Combat, Magic and Pixels Come Together in Drova: Forsaken Kin

Drova: Forsaken Kin Preview

On gamers’ radar for several years, Drova: Forsaken Kin is soon to be officially released. Fans of classic action RPGs are excited to get their hands on the final product. For the unfamiliar, Drova is a pixel art, isometric RPG with Souslike action mechanics and a fantasy setting that’s pure sword and sorcery. I had the opportunity to spend some time with a section of the game pre-release and came away intrigued.

Could It Be Magic

In the game’s opening cinematic, we learn that the Druids in our generally peace-loving land have found a magic crystal. It may or may not open a portal to another dimension, which goes by many names familiar to mythology, like Elysium. Your character follows a pair of Druids into the forest, where one of them is attacked by monsters and killed. After being attacked yourself, you find yourself in a mysterious new landscape.

What follows are the staples of ARPGs: exploration, combat, and crafting. While the slice I played didn’t contain the complete narrative, it’s clear that your goals are to help broker peace and understanding between different factions and even different dimensions. Along the way, you meet a very large cast of NPCs. Some want to help you, others need assistance, and more than a few are outright hostile.

Drova takes some inspiration from classic RPGs and games like Gothic, which brought together mysticism and sword-and-board combat. Drova doesn’t entirely escape Soulslike influences, either. Light and heavy attacks, blocking, parrying, and dodging are all in the mix. Ranged combat and magic are part of the formula, too.

Fog of War

Drova’s mechanics generally work as expected. You gather healing plants and crafting materials, pocket coins for later, and snag weapons from out in the wild. To learn spells and upgrade weapons, you need to find teachers and other NPCs, many of whom are not entirely neutral to the narrative. There’s a skill tree to unlock. In other words, players with even a passing familiarity with fantasy RPGs will feel comfortable and at home.

At least in the demo I played, the cinematic was still voiced in German (which actually perfectly fit the tone of the visuals), and there is no spoken dialogue in the game. There is, however, quite a bit of written dialogue and text. Most of it is pretty expository in the way games tend to be. That said, there’s a bit of profanity and a little color and personality here and there.

For many players, Drova’s pixel art will be a draw. For me, it was a slightly mixed bag. On one hand, the monster design and combat were both surprisingly effective, given their self-imposed graphical limitations. The world is by turn inviting, colorful and moody. On the other hand, the player character and NPCs were so blobby that real personalities couldn’t come through.

My last and biggest issue was the way the pixel art limitations impacted moving through the environment. It was often difficult to discern elevation changes or critical paths. While the game might be an “open world,” nearly every area is a maze of walls or other impediments. It creates a — perhaps intentional — feeling of claustrophobia.

On the Horizon

Despite a few negatives common to in-development games from smaller developers, Drova: Forsaken Kin manages to check several important boxes. As RPGs go, it’s appropriately deep and allows for a lot of variety in combat and character builds. Combat is fun and often very challenging. The intersection of ancient magic, bits of world mythology, and familiar fantasy adds texture to the narrative.

It’s clear that the developers have a clear vision for their game and have spent the last few years focused on refining the experience. I look forward to seeing what the complete game has to offer when it releases this year on PC, Switch, and consoles.

Thank you for keeping it locked on COGconnected.

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