When I sat down to play Noahmund, I was blown away. I looked over the game play videos, checked out pictures, and cursed how slow my download speed was. I was ready to play this game. Unfortunately, it seems like this game was not ready for me to play it. Whether it was glitches, bad mechanics, or just confusing game play, it felt like the game was fighting me every step of the way.
Things started badly when it took almost two days just to get the game to launch. Now, I don't have a top of the line machine, but I run Fallout 4 and Skyrim without hassle, so I have my doubts the PS2-style graphics of Noahmund were bogging down my system. I tried several times to get the game to recognize my Steam controller, but it never worked and I ended up using the keyboard. Finally, when the game decided to launch, I was treated to a gorgeous cut scene with fantastic music. In Spanish. I went back to check my settings and made sure the English subtitles were on, but no dice. Still Spanish, no subtitles. I spent ten minutes try to get the subtitles to stay on before giving up. I guess I'll never really know what the opening cut scene was about. It was pretty, though.
Let me try to categorize my frustrations. First, we have the controls. You can get used to them, but they're strange. You press “E” to confirm a choice and “Q” to cancel. It took a bit, but I got the hang of it and started combat. Or, rather, I watched my screen freeze on combat for ten minutes. But after restarting, I actually made some progress and... well... it didn't get much better. Pressing “W” on the map lets you check character stats and items, while, logically, pressing “M” lets your view your map. But going up and down levels of the map requires use of “W” and “M” rather than simply using the arrow keys. Oh, and using an item, that's “M,” too.
Next are the game mechanics. I give them credit for trying something new with combat and world exploration, but, again, they're awkward at best. You move something like a tile-based strategy game, but your combat is real time. So when in battle, you move square by square while attempting to attack, trying to flank or avoid opponents and occasionally attacking by pressing spacebar and a direction. You can swap among multiple characters while utilizing each ones' unique abilities. This takes some getting used to and the tutorials aren't much help (even when they aren't glitching), but even after getting past that, the game still isn't done frustrating you.
Movement is horrible. Like combat, movement on the overworld is also tile-based, though it's isometric 3D, meaning it's at a 3/4 top down view. Worse, your movement isn't aligned to simple up-down-left-right, but instead is at angles, leaving confusion about whether pressing up (and then “E” to accept) will take you up and to the right or up and to the left. And since you can only move one square at a time, forget going anywhere fast. If you get lost or forget something on a previous map, you have a long, tedious trek ahead of you. And as just a little icing on that terrible cake, the game keeps track of every square you move. Why? So you know it's taken 76 moves to cross the map.
What can I even say about the translation? It's not horrible, but you can tell something's off. For one, a character I was fighting was referred to as “The Divisor” for half the game, then suddenly “The Divider” for the rest. None of the cut scenes or music have subtitles, even though the game supposedly has that option. Top it off with an entire map section completely in Spanish, and it feels like the localization job was rushed.
Oh... one more. It's more strange than bad, but there is an odd system for going back to town to shop. Your character literally remembers her town and goes back to shop. From a narrative standpoint it's really confusing. I think the implication is that if you buy potions in town, then return to the dungeon, you're finding potions you forgot you brought with you. I guess? It's weird enough that she remembers techniques from the past when convenient, but down right strange when she remembers she bought a bunch of potions, armor, and weapons.
I don't want to harp on just the negative aspects of the game, though. The retro-style graphics, while not incredible, work well for the genre (just don't look too closely at their faces). The music is gorgeous, though I don't know what's being said, and the characters are fun and the story is engaging. Heck, they even have a fun barter system where you only pay by offering items you've collected.
When the game works, it's actually pretty fun. Unfortunately, those instances are not regular enough for my taste. I started the game frustrated at the freezing and crashing, then continued to be upset by lackluster puzzles and fights that can trap you in loops of constant defeat. I feel if this game had been given a little more time, both for ironing out bugs and giving it a proper localization, it'd be a great game. I really want to give it a better score, but with the experience I had, well, it just wasn't fun for me.
Final Score: 5 out of 10
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of this review.