I was going to be clever and rhyme. As that is the thing about Yaga, but I have neither the talent nor time! Oh wait, it seems I can… Should I rhyme the rest of this piece? Nah.
Right listen up, Yaga is a really charming game about a Blacksmith called Ivan of has nothing but bad luck and is told to set out on a series or quests for the cursed Tzar.
The Tzar has been cursed by the titular Yaga and he needs rid of Ivan because if the bad luck he will bring. The curse means that he cannot simply rid of him by murder, so the series of impossible quests it is. However, you aren’t alone, as Yaga and her friends will aid you with blessings and such on your journey.
Everything about this 2D Hack and Slash is full of charm. The visuals are just lovely, which the writing and performances really bring it all together. For the most part, characters talk in rhyme, which flows wonderfully well. So well in fact that when the game forgoes rhyming, it is really grating. I wanted to get back to the soothing rhyming as soon as I could.
As well as looking the part Yaga feels pretty damn in the gameplay department too. There is a mix of melee and distance attacks on offer with simple controls that are super easy to learn.
The simplified controls work to Yaga’s advantage as the weapons are where you really see the power of the combat. You may start with a simple hammer, but as you go along you pick up various ores and materials that can be used to craft upgraded weapons.
Each item you equip can have a huge amount of upgrades and enhancements that will give you buffs, have effects on enemies and much more. It is worth experimenting to find the ones you feel comfortable with.
Don’t get too comfortable though, as there is weapon degradation and they will break on you. Whilst I normally complain about this, here it works well. You aren’t dealing with Breath of the Wild levels of breakages to the point you just want to keep stock up and worry about wasting your better weapons. No instead there is a good balance that allows you to not only get good use from each but also gets you experimenting. I’d say you can get through an area with at most three weapon breakages.
The developers went for a mechanic and made sure it worked by balancing it to near perfection. That goes the game with the enemies, the level layouts and pretty much everything the game throws at you.
You’ll meet plenty of interesting characters along the way and various little side missions too. These all feed into a moral mechanic that works well in the context of the game. Your responses to interactions can add to your bad luck and get too much of the meter filled, you’ll be hunted down.
However, you can be righteous with your responses and actions to try and change your luck. Your in-game actions also have an effect, using magic will add to your bad luck meter for example, which can lead to scenarios where you have to consider how you approach battles.
It all comes from Slavic folklore and it was interesting enough to get me interested in following up further. I was aware of Baba Yaga, but this had me wanted to delve deeper. There are plenty of stores that could come from Slavic folklore and it makes a change to not have Norse and Greek mythology as the basis for storytelling in games.
I went into Yaga without any expectation, aside from feeling a little jaded by the genre of late. Yet I came out of it have had the best time possible and learning new things. I simple joy!
It is a game that took me a while to even start, but I am glad I did. Any game that is Hack and Slash in a post-Hades world needs to do something special to draw anyone in. Yaga though has everything in its locker to earn your time and is a very early contender for end of year discussions for 2021.