Review – Kitaria Fables
Cats are nature’s perfect – excuse me – purrfect killing machines, but were made tiny and non-threatening as some kind of sick joke. It’s a sentiment I firmly believe because it does well to explain their usually annoyed demeanour. It seems I’m not the only one either, as Twin Hearts seemingly shares the opinion. Only, they strive to rectify it by handing felines not only weapons but allowing them to cast various types of spells: it’s your funeral, guys. Since Rune Factory 5 has been pushed back into next year, many hungry gamers are out there fiending for that farming/combat hybrid experience. Well, Kitaria Fables aims to satiate the cravings with a familiar gameplay loop and vibrant world.
Harvesting, cultivating, killing, and collecting are all critical parts of this adventure. After many excruciating months of anticipation, I’ve been fortunate enough to go neck-deep into this journey for about a week now. I’ve had moments of pleasure but also some disappointment. Since finding out about this game, I’ve promoted the hell out of it, and now the question is, does it live up to the hype?
Legends tell of a Calamity that swallowed the entirety of Canoidera, plunging it into an era of darkness. A mysterious power began to run rampant through the land, transforming once docile creatures into bloodthirsty monstrosities. They were not to go unopposed, however, as several heroes stood their ground with weapons in hand. Combat raged, and after the uphill battle that followed, they successfully defeated that evil, and peace, once again, reigned. Everyone came out of hiding, carrying on with their lives as if nothing had happened. That tranquillity wouldn’t last, though, and whisperings of the Calamities return spread fast. With the heroes of old having perished, it begs the question: what’s to become of Canoidera?
In a world that has outlawed the use of magic, you play as Nyanza von Whiskers, a knight of The Capital City. With her pink puffball sidekick, Macaron, by her side, they’re both tasked with protecting Paw Village. It, coincidentally, is also home to her grandfather, who has provided his farm for your stay. The impending adventure ahead consists of helping the anthropomorphic citizens with minor tasks, caring for the crops, and slicing the denizens of the wild. Unbeknownst to either of our heroes, though, the situation is about to worsen. Soldiers of Nyanza von Whisker’s platoon have begun moving into every town. Furthermore, the revelation that she has magical abilities of her own complicates matters.
The story is typical slice-of-life fare and offers up a wholesome time. It’s a feel-good romp throughout and has you aiding the many citizens of Canoidera with various chores – including gathering apples for Apple Pie. Despite Kitaria Fables having RPG spices sprinkled about, there isn’t much character development. Sure, there are rare glimpses of inner conflict, but nothing truly substantial. That might come as a shame to some, but as a self-proclaimed literary snob myself, I enjoyed what’s in here. The NPCs have an inkling of individuality that’s enough to distinguish them. The children are all carefree, while the village Elder is a well-spoken billy goat. Besides, coming into Kitaria Fables, I wasn’t expecting a marvellous tale. The farming and action genre is primarily known for its addictive gameplay loop, after all, and addictive it is.
Now, early into the game, the criminalization of magic is rarely mentioned – I reckon it’s nigh present. Nyanza parades around freely, casting flame cyclones and earth-element chainsaws without consequence. As the story progresses, however, that changes, as it begins slowly wriggling its way back into the forefront. Not only that, but it contributes to a nice twist. See, up to that point, the narrative pointed to one direction. To have it veer elsewhere was unexpected, nay, unpredictable would be a better word. It kept me engaged, and while, much like the plot, it wasn’t groundbreaking, it did well to flesh out the world.
Even if I didn’t find myself caring much about the characters, I had something tangible to sink my teeth into, and that was worth its weight. One thing I do want to mention is the crutch of inheriting grandpa’s farm – it’s a cliche at this point in slice of life games. Looking at you, Story of Seasons. To Kitaria Fable’s credit, it, at least, tried to do something different with it.
I don’t consider myself to be a hardcore fan of slice-of-life romps, but there’s one feature I’ll always appreciate. Universal Storage can be surmised as having access to your inventory bank in any city, regardless of its initial deposit. Having such a mechanic helps eliminate the needless tedium of backtracking. So, when I discovered that Kitaria Fables is without it, I was baffled. If I had to point to one aspect I legitimately dislike, it’s this.
Allow me to explain: the loading screens encourage this hiccup. Now, before grabbing your pitchforks, note that it’s, honestly, pretty rapid. Each one lasts only a second, meaning you’re back in action fairly quickly. That, however, adds up fast when you have to return home consistently, and therein lies the problem. While never eating away the sum of an hour, it breaks up any momentum and is just an absolute slog. Nyanza not being light on her feet from the start doesn’t help matters. For those wondering if it’s possible to ignore this facet, it, unfortunately, isn’t.
