Review – Röki
I’ve been looking forward to Röki ever since my husband, fellow WTMG staff member Jordan Hawes, came back from E3 2019 raving about it. He knows how fond I am of point-and-click adventure games, harkening back to my childhood days of playing the King’s Quest series over and over. While not typically a fan of that gaming style himself, he saw something special in Röki and suggested I try it when it released. Well, the time has finally come and I couldn’t be more enamored with it.
Röki is a point-and-click adventure game that’s inspired by Scandinavian folklore. You play as Tove, a young girl who comes to the realization that the fairy tales she grew up hearing about might just be true. She and her brother, Lars, are attacked one night and are separated deep in the woods. She follows his trail and is lead to another realm where mythical creatures dwell.
While searching for Lars, she encounters many fabled beasts; ranging from Tomtes (gnomes), Nøkken (aquatic kraken-like creatures), Trolls, and many others. She comes to learn that not all these “monsters” are evil, but are instead complex beings, many with their own problems. This is one of my favorite aspects of the game. Discovering that a hulking bridge troll might not really want to hurt you, she may just be in pain. That’s not to say none of the creatures are dangerous, as Tove will face many real threats along her journey.
In addition to the wonder of discovering the truths about this magical world, there’s a very deep and emotional narrative surrounding Tove’s past. We learn early on that some sort of tragedy has befallen the family, but the whole picture isn’t revealed right away. As you search for your brother and aid the inhabitants of the forest, more and more comes to light. It’s woven in masterfully throughout the adventure and creates a tale not only of whimsy, but of overcoming hardship and letting go.
Developer Polygon Treehouse set out to make Röki a departure from traditional point-and-click adventure games, and I have to say they achieved their goal. While the gameplay does still revolve around interacting with items and figuring out how best to use them, Röki breaks the mold in a few ways.
Firstly, this game isn’t necessarily linear like the vast majority of others in the genre. Exploration is a key factor to advancing in Röki. Some players will find solutions to certain obstacles in different orders than others, depending on how and where they search. Yes, most of the major objectives will still happen in a specific order, but the game feels a lot more free and fun to explore without every path being so strictly laid before you.
Secondly, the puzzles don’t have crazy difficulty spikes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played these kinds of games where most of the puzzles are stupidly easy and then about halfway through there’s an insanely complex one. Usually with almost no guidance as to what you’re suppose to do. I remember experiencing this exactly with The Book of Unwritten Tales 2. There was a puzzle that was so unnecessarily difficult I had to look up a guide to get past it. After reading the solution I thought, “who on Earth would have ever put that together?” While the puzzles in Röki might not be the most challenging, they’re at least consistent and fair.
Thirdly, all of the objects you collect have a specific purpose that makes sense. This is another one of my favorite aspects of the game. Most of these games fall into the trap of not making it clear what needs to be done, so you’ll end up waving around each item in your pack on the screen and hope something highlights. I never once ran into this problem with Röki. While it might not be immediately clear what you’ll need a certain item for, when the opportunity presents yourself, you’ll know.
Röki stands out in another clear way: its art style. As soon as the game starts, you’ll be taken in by its striking art design. They decided to scale back by eliminating textures and lighting effects, and opted for a more simplistic flat-shaded style. The result is a game that looks like the pictures of a fairy tale book come to life. This might have been done to keep within their modest budget, but it truly adds a whole new level of charm to its aesthetic.
The sound design is also solid throughout. There’s not too much in the way of voice acting, as they rely mainly on the characters making expressive sounds in conjunction with text boxes. However, the emotions are conveyed convincingly, especially in the instances when you get to hear Tove cry for Lars. The soundtrack is absolutely beautiful, with its melancholy lullabies setting the perfect tone for the game. My one nitpick is that the sound doesn’t always match the animations, but that’s a small gripe when compared to the strength of the rest.
Röki was one of my most anticipated games of 2020 and it blew me away in every way possible. It might have the look of a living children’s book, but its darker themes proves that this is a fairy tale for grownups. I was already impressed with its premise and art design from the trailer, but I wasn’t expecting just how organic everything felt. With its deep narrative, quirky characters, and puzzles that feel like they actually belong in this world, Röki is one tale you’ll want to experience.
The striking yet simplistic flat-shaded art style looks like a storybook brought to life.
A point-and-click adventure game that doesn’t force you on a strict linear path. It makes sense when you need to use an item and the puzzles feel like they actually belong in this world.
The voice acting is surprisingly convincing for the most part, relying on expressive sounds. The soundtrack is somber, yet beautiful.
This might be the most organic feeling point-and-click adventure game I’ve ever played. Add to that a deep narrative with darker themes and complex characters, and you have a tale that will stand the test of time.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Röki is available now on PC and Switch.
Reviewed on PC with i7-9700k, RTX 2070, 16gb RAM.
A copy of Röki was provided by the publisher.