to be bigger, but perhaps I feel this way because I quickly jumped to go anywhere I needed to. Again though I must say that while the concept of being small in a large environment can be pulled off well, Insignificant doesn’t do much to make the world as lively as it could’ve been. More details in the map could’ve produced a successful illusion of size, but Insignificant partly fails in that regard, thus creating an awkward result.
As for other things of note, there are some noticeable spikes in FPS in certain areas, which can stir some frustration. Some textures and small landscapes look plainly unfinished, although the unique shading partly helps with masking that those problems.
Atmosphere and Tone
The soundtrack of Insignificant is well-composed, and it compliments the game beautifully. I feel there should be some variation for things like combat, as it is the same music every time it is initiated, but for how short the game is, I can see why they produced only one such track. The music, as odd as it might be to describe it, reminds me of homesickness, which is perfect for the feel that Insignificant is going for.
You’ve probably noticed the interesting shading effect that Insignificant features, which is where the majority of its identity comes from. Without it, Insignificant would lose something special about it. This shading applies to everything, and it does a nice job of immersing you just enough without overbearing itself.
On the whole, Insignificant has a somewhat juvenile/childish theme to it, which also aids the point of the narrative and the overall mood of the game. Whether it be from wearing a literal marshmallow on your head as protective gear, or to using dice as your weapon, Insignificant allows you the freedom to live out perhaps some childhood fantasies that you might’ve had a long time ago, which provides a bit of fun.
While I can see Insignificant be improved upon in several ways, it manages to tell the tale it wants to tell in a unique way with a lot of passion and originality. Insignificant also brings us a bunch of original ideas and concepts packed together in a clear web of passion by the developers, which is more than I can say for a large part of modern games today.
I would recommend you try Insignificant if you looking for an interesting little title to try out, but perhaps on a sale or some such, as the price at the time of this review I think is a hair too steep.