The fantasy genre is big business. Every facet of the media is saturated with different interpretations of what a great fantasy setting looks like, and each has its own characters and lore that must be studied to appreciate the world that they live in. With so many options available, it’s really challenging to pick out the bad apples from the rest of the bunch. You may struggle to find yourself something that resonates with your ideals and tastes. What I’m hoping to do is to give you an insight into my latest review game, and hope that it will inspire you to play it, removing any concern that you may purchase a terrible title.
Autumn’s Journey is a short visual novel (VN) from developers Apple Cider. This VN has been published by Ratalaika Games and makes up another addition to their ever-growing library of title in this genre. At only 41,000 words, this novel is around half the length of others in its field, but unlike some recent VNs that I have tried, this one concentrates solely on the plot, and decisions to keep you entertained. There isn’t a glimpse of a mini game or character stats to alter the path of the story.
Without spoiling it for you, I’ll give you a synopsis of the story. The tale takes place in a land known as Ishtera. It is populated by 2 races; Dragonkind (this is their homeland) and Heavenkind (are new to the kingdom). You control the female protagonist Auralee; she is an inspiring Knight from a backwards fishing village called Berri. One day she undertakes her routine checks when she encounters a mysterious person known as Kerr. After some lightheaded conversation she discovers that he is in fact an Earth Dragon who has lost his dragon form. Without hesitation Auralee decides that she must help Kerr find his form, begrudgingly he and a fellow dragon named Ilmari accept her help, and so begins their adventure. You discover the relationships they form, and the lore of the world that you exist in.
You may think, “why do I want to play a game where all I do is sit and read a story, surely that’s what a book is for?” I wouldn’t disagree, but what I have found is that the visual novel genre fills that gap between movies and books perfectly. Autumn’s Journey does an excellent job of creating its mystical and magical world with its combination of text, audio and visual elements. What’s great about this title is the characters do not take themselves too seriously. The relationship that is built up is one of fun and friendship, where most of the storyline focuses on how they develop as a group on their journey of discovery. This doesn’t mean that the world in which they exist is totally ignored. No, as small references are made throughout to help you understand the lore of this ancient land, and what makes this world tick.
Like with most VNs, this one has taken a large influence from Eastern culture and most of the art has a manga esque style. Because of the theme, Apple Cider have been given the freedom to create a dreamlike world that is colourful and unusual in its look. A mixture of earthy tones and vivid colours help to show the woodland aspect, whereas the bright colours enhances the magical air to the tale. All imagery is shown in still frames, with movement shown by characters disappearing from shot, and then reappearing when called upon. Emotion is shown through over the top facial expressions. Though the artistic concept is simple, it works, and feels like pictures that would accompany a traditional fantasy novel.
The emotional element is also represented through the use of audio, with both the music and sound effects helping to support this. You will hear a mixture of fun and jovial folksy music, and heavier sombre songs. Each work well with the text to help drive the narrative forward. As with most Eastern influenced games, the sound effects are effective, but they are repetitive, shrill and can get annoying after some time. Fortunately, as this story is so short, it staves off the annoyance, mostly.
VNs are one of the few games where you can progress and complete it with a cup of tea and cake in hand, that’s how simple the controls are. Limited controller use is required, with most of the action taking place when you are forced to choose between 2 options, this decision then changes the course of the plot.
As this is a Ratalaika Games published Visual novel, you are given the freedom to auto skip, and fast forward through any of the text that is presented. This makes finishing each playthrough a quick and simple task. Your 1000 Gamerscore can be unlocked within 1 hour of playtime, and all 3 endings can be seen using this method. Obviously, if you undertake this method, you will miss the whole story, so I recommend only using the skip function once you have completed your first playthrough. The game is around £4 to purchase, so for achievement hunters and lovers of a good book, this represents good value for money.
If you fancy a title that shows the friendship between 3 strangers building as they undertake an adventure together, then Autumn’s Journey is the game for you. A short and lighthearted affair that allows you to explore the lore of this strange land while enjoying the fantasy setting it all unfolds in. Do I recommend you try this? Yes, if you want a quick read of something that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Will Auralee become the Knight she has always inspired to be? Can Kerr find his dragon form? Why not grab a drink, sit down, and enjoy how this tale unfolds.