You see, another commonality amongst this genre is crafting. To obtain more robust equipment, the player must create their own. It should come as no surprise to know that Kitaria Fables boasts this very thing. There are weapons, armour, and little accessories that come with their stat buffs. Now, when I began my adventure, I was utilizing the storage chest by my farmhouse consistently. Even with an upgraded backpack, I still used it. The sheer volume of materials is to be applauded, but it also contributes to the need for universal storage – Kitaria Fables is devoid of this.
What confuses me is that wooden chests are scattered throughout, meaning the foundation for such a system is there. That tells me that this was possibly the plan but, for some innate reason, it got scrapped. Whatever the case, it’s a shame because constantly backtracking is both mundane and tedious. It’s primarily a bother for those with memory problems. I routinely forgot ingredients that a recipe demanded, prompting me to do far more back-and-forth than the average person. As you can see, versatile storage isn’t just a quality of life perk but for accessibility as well. If constantly alluding to it wasn’t any indication, allow me to spell it out: Kitaria Fables requires versatile storage.
The combat of Kitaria Fables is stereotypical of Action-RPGs in that it’s in real-time with some intricacies. First, we have shortcuts, with any technique or item allocated able to be executed with a simple button press. There are eight in total, with an even split between abilities and items. I strongly recommend reserving one for a health item as the action won’t stop, despite having the inventory opened. I died a few times because I would instinctively do this, only to meet my maker in the background before I could even heal. While on the topic of controls, the default format is a bit odd. This is, thankfully, rectified with customizable prompts, yet another spectacular accessibility option that deserves praise.
Something that quickly becomes abundantly clear is how expensive crafting gets. Furthermore, the higher the quality, the more it demands. See, it isn’t only materials needed but money, with it sometimes costing upwards to 25,000 Paw Pennies – the currency of Canoidera. As I’m sure most surmised, crops will, indeed, be the way to go when wanting to feed the wallet. I did some experimenting with growing and selling, only to discover some exciting things. See, the profit margin fluctuates, with most being 50%. That, however, sees a massive boost when seeds bought from a particular merchant are planted, but also with corn.
Please find a detailed table below that not only outlines the cost of 50 seeds of most crops, but also the profit earned. Do keep in mind that because this is also an RPG, there are additional knick-knacks that can be sold.
During my entire session, I didn’t come by any framerate drops. I did, however, notice the slightest bit of jankiness in regards to the character model animations. Whenever Nyanza lifted and swung her axe, there was an ever so brief stutter before she went into the next swing. It wasn’t enough for me to describe it as jarring, but I could see it becoming an issue for those sensitive to awkward movements. It certainly looked unnatural and could use some ironing. At the same time, though, I loved a few others, such as her rolling animation whenever she’d go to sleep. The game ceased to struggle elsewhere and was unphased by a rainy forecast. All in all, apart from the single instance of slight jank, the performance was tight.
The score was somewhat surprising: it’s both relaxing and soothing. I couldn’t help but smile and feel a sense of coziness at the theme for Paw Village. What tickled my eardrums was that every track was orchestrated. I wasn’t expecting to be bombarded by the soft musings of violins and flutes. It is a bit of a missed opportunity not to have tossed in some animal sounds, but that’s more a nitpick. Something else that I quite liked was the ambience. The sound of rain will forever be gushed over by myself. It’s an uphill battle trying to emulate that sound accurately, but Kitaria Fables nailed it. I, especially, enjoyed the sounds of water droplets as they punched the roof of your home. It’s a silly thing to go crazy over, but the ambience helped create an immersive experience.
Kitaria Fables is a stellar adventure held back by sporadic bad calls. That, however, never went on to cloud the fun I had and how smitten I got by its inherent charm. I loved my time with this game, and while a few key elements were missing, I wasn’t too fussed. The combat was fun enough, and each of the villagers you meet was endearing in their way. While there is a grind, it’s concentrated on collecting materials. Even for those opposed to the idea, the battles always kept me engaged as I had to react in time with attacks.
Speaking of, Twin Hearts does a fantastic job at making sure enemy attacks are telegraphed. It’s fun to dodge before striking, and because it’s so obvious, any damage incurred is ultimately your fault. That, unfortunately, doesn’t hide the fact that I would’ve loved to befriend the inhabitants and unlock special events. Everyone is so damn fluffy and adorable, but, unfortunately, the game isn’t as fleshed out as it could have been.
The graphical fidelity harkens back to the later PS2 years, but it also carries a sense of charisma with it.
While fun, the monotony of constantly needing to backtrack wore thin and made the act of playing a chore at times.
For a slice-of-life adventure, the music was well done, especially that damn rain.
Fun Factor: 7.0
Again, that tedium proves decisive and hinders a game that should be immensely fun.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Kitaria Fables is available now on Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, and Steam.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Kitaria Fables was provided by the publisher.