“It’s almost here. Almost, almost…”
Name: The Yawhg
Developer(s): Damian Sommer, Emily Carroll
Release Date: May 30th, 2013
The Yawhg is a one- to four-player adventure game in which you have to prepare a group of characters for the reappearance of the dangerous Yawhg. What is the Yawhg? A reoccuring natural disaster? Some sort of monster? You never truly get to know (although it’s most likely a natural disaster). All you get to know is that it’s coming, and that you need to prepare yourself for it. How do you do that, you may ask?
Well, the gameplay is quite simplistic. You pick 2-4 characters and go around to different parts of a village such as the Tavern, Forest, Arena and Alchemy Tower, and perform tasks like cleaning, hunting, betting or brewing potions. Doing so will increase your stats. You can improve Magic, Physique, Wealth, Finesse, Mind, Charm, and each one will affect your character and what they can do to help rebuild the town after the Yawhg has come and gone.
Each part of town has two different task or actions, and each one nets you points in different areas. You’ve got six weeks to prepare yourself and each action you perform takes up one week. Characters can not be in the same area at the same time, and some events may lead to areas becoming entirely unusable.
The Yawhg is, in essence, a mix between a text-based adventure game and a resource management game. The big kicker is that it’s randomly generated, and the story and events in it change every time you play. Loads of crazy stuff can happen. For example, you can be bitten by a vampire and go on a murder spree, encounter a group of rats in the forest and decide which of them gets to be their leader, get attacked by a demonic infant or find and defuse a bomb at a fancy ball. How these events play out are influenced by your stats and can (and will) affect them as well. For example, my charismatic gentleman failed to defuse the bomb at the ball due to his lack of finesse (I’m assuming, at least), leading to the palace being destroyed and my character losing a point in Physique due to taking damage.
These events can have even more drastic effects on the outcome of the game. During my second playthough, my powerful warrior was bitten by a vampire, leading him to lose loads of points in Physique and Mind, but gain a few in Charm. When he went into the woods to hunt the week after, he murdered several people and drank their blood, causing the villagers to close the town and restrict access to the forest for the remainder of the game. Suddenly, my brave fighter had become a weak, blood-thirsty creature of the night, ruining my plan to make him the builder and leading to the town falling into complete decay at the end.
After the Yawhg has come and gone, it’s up to you to choose what your character will do to help rebuild the town. Will they take on the role of The Leader, using their charm to rally the townsfolk to work harder and better, The Conjurer, using their powerful magic to creating helpful items and objects to assist in the reconstruction, or perhaps The Builder, using your supreme strength to rebuild homes at a remarkable speed? There are lots of other roles to take on, such as The Doctor [insert Doctor Who joke here], The Tailor or The Looter. What character you ascribe to what role, and what stats they have, will effect their ability to fill up their role.
Who and what you choose will effect the ending in big ways. The first time, I restored the town moderately well and my characters lived quite comfortably, but the second time my town was completely destroyed and my characters died miserable, awful deaths. The third time I rebuilt the town excellently and my characters lived wonderful, prosperous lives. So, as you can see, it’s quite different every time. While The Yahwg can be completed in just a few minutes, the randomly generated story gives it a ton of replayability and makes it quite addicting.
The game mechanics are quite simple, but the art, music and writing is great. The score gets increasingly more unnerving and threatening as the Yawhg approaches, and the art (drawn by comic artist and writer Emily Carroll) manages to be both appealing and disturbing. Characters and environments look very charming, which makes it all the more awful when something bad happens.
You have to do quite a lot of reading, but thankfully the writing is very good. It does a very good job of describing everything that happens, and it can be very effective in conveying what happens and how bad/good it is when you either fail or lose. One small text I got to read after my ultra-successful game really stuck out to me:
Towers, once wrecked & ravaged, rose towards the sky.
Trees again took root, and then blossomed.
We all blossomed.
And though it took a long while,
And though it took a lot from us
our future is bright.
Should The Yawhg ever return, we will be ready.
The Yawhg is quite the unique game in this day and age. It blends the gameplay of an old text-based RPG with beautiful art, a good soundtrack and some wonderful writing. It’ll only take you a few minutes to play, but the randomized events will keep you coming back again and again.
I noticed that playing alone and playing with friends were two completely different experiences, and both fun in different ways. When I played alone, I got really emotionally invested in the characters, and whenever something bad happened I felt bad about it. When I played with my friends, we laughed and laughed and laughed at all the crazy stuff that happened to our characters. We cracked jokes, we started excitedly cursing when something big happened and when we got a good ending we cheered. It was fun to try and decide who would focus on what, and it was even more fun to see those plans get completely screwed by our actions and the random events.
The Yawhg is fun, interesting, haunting and beautiful. After a while you start to notice certain things that seem pop up in nearly every play through (if you go to the slums, expect to be jumped by a vampire), but it still manages to keep you invested.
For this, it gets an 8/10.