Torn Tales – Review 03’17
If you’ve watched the TV series Once Upon A Time, with the idyllic township of Storybrook, and the more bloody show Grimm, you’d be forgiven to think Twistplay’s Torn Tales is somehow related to them; It’s a similar premise, but very different faerytale!
A review key was provided by Twistplay and Chilled Mouse, and the game was primarily played on a Mac.
Let’s start with the first thing you encounter when getting into Torn Tales: The story.
An old man, known as The Bookbinder, is basically upset that no-one reads his stories and he gets no fame, money or adoring fans, and so he sets out to rewrite the classical fairy tales. If this story is ever made into a movie, his character will clearly be played by Shia LeBeouf.
The whole story is told in narrative segments inserted between the various levels, and only sparsely supported by encounters in the game; Most of what the player will be doing is completely unrelated to the story. This is also the main failing of the game.
You control a trio of fairy-tale characters, as they walk through the twisted lands in The Bookbinder’s world, and kill everything they meet. Yup, not really much dialogue or anything to support your actions, just walk until you find a group of hostiles, and chop-chop.
The combat itself even feels disconnected, like no actions you take really matter. To test this, just ignore the computer when you get into a fight, and then check back a couple of minutes later to see that you’ve won. Some fights benefit from you moving around a bit, or position the Dr Jekyl/Mr Hyde character as a tank, but since it’s trivial to revive characters, don’t worry if someone goes down for the count.
Even when you do everything you can, it is a somewhat empty feeling, as there’s no real visceral or kinetic feedback. The characters hit an enemy, but nothing really happens beyond a number changing somewhere.
The result of this is that combat, exploration, and basically most everything in between the narrative quicktime events seem nugatory, as if only 1 side of the game was fleshed out.
I should point out that while most encounters can be done blindfolded and juggling green apples, the boss-fights generally deserves or even requires a bit of attention. If nothing else, then because there may be a need to react to a narrative segment right after them.
As a roleplaying game, even if it is an ARPG, it includes the usual stats, skills and loot, as one would expect. Here you’ll do well to simply accept that Dr Jekyl is the tank, Robin Hood is the “DPS” and preferably at a range, Snow White is healer and ranged damage-dealer, and then select skills to match that. Eventually, you’ll have gone through and selected every skill, so there is not too much to worry about in terms of end-game setup.
As for affecting the story, i.e. playing a role, there is less of it than some might like, hence the reference to it as an ARPG. It would have been interesting to have more character options, and see the story develop depending on who you pick up as opposed to the current setup of the 3 characters.
Sound and Graphics
Some of the graphics are very well done, especially during the narrative segments, and the style is overall quite interesting and competent. Snow White is neither a teensy girl, nor a hyper-sexualized female fighter, but instead looks like a competent fairytale character. Robin Hood and Dr Jekyl look largely as one might expect, and the game avoids outright grotesqueries.
The sceneries, the maps, are generally OK, even nice, but a bit bland and repetitive; unfortunately, due to how the characters’ levels progress relative to those of the enemies, you’ll find yourself traversing each map multiple times and it all quickly blurs out. The game could definitely benefit from more, smaller maps, and more variation in the decorations on the maps, incl better tombstone descriptions.
The sounds, ignoring the game-music for a moment, are best described as almost-functional. Sometime there appear to be glitches keeping some sound-effects from playing, but when they do play, they are not really descriptive. You cannot tell what is going on simply from listening to the game, and this leaves out an important venue for providing feedback to the player. Sure, wolf-howls means there are wolves, and you eventually pick up what some of the combat sounds mean, but it is less than intuitive overall.
Music in the game follows an orchestral or ensemble setup, with ample drums to set the mood of combat and challenge, but isn’t particularly exceptional in any way. The occasional lone violin, however, does a very good albeit common job of setting the scene at certain points.
The game is out for Windows PC, macOS, and Linux, but playing the game, I’m constantly thinking that this could just as well be played on a tablet – the UI comes across as designed at least in part for touch screens, and the gameplay is simple enough to be played during a commute to work. That said, it might be too much of a stretch to run it on a smartphone.
Torn Tales is functional as an ARPG, the story and setting is interesting in itself, but it is let down by average-at-best implementation in some areas. If you like classical faery tales and ARPGs, definitely give the game a try, and I’m certainy hoping that TwistPlay will revisit the world with new characters and settings, more dialogue and options for the players.
Bammsters’ Rating: Design 6, Challenge 4, Fun 5, Replay 5, and Price 7, for an overall rating of 5.4 out of 10. Functional.