An interesting adventure game that’s filled with Polish history, strange entities and ghosts, but there are a few areas that could be improved upon.
Genre: Adventure, Exploration
Release date: 23 Dec, 2019
The Land of Crows is an indie side-scrolling horror adventure game that’s heavily inspired by gothic writer’s of old, such as Edgar Allen Poe and Goete. It was also inspired by classic thriller adventure games of the 90’s, which is why it utilizes an old school art style. When I first discovered the game it immediately reminded me think of games like Downfall or The Cat Lady due to its art style but this is a very different entity in its own right. Do read on to see what I thought of the game.
Story and Setting
The Land of Crows takes place in Poland during the late 1800’s and follows a man named Jan as he investigates his friend Tradeusz’ mysterious murder. Much of the game’s story revolves around talking to other characters that inhabit the small town he’s visiting to learn more about the murder. There’s a ton of Polish history mixed into the book as well, such as Poland’s involvement in Napoleon’s campaign in Russia, and Russia and Austria’s occupation of the country. There was a plethora of history that I wasn’t familiar with and it was quite informative and interesting. I will admit that there were times when the history took over the game a bit too much which began feeling like a history lecture, and it almost put me to sleep a couple times, so it can feel a bit too much at times. Especially when it’s supposed to be a horror adventure game.
The story also deals heavily in the occult because what game based on the likes of H.P. Lovecraft doesn’t. There’s also elements of the supernatural mixed in too with ghosts popping up in the late game. It’s also worth mentioning that some of the characters in the game can be a little unlikeable due to their strong opinions on various things, but I myself didn’t have any issue with the majority of them. Figured I’d mention this fact, just in case.
Personally, my favorite part of this game’s story was actually the ending phases of the game when Jan was traversing another world, which was absolutely bizarre to say the least. Leading up to that point was a bit hit and miss with me. I found the ghost part to be pretty neat too but I found myself falling asleep during the history parts. Thankfully the History really only pops up in the beginning if you make an effort to talk to everyone first. I went through the story in a very roundabout way though so it might not be as bad for those that go in the proper directions.
As mentioned, The Land of Crows is largely an adventure game but one that utilizes a side-scrolling setup. It’s also recommended that you use a controller to play the game because it makes things quite a bit easier. The game doesn’t recognize your mouse, so everything is done with either a controller, or the keyboard.
Much of the game revolves around wandering around the game world to chat with people. There are puzzles for you to solve but they’re quite simple and are mostly item-based puzzles so they’re super easy to figure out. You can also collect most items long before you even need them. Most of the really important items you need to wait until you’ve talked to the right people about though.
One thing I was pretty happy that the game included was the ability to teleport to important locations like the stone circle or the village tavern. You can’t teleport to every area in the game but it does make travelling a little less tiresome because your character doesn’t have the ability to run, and they walk incredibly slowly.
The character also provides commentary on various things within the game world, usually regarding history or tidbits of information. None of it is truly important to the story but it does provide a little more information about the world and its inhabitants.
Gameplay-wise, you won’t find anything unique or out of the ordinary here. If you’re familiar with side-scrolling adventure games, it’s business as usual. It’s also quite linear in design so it’s incredibly difficult to not figure out where to go or what you need.
One other thing I wanted to mention is that the game isn’t normally in black and white. The game features quite a few filters to change how the game looks. The one I used was grayscale since I thought it looked good. There’s also a sepia feature, and 3 old camera filters as well. The default color of the game is an old photograph style yellow. I tried out the old camera filters but they flashed/flickered a lot which wound up making my eyes hurt quite a bit so I ended up shutting them off.
Areas That Could Be Improved Upon
As I was playing through the game, I noticed a few things that I felt could be a little better. The first and foremost was the writing. It’s not terrible by any means but it is quite obvious that English wasn’t the author’s first language and there were a lot of areas that had some fairly odd writing. I’m much more lenient when it comes to stuff like this because English is a difficult language and typos and such usually get ironed out pretty quickly by developers. I wouldn’t let it dissuade you from giving the game a shot as well.
Another area I would love to see improved (But is really only a minor gripe) is the walking speed. I know that speeding it up will shorten the game’s length but it honestly took me close to 9 hours to beat the game, quite a lot more than the mentioned 3-4 hour length. This was also with utilizing the teleporting feature as soon as I unlocked areas. It’s a much longer game than it seems and increasing the walking speed slightly would certainly help get to areas you can’t teleport to much faster.
Overall, I enjoyed the game but not as much as I was expecting I would, I will admit. The game’s story wound up being quite interesting but I did kinda feel that it was all over the place and its pacing was a bit muddled because of it. The random elements of history just popping up during the middle of the plot definitely derailed the pacing at times. That said, it’s not a bad thing that they were included, they should have had separate dialogue trees instead of in the middle of an important conversation. It was a pretty decent adventure game though and if you’re a fan of the genre it’s worth a look at least, it’s also only $5.99 so it’s quite cheap as well. I’m going to pause on this one myself, but I still recommend giving it a look, you might enjoy it.