Yaga Review, bad luck blacksmith – First Sip
Yaga is an action-RPG steeped in Slavic mythology. Developed by Breadcumbs and published by Versus Evil.
In Yaga, you play as Ivan a lowly blacksmith cursed with terrible luck. In the opening of the game, Ivan faces an evil witch and loses an arm. Making him a one-armed blacksmith with terrible luck.
The whole impetus of the game is the titular witch Baba Yaga performing a test of sorts on the Tzar. The Tzar of course not being pure of heart fails the test and is cursed by Yaga. Yaga then informs the Tzar that his comeuppance will be received via a man with most terrible luck. This is where Ivan comes in, being the said unlucky man. However, Yaga’s curse said that if the unlucky man’s death was decreed by the Tzar that it would be his downfall. Because of this, the Tzar decides to send Ivan away as far as possible
Ivan, not wanting to be banished strikes a deal with the Tzar to obtain for him ultimate power in exchange for reversing his banishment.
This journey then kicks off a series of events that via the dialogue and choice system can go any number of ways.
The art style in Yaga is comparable to Zoink Games titles such as Stick it to the Man, Zombie Vikings, and Flipping Death. Using a sort of hand-painted comic style. While Yaga doesn’t manage to reach the same heights as those titles the art and character designs are more than solid.
The designs of the enemies especially the bosses standing out in particular. Ivan is also well designed and is one of the most lively and well-formed characters in this game or any game for that matter.
There is some minor disconnect in working out what can and can’t be interacted with. Although this is a minor concern really. Attack effects, movements and setting all work in favor of the visual style. Giving Yaga a feeling and look that set it apart from other similar titles.
Sound effects in Yaga like most games satisfactory. Nothing out of place, nothing grating or obnoxious. The swing of your hammer, the grunt of Ivan as he exerts effort, the noises from your enemies as they meet their end. As solid a sound design as I can remember from the genre.
Yaga is also a fully voiced title. And the voice acting is well handled, with some variety in the voices, no real obvious issues with inflection or emotion. An overall polished and professional handling of voice acting.
The one issue I did have during all sessions with the game, that is probably more of a programming glitch than a true audio fault but is linked enough with sound to mention here. Various lines are cut off before they are completed. There is an option to skip over dialogue like in most games and the first time I thought I had mistakenly done so. But I found that even if I was not touching the controller at all various lines would just suddenly cut short even though the dialogue showed two or three words left.
Normally I would not single the music out as a sub-point from the sound effects and voice acting. But Yaga’s music is not normal.
The music in Yaga makes up for any perceived audio shortcomings. A bizarre mix of folk music, hip hop, dubstep, rap and more. The soundtrack to Yaga is one of the most varied and fantastic game soundtracks of all time. I would say it is one of the best soundtracks in any media and I would even venture further to say it is one of the best albums I’ve heard in recent years.
In a standard song from the soundtrack (if you can call any of them standard). You can expect to hear, traditional folk instrumentation, stringed instruments, flutes, etc. Vocals from seemingly disparate languages, that themselves range from folk singing to rapping. Percussion with a hip-hop style flow. Electronic beats familiar to dubstep music.
If that description sounds like a bunch of nonsense thrown together, then it’s because the music is just that. Or at least it should be, but somehow it’s all cohesive and just works.
The soundtrack can be purchased in addition to the game as a bundle or even by itself, so if the game isn’t really your thing I would still recommend checking the soundtrack out.
Full disclosure, I am listening to the soundtrack as I write this review. I was also listening to it before and will listen to it after.
Yaga is an Action-RPG game, combat is in real-time, items can be equipped to make you stronger and items can be collected from defeated enemies.
Ivan has two meters, Mind, and Body. Mind is essentially a stamina meter that drains when you perform certain actions. Body is a health meter that shows you how many hits you can sustain before death. The mind meter will refill after a battle and also acts as additional health if you take a hit while the mind meter still has some energy it will drain it before the body meter starts to drop. Using your tools (shield, grapple arm, etc.) drains the mind meter so you have to make a tactical choice to drain the meter and gain their aid or to use regular attacks and keep your mind meter as a failsafe.
Regular attacks are performed as swinging your hammer in a three-hit combination. The third hit normally pushing your enemy back and causes a stun. The stun can activate if the third hit connects even if the others do not. You also have the option to throw your hammer and have it return to you like Marvel’s Thor. Holding the button or key down will charge it up and allow you to aim better at the cost of standing still and opening yourself up for attack. You also have the ability to roll which can be used to avoid attacks or close gaps more quickly. None of these options drain mind so you will be relying on them a fair bit.
As a blacksmith, you can also forge and upgrade equipment if you have the right kind and amount of items and access to an anvil. The anvils can be found in your house and in between levels when you rest.
Resting is also how you upgrade when you have reached enough experience to fill your experience bar.
The Bad luck Feature
One of the main features of Yaga is also one of the most confusing. This comes in the form of the Luck meter. Dialogue choices are normally accompanied by traits such as greedy and righteous. These traits will come together to create your character, and selecting choices outside of your chosen traits will cause bad luck. Consuming magic items (such as bread to heal) also increases bad luck. Being cursed or weirdly even being blessed also carries bad luck. What does bad luck actually do?
As your bad luck meter rises the amount of experience you gain rises with it. But when it fills up it will make life a lot harder such as breaking a weapon at the most inopportune time. So your goal should be to keep it high but not fill it up. Which is easier said than done. Even trying to keep it completely empty is a trial with various side quests and even just interactions ending in a curse or blessing.
Yaga is a very well made game, taking an average of 6 – 10 hours to complete (depending on how much exploration and side-quests you do). And is well worth replaying, with 5 endings available and different dialogue choices opening alternate paths to take. A lot of the dialogue is written in rhymes which adds to the folklore aspects.
The characters are fun, the story is interesting with a dark sense of humor. The music is incredible. And it feels pretty good to play. Newer gamers or players that aren’t that familiar the genre might benefit from some more explanation on game mechanics and features. And even more, experienced players could probably do with some more information about the Bad Luck mechanic and how to control it.
Overall, any issues I had with the game were relatively minor and were far outweighed by the positives.
In Coffee Terms
Yaga is like an enjoyable rustic coffee. The flavor is strong and well prepared. But the setting is what makes it special. The crackle of a roaring fire that keeps you warm. An unknown band plays a song you’ve never heard. The cup feels good in your hand, the warmth of the coffee on your cold skin filling you with a sense of happiness. A happiness that is increased by every sip you take. And you sit there by yourself thinking, this is a hell of a coffee.
Yaga has been updated with a new patch that addresses some of the issues above. More information can be found here.
Yaga Review Summary
One half of the YouTube brother duo, The Game Bros with Sirhc and Ar0n, Chris is a lover of games, movies and other great things you can do from home.
Coffee of choice: I like the sweeter kinds, mixed with chocolate, coconut, caramel etc. but I won’t turn down a flat white or a straight black either.