GDC 2019 Hands-On IMPRESSIONS: Yaga

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

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Yaga | Logo

Publisher(s): Versus Evil
Platform(s): Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch, PC (Steam), Mobile
Release Date: 2019
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Yaga, an action RPG game that is directly inspired by Slavic culture and folklore, stars an incredibly unlucky (that’s part of his background) one-handed blacksmith named Ivan who is stuck between a cruel Tzar who wants to see Ivan to do the impossible, a witch named Baba Yaga who wants to manipulate Ivan, and a grandmother who wants him to get married. As Ivan journeys through this procedurally-generated adventure, he will be able to build weapons and artifacts to use, encounter villagers and spirits, and he will have to choose how he interacts with other individuals to arrive at one of eight game endings.

As for the gameplay itself, I found myself really enjoying Yaga. Ivan attacks with his hammer (or whatever weapon that you literally forge, as he carries a blacksmith’s anvil around with him) to smack down enemies on the map. While this is ordinarily very basic combat, where Yaga truly excels and separates itself from other games is that you can then enhance your weapons with up to three different abilities at once that interact with each other to make the weapon work in unpredictable ways. While I could not get my hands on too many enhancements in my hands-on demo (the demo took place only ten to fifteen minutes after Yaga‘s beginning), I found a pair of enhancements that let me turn my ordinary hand-to-hand hammer into a boomerang attack weapon that also shot lightning out to hit other surrounding enemies. It sounds crazy and complex, but it is a lot of fun to experiment with. There is a lot of potential fighting customization here (thirty enhancements are available, from speaking with the developers) in Yaga, and this game honestly encourages you to explore as many of them as you can.

YAGA | Tzar

The Tzar orders Ivan to do many different tasks in Yaga (as seen above), which force him to enter procedurally-generated areas to complete. Additionally, various miniquests (such as below) will appear, during which Ivan frequently can choose how he wants to respond. (Images courtesy of Breadcrumbs Interactive).

Yaga is also heavily story driven. When you start a new area, you can select the time of day and what quest you want to do (main quest, side quest, etc) before you enter. As each area is procedurally generated, that means that even doing two quests in the same area will present very different maps. This element in Yaga both focuses the player on completing one task at a time and also prevents the game from getting stale due to having to go to the same area over and over again. The scriptwriting is also excellent, and you really do get both an idea of how unlucky Ivan is as a character and all about the Slavic folklore that inhabits the world of Yaga. While there are also options to select different personality dialogue options, I was not able to see them play too much in my hands-on, though I understand that it will have serious ramifications to determine Ivan’s path as Yaga‘s story unfolds, and the different dialogue options really do display different aspects of Ivan’s personality. Finally, one of my favorite things about Yaga is the music. A Romanian band named SubcarpaČ›i created a mixture of hip-hop and Romanian folk music for the game’s soundtrack. As a result, it is extremely unique (I certainly have never heard of it before) and it really helps to immerse the world of Yaga as something special to play.

Yaga | Snow

Yaga | Chicken

The world of Yaga is varied and quite beautiful to look at as well. (Images courtesy of Breadcrumbs Interactive).

Yaga, a SQUARE ENIX Collective title, is due to come out for the Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and mobile platforms in 2019, and it is expected to take four to five hours to complete. While I don’t know much about Slavic folklore and legends, I found Yaga to be extremely accessible -and importantly- fun to play. And again, the music is simply amazing to hear.



What kind of weapon enhancements do you hope to build in Yaga? Are you planning on picking it up when it comes out?

Let us know in the comments below!

About Quentin H.

Likes pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. And video games. Cannot forget those video games. Anime too. Should not forget that either.