Getting dragged into an action adventure RPG is one of the best feelings gamers can have. Slowly immersing yourself into the world of the game and leveling up your character to become the hero of the story is one of the most rewarding experiences imaginable. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like I got that experience at all from VINEWING.
Released on Steam earlier this month by Eeloz AB, in its description, VINEWING promises a thrilling action-adventure RPG. However, the the best way to describe VINEWING is that it rarely manages to achieve even bare mediocrity. If you are looking forward to a fun experience where you’ll lose yourself in story and characters, you will be disappointed by this title. VINEWING suffers from frustrating combat controls, resolutely average game design, and a very predictable plot.
And presenting: the super original green cap hero in a fantasy land!
The plot of the game is copy-pasted from a multitude of indiscriminate fantasy RPGs. Your main protagonist is a green-cap-wearing new kid in town, who has adventure and originality written all over his face. At the start of the game you are tasked with finding an old local named Gariax. Don’t worry, you already know he means business—if you’re a fantasy character with the letters G and X in your name, you don’t clown around. He points you towards your main quest of finding the magical maiden named Vinewing, who is surrounded by an unspecified ancient evil. While this main quest does set up the groundwork for a generic, cliched hero’s journey, the story and the vanilla layout makes me crave spending my time elsewhere, preferably with a game that brings something new to the table.
Besides the recycled plot, the writing for most missions are downright baffling, often accompanied with a weary sigh. One quest in particular that left me scratching my head occurred early on in the game, where I had to deliver the recipe for bread to the baker in town. Now, I’m no baker myself, but I find it hard to believe that the person in this town decided to set up shop and wait in the hope that one day, a random stranger would hand me the recipe of the product I’m basing my business around. “What if he’s a cake baker?,” you say? Well, there were no cakes available, so either this character is a fraud or the story and writing are lazy and nonsensical.
The game can become so mundane that at more than one point I found myself trying to induce bugs and glitches. I would try make my character jump as many times as possible into a wall, hoping it would glitch through. Other times I would try and wander off in non-playable sections in an attempt to crash the game—something, anything to break up the monotony. I found more entertainment in these activities and conjuring up a backstory for the baker than in anything VINEWING itself had to offer.
Me, get out of your way? Have you seen the sword I am carrying?
The art style of the game can be baffling to look at as well. Your protagonist and the NPC villagers of Arrowtide are designed in the likeness of the characters of the MySims franchise. This outfits all characters with a cutesy, cartoon-like look. Besides their bubbly aesthetics, all the villagers are individually voiced and have further visual idiosyncrasies. The individuality and their unique voices do manage to spice things up and create a tacitly pleasant enough environment to momentarily make me want to get to know them better; however, I’m not a violent person, but I was more than tempted to swing my sword at most of them after hearing their few lines repeat over as they waddled in my way. (They react, but don’t die.)
I am a blocky person, that deer looks so round compared to me
While the general design palette can be charming on the characters, another important aspect to note is that the art style doesn’t feel consistent. The various elements don’t seem to match up or complement each other in any way. Nothing seems grounded or consistently natural, leaving the game to have a random, slapdash vibe to it. This is especially notable when standing besides other characters such as animals, who are rendered to have a more realistic look and don’t really add up when standing next to your character’s big, blocky head.
Monsters also have a wide variety of looks, but mainly have the style of a DeviantArt sketch come to life. While the monsters’ appearances seem more fitting compared to the animals, there are still some choices that didn’t feel as if they matched up with the rest of the environment. An example of this can be seen at the early stage with skeleton warriors. I couldn’t help wondering they got so tall. They feel larger in size compared to every other living person I’d met in the game so far. Aren’t they supposed to be the remains of dead humans? I thought my character was human. Why isn’t my character or any of the villagers that tall?
These skeletons are huge. The villagers must have suffered from shrinkage since these guys died long ago
When it comes to the combat controls of VINEWING, frustrating is the only descriptor that does it justice. The fights feel as if you are about to compete in a 100m dash with your shoes untied. Either you are going to fall flat on your face, you are going to have a hard time running, or for some miraculous reason, you’ll somehow get lucky and manage to get to your destination without tripping—the crowd will go wild, wondering how you managed to accomplish that. Needless to say, the combat is poorly designed. Precision is necessary, but this is easier said than done, seeing as how half the time enemy hitboxes either seem not to exit or require you to get straight up in the face of a Big Bad to deal any type of damage. It doesn’t seem to help if any enemy is within your range of attack, either, as they will most likely deal damage with every strike they make. So you are either going to get too close and get hit, or stand at a distance missing almost every chance of attack. Sometimes, I managed to sneak in three consecutive hits without getting touched, but I was always baffled when that happened.
Ranged attacks aren’t any help either. For instance, shooting arrows feels like you only have control of the general direction of where you want to shoot instead of an actual grasp on aim. So, even if you’re trying to fight conservatively and are attacking from afar, you are going to be constantly fiddling around with the camera, hoping to strike your enemy as they slowly approach you, forcing you to constantly back up just so they can’t land damage. Getting into a fight in this game can be incredibly tough and time-consuming, especially in the initial stages. Combat shouldn’t be so hard with the first group of enemies, but with VINEWING’s wonky controls, there is a probability you might die right away because you’re busy fighting with the game instead of the enemies on screen. In my playthrough, it helped to switch the game to first person during fights, but precision striking is still needed, and giving up extra surrounding visual space can occasionally be detrimental. The combat controls in the game make it very discouraging and don’t inspire repeat playthroughs.
Fighting even these tiny dude can become such a hassle
Playing VINEWING, you’ll see the skeleton of the enjoyable experience the developers originally intended. But there’s no way around the fact that VINEWING just feels like a poorly executed attempt at an RPG action-adventure title. Even for its low price, the game is very lackluster. There are many areas of improvement to be found, especially in regards to its controls and combat. Besides interacting for a very short period of time with the adorable townsfolk, the game has little else fun to offer.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend
Reviewed on PC