Yaga Review – Big Guys Need Adventure Too

Publisher: Versus Evil | Developer: Breadcrumbs Interactive | Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC (Reviewed) | Code Provided to We Got Comms for Review Purposes

At its core, Yaga is a story-focused side-scrolling action RPG. The combat has that old-school beat-em-up feel: one button to attack, one to block, one to roll and one to use an item. Ivan, the main protagonist, can customize weapons and choose which characteristics to utilize. While some might not care for weapons breaking, it’s minor here. Each mission, you will be loaded into a procedurally generated map. In this way, it really feels like a rogue-like. The difference here being that Yaga has a cohesive story. It’s a fun, light-hearted story with some darker elements that don’t cast a gloomy cloud over the whole thing. It has an impressive hand-drawn art style that is pleasing to the eye, and it’s on full display in the game’s story cutscenes that play out between fully-voiced adventures. The soundtrack is an interesting (albeit jarring) mix of low-fi hip hop and stringy folk music in which the music tracks just do not fit the theme or environment most times. Yaga just doesn’t make the leap from “good” to “great.” There are some solid RPG mechanics here, and the combat is decent, but I think that it would have done the game a great service to be a more crafted experience rather than the RNG nature of a rogue-like.

7/10 – Good

On the cutting room floor…

Ivan and the Tzar

Yaga is a new action RPG with light roguelike elements from a studio called Breadcrumbs wherein you play as the one-handed bad-luck-ridden blacksmith Ivan on his quest to obtain an item for the Tzar for reasons I won’t spoil here.It takes place in a fantasy-tinted Slavic locale and is based around the old folklore about Baba Yaga.

Rogue-Like Meets A Blacksmith’s Tale

Yaga is something like a Castle Crashers in the way that it plays. The combat has that old-school beat-em-up feel, and is equally simplistic in the execution. When you use items to recover health, etc. you build up bad luck that will eventually cause some random bad juju to occur.  

Ivan being a blacksmith, he can (and will frequently, as they eventually break) craft his own weapons to use in battle from materials that will come from various sources. One of the cool things about this is that Ivan can customize the weapon he builds; choosing various weapon types, materials, and things such as runes which have different bonuses to them. While some might not care for the durability aspect of it, I never found it to impede my progress.

Once you’ve made it past the tutorial of the game, each subsequent mission will play out in the repeated formula that gives Yaga its rogue-like tint.  You begin by deciding which of the available objectives you will attempt to tackle, and then the day Ivan will leave for his adventure.  Each day has a different bonus to that particular mission attempt such as healing after a fight, or being better rested for the adventure which provides a bonus.  

After selecting your departure day, you will be loaded into a procedurally generated — I can feel Carlos’ eyes roll into the back of his head as I type this — map.

The layout of these will feel familiar to anyone who has played other roguelikes. There are hallway-like transitions between open areas which you will be locked within once you pass the threshold until you deal with whatever threat the game has generated for you. Once you’ve cleared the threat, the way will be open and you are free to continue (or not) exploring the map.

In between the combat encounters and other exploration bits will be sections of the map where NPCs reside to give you little side missions to complete — or not — while you work on your main objective. 

These too, are randomly generated and so if you start a “run” of a mission and die or quit when you come back you will start at the beginning of that particular mission and the map will be completely different.  

In this way (along with the aforementioned bonus choices) the game really starts to feel like a rogue-like.  The biggest differentiating factor then, is that Yaga has a cohesive story being told on top of the rogue-like elements…similar to something like the excellent Hades.  It’s a fun, light-hearted story with some darker elements that don’t ever cast a gloomy cloud over the whole. The detours that occur mid-mission are written better than you might expect for a “side mission,” and I found them to be genuinely interesting and worthwhile to take the time to experience.

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