Tale of Tales' The Path was released this week. I didn't particularly care for their first offering, The Graveyard. For me, The Graveyard was all art and no game. That's perfectly fine, but not something I care for personally. Plus, I find "It means whatever you want it to mean" to be a pretty lame artistic statement to make. I'm not going to open that can of worms, but suffice to say, I wasn't overly fond of The Graveyard.
I am enjoying The Path substantially more. The bar is a bit low, since I am going to favour anything that approaches horror in a new way, but it's still a solid game. I've played through one chapter of the game as Ginger. Unfortunately, as enjoyable as The Path is, usability problems (and easily fixable ones at that) kept pulling me out of the experience.
The controls for interacting with the environment are deplorable. In an attempt to be minimal, you interact with the environment by getting close and then simply not pressing any button. But there is absolutely no indication of how close is close enough, or even which objects can be interacted with. Certain objects (I encountered an old clawfoot bathtub and a rusted out car) cause certain semi-transparent images to appear on the screen, but you cannot (apparently) otherwise interact with these objects. The are other objects that cause a very similar change on the interface, except they can be interacted with.
There is a girl in white that will lead your character back to the path if you interact with her. But triggering this interaction is very flakey. I had to dance around her for a good minute or so, moving closer and farther, until their interaction finally occured. This frustration could easily be corrected by attaching the interaction action to a button. Targeting could be as simple as having the avatar look toward objects that can be interacted with and/or changing her stance. It might be a tiny bit less elegant, but it's certainly preferrable to having me constantly frustrated with the controls and not be immersed in the experience.
After interacting with certain areas or objects in the woods, text will appear on the screen. It's the current girl's thoughts on whatever you just interacted with. Unfortunately, the font used is a yellow-ish hue with no outline. That means that if the camera is focused on something yellow when the text appears, it's impossible to read. Instead of reading the message and getting some insight into the girl's character, I'm forced to spin the camera frantically, attempting to find a texture that's dark enough to read on. Given how simple and numerous the solutions to this problem are, it's simply embarassing seeing an issue like this.
My last grievance is that the save game files do not appear to be portable. I started playing this on my PC, but moved it to my laptop since I'll likely play it a bit while travelling to the GDC (or early in the AM before things get started). I copied all the user files to the laptop, but The Path ignored them completely. This is one of those features that doesn't seem like a big deal until you actually need it, at which point its absence it quite annoying. Or, more simply, Steam Cloud sure does make sense.
There's depth to The Path, and having recently maligned the lack of symbolism in games, it is most pleasant to see such a riposte. I'll need more time to think about what is going on, and not be busy getting ready for GDC, so I hope you'll forgive the laundry list of complaints. I do like the game a lot, don't get me wrong. It's just unfortunate to see that, once again, being usable is a precondition to being great and no amout of artistry can change this.
Labels: The Path