Sunday, September 3

Nindie Preview: Original Journey

Original Journey is unlike almost anything I’ve ever experienced and that immediately makes it both intriguing and a bit confusing, at first, to play. Mixing elements of strategy and action it is a roguelike that will challenge your planning, execution skills, and your ego. 

You’re a member of what is apparently a plant-based race of some sort and there’s a whole thing going on where your planet was no longer going to cut it so you’ve been out in space searching for the solution to your societal problem. So anyway, you’re now on an alien planet that appears to show promise but in order to find what you’re looking for you’re going to have to fight your way through multiple areas of the planet against a wide variety of both enemies and environmental hazards.

Gameplay is a mix of strategic placement of various turrets you’ll gain access to over the course of the game and action as you’ll have your choice of 2 weapons you’ll use to take out enemies. Each stage you’ll visit is randomly laid out with a wide variety of environmental hazards as well as an assortment of enemies that will vary per region on the planet. Sometimes it will be easy going and you won’t even need to use a turret, other times you’ll feel a bit overwhelmed and you can’t place them fast enough to give you some passive support. Variations like levels where you’ll encounter friendly reinforcements or even equipment that you can hop into to plow through obstacles also mix things up.

One of the roguelike tricks to the game, and one I struggled with quite a bit initially, revolves around risk and reward. After you finish each stage you’ll go back to a screen where you can choose to forge on or go back to base. As you get deeper into an area each additional stage will bring additional opportunities for finding new resources that you can use for things like upgrades but if you aren’t careful and don’t know your limits you can easily fall to the next wave’s enemies. If you do die you’ll have one chance to start from the beginning, get back to that stage, and reclaim the majority of the loot you’d collected on the previous run. Unfortunately, there’s usually a good reason you were unable to finish that level the first time so I found many of my follow-up runs would also come up short. The lesson I learned here is to definitely pace yourself and if you’re more than, say, 8 or 9 levels in consider going back to base and coming out again. Once I gained more discipline this way I began making progress much more quickly, in the end, and not losing so many resources to my ego and a “Bah, I’ve got this” mentality.

The last thing I’ll leave you with is that the two boss encounters I’ve had in the game have been chaotic and challenging. I struggled quite a bit with the first boss, actually, as the variety of ways its attacks could damage me continued to catch me off guard. Even with my turrets placed and guns blazing I just couldn’t keep myself alive quite long enough to defeat it. The second boss I was successful more quickly but that isn’t to say the battle was easy by any means. The absolute chaos on the screen you can check out for yourself, it was a lot to take in and account for but I was able to tough it out. All in all Original Journey is a refreshing splash in the face of new challenges and the hand-drawn art keeps everything looking distinctive as well. I look forward to being able to take it on the go and I imagine it will look stunning on the Switch’s screen!