Genre: Adventure Indie RPG Early Access
Developer: Druid Gameworks Studio LLC
Publisher: Druid Gameworks Studio LLC
Release Date: Jan 24, 2017
This review was done based on beta version 0.0.17, and is hence a reflection of the game’s state at that particular time.
A game that in its current state shows a lot of promise, but technically falls flat.
Witanlore: Dreamtime is the first game from Druid Gameworks. Built in Unreal Engine 4, I have had probably one of the most abysmal experiences trying to get it to run smoothly, as compared to other games. Now, while I realise that hopefully this gets optimised more in the future, I must point out that my PC more than meets the minimum requirements listed on the Steam store page; and yet, I struggle to run it even adequately. To improve performance only slightly (the game would average 15-30 FPS tops), I had to run the game at 1024×768 resolution, and with everything dialled down to the minimum (including, unfortunately, FOV) — any higher and at a certain point the game would completely bug out, rendering it unplayable.
Basically, the story is about some uber potent weapon being forged by a bunch of people, that was sealed away and guarded by a bunch of anthropomorphic bears. That’s the short version, mind you — I had to rewatch the intro cutscene a few times to get the gist of it because it was so long that I ended up forgetting it a few minutes after. Something about it just wasn’t memorable to me.
Subtitle timing of the intro cutscene wasn’t great either; sometimes a subtitle would come in too late, sometimes it would come in too early.
Following that, you immediately go into character creation. You control one of the aforementioned anthropomorphic bears, and can design him/her however you like. There’s a decent amount of graphical options, tattoos, and all, plus you can choose a class specialisation. You are however limited to one tribe, interestingly enough; the selection arrows that are there do not work.
The commitment the game has to its lore is very strong. The story is basically told from various NPCs’ point-of-view. Your ursine character has to undergo a ritual called the Dreaming, where the Great Mother determines your fate. There’s a whole lot of words, all possibly made up, but the game really sells its lore well.
If your computer’s powerful enough to run it on maximum settings, you’ll be in for a visual treat. The attention to detail for every single visual object could potentially make this one of the prettier games in existence. The world is actually quite large, and there’s a lot to explore, good for when you desire some tranquil moments (though there are a few potential combat encounters here and there). It helps that it is paired with a similarly beautiful soundtrack, and some decent, though not overly standout, voiceovers. If, like me however, your PC apparently isn’t adequate enough, you’re going to struggle even moving an inch. I’ve even had to resort to watching old streams of this game to even progress, because the early game started off with a fetch quest…and the indicators for the items required were almost impossible to discern on the lowest quality settings.
Not to mention, sometimes after trying to equip an item or two, for some inexplicable reason I’d find myself unable to move my character; I could jump, but not move out of my position. Sometimes opening up the inventory would help, sometimes I had to save and then load the save to fix it.
Enveloped around this first fetch quest are tutorials that detail how to move and enact actions in the game – including combat. I’m not entirely sure what to make of the combat; the practice bout I had didn’t feel remotely satisfying, but odd, rather. Later on I’d fight what appeared to be a wild warthog, and that odd feeling persisted as I found that the combat required unnecessarily overly precise targeting in order to even damage it. To top that off, while the warthog would chase me around, it did not seem to actually damage me.
Unfortunately, what follows directly after that first fetch quest is another, far more tedious fetch quest, where you have to journey far from your village to reach the Seer…who then sends you off to collect even more stuff for him, one of which requires you to journey all the way back to the village. It didn’t help that my minimap was inexplicably broken to the extent that I had to repeatedly bring up the map to get myself on track. It’s at this point where I regrettably gave up on the game, after falling through a hill out of the world and discovering to my chagrin that the game does not auto-save after specific checkpoints.
As far as bug reports go, one has to wonder if the developers could perhaps have devised an easy way for the game to generate and send them log files, detailing PC specifications and what happened directly before the glitches. I definitely feel it would have made things a lot easier to track down.
- Decent soundtrack
- Decent voiceovers
- Well-crafted lore
- Huge map
- Lush and beautiful graphics – IF your computer is powerful enough!
- Early Access means the story isn’t complete yet
- Abysmal optimisation
- Glitches abound
- Long load times
- Awful subtitle timing
- Front-loaded with way too many fetch quests
K3W3L gives Witanlore: Dreamtime an Early Access Drastik Measure 6.0 out of 10 (60).
If the optimisation issues and other glitches were cleared up, I feel this game would be rated about 7.0 to 7.5 – however, in its present state the devs need to clean up these issues and optimise the game better. It’s a shame, because the past streams I watched for guidance on how to progress seem to indicate that it can run smoothly for other people — but it is really hard to recommend to the general populace as they have differing PC setups, some (like mine) of which negatively impact the game’s performance.
Thankfully, it’s only $6.99 USD on Steam during the Early Access period (though the price will double after Build 17 due to, hopefully, a lengthened main questline), but you do honestly need a beefy rig to properly enjoy it. My recommendation to the developers is to upload a free demo for people to test and make sure this game can run for them. I do plan to take a look at this game again when it’s further along in development, in the hopes that it is better optimised for me.