Kitaria Fables Preview
Although it’s decidedly not a pixel art farming game, and certainly isn’t a JRPG, you’d be forgiven if you briefly mistook Kitaria Fables for a Stardew Valley-esk game with a little bit of Dragon Quest thrown in. Kitaria Fables is actually an action RPG with a bit of crop growing on the side. The hero is a sword wielding cat whose side hustle is raising tomatoes and throwing fireballs.
But don’t let its inclusion in the action RPG genre lead you into thinking this a violent hack-and-slash title. Yes, there is swordplay and ranged combat with a wide variety of customizable weapons that can be bought or crafted and there are powerful magic spells to be thrown as well, but the conflicts are entirely bloodless and family friendly. Your enemies are a roster of anthropomorphic animals, plants and magical creatures, and the proceedings are bathed with inviting colors and a welcoming cartoon style.
You play as Nyanza, a feline soldier of the Empire and you have a sidekick, Macaron. You begin your adventures in Paw Village, a quaint little town made up of NPCs and vendors, before making your way to your Uncle’s abandoned homestead, Thunderbunn Farm. After establishing your home base, your begin to take on quests and expand your travels outside the town, slaying monsters, dungeon crawling, looking for special items, and seeking out colorful and sometimes mysterious characters. In no time at all you start to learn some basic magic and pretty soon you resurrect the farm and start growing your own supplies and potion-making materials. You make friends with the villagers, in turn opening up new recipes and quests.
If you’d played any one of a thousand RPGs this loop will sound familiar, because it intentionally is. Where Kitaria Fables distinguishes itself is in its bright and cheerful art direction, simple and accessible combat, and equally un-fussy character relationships unencumbered by romantic complications and entirely G-rated. Sure, you make friends with the vendors and the local eccentrics but playful banter is as far as things go. If you’re looking to introduce a young person to the world of RPGs, Kitaria Fables is a pretty good place to start, with one caveat. There is a lot of dialogue to read. None of it is voiced and much of it is wordy and a bit bland. While delving into the political machinations of the Empire might provide some important story or character insights, and provides a bit of depth for older players to chew on, it often kills momentum just when the game needs to move. I know its expensive, but Kitaria Fables could be so much more charming with voice-acted dialogue that matched its pleasant art and presentation.
Getting to Know The Paw-pulace
Maybe limiting the potential for inappropriate visual mayhem, your character can be customized but in pretty limited, cosmetic ways with crafted costume pieces and changing fur colors. While your farm can, of course, be customized by whatever crop you want to grow, you can’t decorate or change your house.
The developers have noted that their game is an action combat title first, with lots of mechanics in play for crafting and upgrading melee and ranged weapons and magic spells. Melee combat does pretty quickly evolve into a pattern of hit and roll out of the way (then again, the same is pretty much true of Dark Souls), with ranged combat and magic being effective alternatives. There are definitely some aspects of crowd management strategy even in the opening hours, but exploring and fighting co-op are an option which I was unable to try. Combat isn’t especially visceral or impactful, but again, it fits perfectly into the overall gentle aesthetic of the game. Like in many RPGs, exploration is made less painful by teleportation locations once discovered, making travel easy. There is a good variety in environments and many little secrets and useful items to find, and enemies respawn if you need to grind for cash or materials. Each small area of the map is gated by a few seconds of blank screen loading, which seems odd considering the low graphical demands of the game and the generally powerful capabilities of recent processors and graphics cards. But Kitaria Fables is in early access and I suspect some optimization will happen along the way to release.
I’m a big fan of the Dragon Quest franchise and while a much more compact experience, Kitaria Fables has a little of that flavor in its stew of action, exploration, role playing and farming. Older gamers might want a little more wit, irony and nuanced combat but younger gamers can easily use this game as a charming and easy-to-understand introduction to the RPG genre.
***Preview code provided by the publisher***
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