Developed by JOL Studios, Just One Line is a colourful and imaginative storybook RPG that pays homage to text-based adventures of yesteryear. Adventuring through a curious world of goblins, dragons and ghouls you'll have to rely on your wits to ensure that your hero's journey doesn't end in tragedy. Admirably, the title was produced by a team of just three (two artists and a single programmer) and has been funded solely by its creators. The title is currently in Early Access and as it stands is very much an unfinished product, but in spite of a few flaws, we still found ourselves hooked by the two or so hours of gameplay it currently offers up.
You start by customising your hero and selecting sufficient resources before choosing a quest from the noticeboard at your local inn. These quests can be attempted in any order and those included in the demo saw us banishing hordes of goblins, breaking up drunken brawls, and crashing a wedding following the request of a disapproving father. The game plays like a choose your own adventure novel, but instead of turning the page, you'll select between a handful of options presented to you in order to advance the story. As you may have suspected, choice here is key, and stretches further than narrative decisions to also include your inventory. An encounter may be avoided, for example, if you have enough gold to offer up a tempting bribe and you may escape an untimely death if your armour proves tough enough.
Your choices also have an impact on your morality and relationships with different factions that reside within Just One Line's fantasy world. Choosing to threaten an NPC to receive information, for example, may prove speedy but your morality will take a knock as a result. Many of the quests also interlink meaning that your choices have future implications. On one quest we had to escort an old friend during a potentially risky deal and it turned out that the dealer was actually the friend of a bandit that we enslaved during an earlier quest, leading to obvious difficulties. Right now, as the game is in Early Access, there are only 13 quests available, but we found them all to be thoroughly enjoyable, conveying a sense of risk and consequence.
Starting with human there are three additional races which unlock as you complete specific quests: these are elf, dwarf, and orc. These four races supposedly change how different NPCs interact with you and this is reflected in their faction relationship score (which is seen in the character customisation menu). As these races unlock late into the game and as the quests remain the exact same we felt little incentive to force our heroes into retirement and start over again. We wish that JOL Studios could have expanded on these classes a little more, perhaps by offering their own specific gear and quests lines to offer a significantly different experience rather than giving us a simple rehash. This would have also helped the longevity of the title as apart from seeing how other choices may have played out, there's little reason to make a return.
Something that should be noted, particularly for newer players, is that permadeath is present. This, of course, means that you could lose all your precious progress following a few poorly made decisions. This was perhaps a choice made by the developers to mirror similar titles of the past, but we imagine this may prove frustrating to newcomers. One thing that could perhaps be implemented in future updates is to make autosaving optional and allow players to setup manual saves before the start of a tricky quest. This may prove controversial amongst genre veterans, but it's a move that will cater for both those who are familiar and new to this style of game.
Pushing us to use the full force of our imaginations, Just One Line's modern take on the classic text-based adventure genre had us firmly hooked from the start. The title conveyed the sense that our actions mattered, and its varied quest lines coupled with its solid writing made it a blast to play through. It should be noted that it isn't content rich right now and there is room for improvement with regards to its class system and replayability factor, but for its modest price point it shouldn't be overlooked for those seeking a nostalgia-driven roleplaying experience.