02nd Mar2020

Digital Shorts: ‘Yaga’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Phil Wheat

In DIGITAL SHORTS we review some of the latest video games that are only available digitally (at least in the UK), in a short-form review format. In this edition we take a look at Yaga, a new action RPG available now on the Nintendo Switch.

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Set amongst the murderous legends of Slavic mythology and ancient Pagan beliefs, Yaga is a darkly funny action role-playing game that changes every time you play. The game sees you play as Ivan, a one-handed blacksmith with incredibly bad luck, who must take on the impossible tasks given to him by the tzar. All the while the mysterious witch, Baba Yaga, watches over Ivan’s fate. Oh and Ivan is also missing an arm, is on a quest from the Tsar to find a magical apple and has a grandmother incessantly annoyiong him about getting married. Like his life isn’t tough enough already!

Where to start with Yaga? How about why it’s taken so long to get this review written? You see, despite a myriad of positive reviews on other sites I just cannot for the life of me find any enjoyment in Yaga… OK, so the game features a great Romanian hip-hop soundtrack from Subcarpați and certainly looks great thanks to its striking, hand-drawn 2D artwork. But otherwise this is a dull affair.

Part hack and slash, part RPG, Yaga has all the ingredients to make a great game but I can’t help but feel Wulverblade – without the RPG elements – did a similar job with a LOT more fun! For that’s what’s missing here. Fun. The comedy feels forced, the jokes laboured and the action average, which left me feeling disinterested. Maybe it’s me? Maybe I’ve played way too many games that follow the same formula recently. There is something to Yaga, the RPG element in particular gicing the game a greater depth – using the games deep forging system to make weapons like teleporting lightning hammers and hookshot pitchforks; and exploring the combinations of talismans, magic items, blessings, perks, and curses to fundamentally change how Ivan plays. All of which add to the game immensely.

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But still I could not help but feel a general discontent as I played my way through Yaga. And play through it I did, especialy given how much the action changes based on the players decisions – after all, Yaga is billed as having multiple endings, multiple mission outcomes, random maps, random encounters, and hidden secrets; meaning the game is meant to be played over and over again. But each and every time I found playing to be more of a chore than a pleasure and as such it’s taken an age to get this review done!

I think if you’re a massive fan of action RPGs (or RPGs in general maybe) you’ll find plenty to like about Yaga, after all plenty of other reviewers have. Sadly it seems it’s not a game for me.

Yaga is out now on the Nintendo eShop.

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