Sir Paddy Investigates: Ghost of a Tale - HighrezGaming

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Sir Paddy Investigates: Ghost of a Tale 24th of September 2016

Charming. Charming, charming, charming, charming, charming. CHARMING! CHAAAAAARMIIIIIING!!!

Sometimes before I put hands to keyboard I read what other people write about something to see if there’s anything blindingly obvious I missed (it’s a core advantage of being a primarily lazy person that you can cheat by writing your news AFTER everyone else). The one thing that keeps coming up is a disdain for the word charming, maybe it is a bit overused, but what other bloody word do you have for a game where you play a frightened mouse in a Redwall-esque, Mouse Guard-esque world with genuinely likeable characters and genuinely funny dialogue?

Ghost of a Tale; It’s wonderfully charming in most ways and I think that these areas more than make up for the aspects where it’s not quite perfect. In fact, when I told James that I wanted to write a bit on it he said he was less than impressed with it, I very nearly shat my entire self in rage!
Ghost of a Tale is a game where you play a tiny mouse named Tilo in a world of bigger rats who aren’t very nice to you, on a quest to find your missus after you upset an important rat. It’s primarily a stealth game, having dropped the direct combat of it’s initial alpha trailers for a feeling that Tilo is more small and frightened, less of a warrior and more of the quick-witted minstrel that the Lute on his back suggests, all of this is beautifully represented through the Game’s excellent animation. In fact, it’s exceedingly obvious that its main developer and artist (Lionel ‘Seith’ Gallat) is a veteran of both 2D and 3D animation, despite this being his first game, the visual design, and especially the animations, look thoroughly fantastical throughout.

However, Ghost of a Tale isn’t without its flaws so far, but it is in early access, and there seems to be a good deal of dedication to listening to suggestions, so hopefully some of these niggles get fixed. Personally, all I really have to complain about is that there’s a lot of backtracking, even if you don’t get lost/stuck for a while like I did, you’ll find yourself returning to the same areas, sometimes even to speak to the same characters after having to go to the opposite end of the map to hand in the previous quest that sent you that way.
On top of this, the repeatedly stealthing past the same enemies on the same patrol routes can be a bit tedious. There’s a later point where you can disguise yourself as an enemy and just walk through undetected….at the cost of a HEAVY movement speed penalty, which doesn’t help with the tedium. Mercifully there are some Dark Souls-like shortcuts you can open up to get from A to B and back more quickly while avoiding guards, but you do have to find them, and some are less obvious than others. I can’t say I got utterly fed up of backtracking around the same enemies, but this is only the first chunk of the game, if it becomes a running theme throughout, then it might be a bit crap.
As for the stealth mechanics themselves, they’re less than perfect. It seems all too easy to get caught sometimes, luckily it’s all too easy to then evade foes - Tilo can hide in cupboards, barrels, under tables and a variety of other places, entering a hiding spot while out of line of sight will cause your foes to lose you, and interestingly, when you are hidden, you’ll find that that is the only time you can manually save your game. It feels like this needs just a touch more refinement, maybe just some modifying of the numbers on how quickly you’re detected. There are visual indicators of enemies spotting you, but don’t you dare move when one is a bit lit up as it will shoot right up to full...but likewise, don’t you dare stay still because it will slowly move up to full. There isn’t really a clutch ability you have to avoid being seen once you’ve made a small mistake, all you can do is run for the nearest cupboard and hide out.

I feel like I’m complaining a lot about a game I’m genuinely a bit in love with, so the above is my sum list of grievances (besides the bugs, but again, early access). My ONE other complaint is the game’s not out yet. The early access is only 25% of the game, and I was begging for more once I finished this slice of it.

“But Paddy, why? Why are you begging for more when the core game mechanic is a bit wonky?”. I’m glad you asked.

Because it’s some of the funniest, most lovable dialogue I’ve seen in a game in a long time. The lack of voice acting only makes this feel more strongly written, more like a work of literature. Some of these characters have captured my heart. Some of them are jerks, but I laughed like an idiot even when the jerks were speaking. I’m not sure if Mr Gallat knows this meaning of the word “merkin”, but a frog called me a pubic wig at one point and it was brilliant.
I love it because everything looks amazing. I’ve said it above, but it really is a beauteous game. I’m a technical snob who won’t play Fallout 4 with less than 100 mods and I really can’t fault how Ghost of a Tale looks. It’s exceedingly polished in terms of visuals, especially for a game that’s basically “in beta”.

I need to play more because despite the flaws, there’s definitely some good gameplay here, it just needs a tune up, and some of the finest works of video games could just use a tiny bit more polish, but that dull sheen of a not quite polished masterwork still outshines the 1800-grit-sanded mirror sheen of games with half the ambition and 500 times the budget.

Finally; because it’s charming.

Should you play it now? No, wait. The flaws and bugs may put you off, and if they don’t, you’ll be desperate to continue this story. As an aside, it’s not 100% confirmed that there’s no direct combat anymore, throughout the chunk of the game that is available so far, Tilo learned a number of new abilities, so perhaps he’ll learn swordsmanship too!
Paddy Maxson
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