We've played through the first 45 minutes of Flying Wild Hog's striking samurai adventure.
When Flying Wild Hog showed the first look at the striking samurai adventure Trek to Yomi during the chaos of E3 back in June 2021, I was instantly taken aback and enthralled. The game uses monochromatic, black and white visuals, akin to that of classic samurai movies made famous by the famed director Akira Kurosawa, and tells the story of a young samurai warrior who is burdened with tragedy and is tasked with protecting his village and the people who inhabit it from an overwhelming and deadly threat. With release planned for an unspecified date in spring 2022, I've had the chance to dive into the opening two chapters of Trek to Yomi, exploring the first 45 minutes of gameplay, and from what I've seen so far, this is shaping up to be a very exciting game.
If you've seen any of the trailers (the latest trailer is above) you can see how Trek to Yomi plays almost like a movie. The camera is situated in various locations in each section of a level to provide a cinematic and compelling angle from which you lead the main character, the samurai Hiroki through the world. Despite the way it may seem, this isn't a 2D game, as the levels are 3D, it's simply the camera angle that makes it seem like it plays on a single plane, but it really doesn't. In fact, the gameplay is designed in such a way that it encourages the player to wander around each section of a level, exploring every room and searching for goodies, collectibles and hidden paths that can lead to other secrets. As the camera is fixed and placed in locations to deliver the most striking of scenes, there are occasions where it will inhibit your ability to spot secrets or fluidly control Hiroki, but from what I've played so far, slightly awkward camera angles are a worthy sacrifice for the truly stunning set-pieces they make for.
As for the actual story, which I provided an outline of earlier, Trek to Yomi even feels like a samurai movie here. The narrative is conveyed through subtitles (assuming you can't speak Japanese that is, as if you can the dialogue will serve more than well), with the story emphasised with the set pieces and the incredibly detailed world and characters that reside in it. It's a tale that is aiming to be emotional and hard-hitting, yet bolstered with plenty of key and exciting action moments that feel like something you'd find in a Hollywood production.
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Then to add to this, as I briefly noted, the world and the characters are truly marvellously realised and animated, with Trek to Yomi boasting some of the most dazzling and impressive visuals I've seen in a game in a while. In the spirit of transparency, this is coming from someone running the game on a powerful PC, but considering the capabilities of the new consoles (PS5 and Xbox Series) it does seem fair to suggest Trek to Yomi will aim for top-notch graphics in some way on these devices.
But visuals and narrative isn't everything in a game, especially one about a samurai, and Trek to Yomi understands that. Flying Wild Hog has created a system that when combat is engaged, transitions to a 2D-controlled plane. What I mean by this is that when in combat, you can only move forward and backwards, with enemies only lining up to attack you either in front or behind you. With this design in mind, Trek to Yomi's combat has a core control scheme, which I'll touch on more in a moment, but is defined by moving left and right on the screen with the A and D keys, as well as being able to change the direction Hiroki is facing with the R key, and this in particular is important as you cannot strike, block, or parry without facing your opponent directly.
When looking to actually exchange katana blows with an enemy, the combat, as I alluded to, focuses on light and heavy attacks (left and right mouse button), blocks (hold Shift), parries (tapping Shift before being struck by an enemy), and a few other throwable mechanics and items (such as kunai). In general, the combat is incredibly straight-forward but is challenging to master as you need to be perfect in your timing, else you'll take too many hits and ultimately will die and have to respawn at the nearest Shrine (checkpoint). It's a system that doesn't need to be too complex as it feels rewarding to nail the perfect parry and counter-strike killing blow combo, before rotating around and looking to dispatch an enemy aiming to land a sneaky blow when your back is turned.
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While I didn't get to experience much of this, Trek to Yomi does also feature boss fights and more challenging fight scenes. From what I've seen, these are portrayed in a more cinematic manner, with your opponent being a named individual with a personality and agenda rather than just a forgettable "Bandit" that thinks he's the next great swords master in this take on a feudal Japan. The bosses have health bars to whittle down and often wield unique weapons with different attacks that you'll have to deal with, but as is the case with the combat in Trek to Yomi in general, you won't be landing tens of blows to slowly chew through the boss' life, instead you'll just need a few good strikes to cut them down to size.
As I only got to experience a couple of chapters, which didn't even last an hour, I can't speak for how the rest of Trek to Yomi's story and gameplay will stack up, but from what I have experienced so far, I can say that Devolver Digital seem to have landed another timeless and truly outstanding indie game. This is shaping up to be a really exciting and impressive title, one that excels with engaging gameplay, an enthralling story, and truly striking and marvellous visuals and set pieces. Needless to say, I'm very excited to be able to get my hands on the full Trek to Yomi when it launches at some point this spring.