PEGBRJE: Warden: Melody of the Undergrowth and Tales Across Time

Y’know, I think the helmet doesn’t fit. Just a hunch.

Warden: Melody of the Undergrowth is an action-adventure made by Cardboard Keep, making this the fourth and final title of their catalogue to be featured in the bundle — so I just wanted to shout out to them and say thank you for their works. For their final title, players enter an N64 inspired world to follow Tavian, a small boy and son of the Emperor of ‘Totally Not Rome’, as he is washed away from his father and must find his way back. At least, that’s what he’s hoping for; instead, he is tasked with becoming the Warden and finds himself befriending two others as they attempt to discover what exactly their fates are.

Upon entering the colourful world, players will adventure through the lands on their quests to become a Warden and possibly be reunited with the young prince’s father. As I’ve mentioned before, the N64 era of games is one I’m not as familiar with, having only played a mild handful of titles — thankfully Warden is in the genre of one of those titles, Ocarina of Time. Just like The Legend of Zelda, players will adventure through relatively open landscapes, discover pathways unable to be traversed until certain items/abilities are acquired, fight and dodge enemies with a variety of weaponry, collect a currency found everywhere used for everything and solve simple 3D puzzles spanning multiple styles and types. What helps Warden succeed in this regard is thanks to the fact that it has been released in the 2010s, where many of the issues plaguing the older titles can be fixed and new limitations can be breached. Combat greatly appreciates the introduction of the second joystick, for players can now control their viewport much more easily without always snapping it to behind the protagonist, especially when fighting multiple enemies at once with projectiles.

Another limitation able to be explored is narratively, for the plot has many nonlinear moments in which players can influence its direction, especially since players aren’t just the prince; they play as all three of the protagonists. Once they’ve been met, players can switch between Tavian, the young Medeira and the volatile Bitt who each have their own agenda and story they wish to complete while still attempting to uphold their status as Wardens. I say this is more of a narrative-driven choice, for their abilities act similar to new tools or abilities acquired to access new or previously blocked areas. By making them individuals instead of just tools/abilities, they can each have their own input on situations and explain their viewpoints rather than just existing as a means to an end. Due to this the transformation sequence to the other ‘being’ is a tad slow; I know that it is supposed to be to show off the flair of transformation, but it’s still noticeable.

There’s a lot to comb through within Warden: Melody of the Undergrowth due to the nature of a large 3D adventure, keeping with many of the traditions and gameplay elements from the past as an homage to their style. From inventory limitations to the Dpad and weapon degradation, to the motes that are littering the world and act as the currency for everything making much of the game feel like a collectathon. There’s all the little things as well between how characters lock on to enemies, the general aesthetic of the world and even the cute noises that play when interacting with items or talking with others. For those of you that loved these styles of games back on the N64 from Ocarina of Time to Banjo-Kazooie, you will absolutely adore this title’s dedication to its inspirations. Others might be curious to try it out and see for themselves, such as myself, but it might be a bit more ‘hit or miss’ for the same reasons that those previously mention adore those titles. Ultimately, you’ll have to try it out and see for yourself.

Wait, wasn’t I just here in a desert…?

Tales Across Time is a narrative RPG-esque adventure made by Critical Games, the indie studio name for Joshua Hallaran of Australia. Within this tale, players will witness three separate stories partaking across generations, yet all share the same setting as the world moves on during the moments between their stories.

In a departure from traditional mechanics, Tales Across Time is a turn-based RPG that removes many of the staples that have been synonymous with the genre for years. There is no grinding, nor are there levels to grind for; the power level of each protagonist is directly where it needs to be at any given time of the game and is only increased when the game needs it to be. HP and AP can be increased thanks to crystals found in chests, but other than that there are no stats to manipulate at all. Combat is relatively similar, with players having AP generated by utilizing standard attacks which can then be used to power their skill moves. These skills vary heavily depending on the character played, allowing for defensive and offensive options. The defensive options outside of skills are split between 1AP for Defend (mitigations) and 5AP to Heal (50% of health) so there are a lot of options for players to maneuver through fights, especially since each fight is so much more tailored to the linear experience.

It’s that linear experience that changes how the game feels, for it feels more like a tailored story experience than a full on ‘RPG’ of sorts. Each story follows a specific individual — who may or may not have party members — as they explore the world and accept the scenario they’ve been put in. Take the first story for example, to which a hired hand is leading a lord and his troupe to an ancient ruins. There’s nowhere else to go but the locations necessary to further the plot, every fight happens at specific locations, but because of this the player cannot miss the story that is being put on display. It sets up the second tale to expand on the connection between the two while also expanding the plot’s ability to be told because that’s what it wants to do; tell a story.

It’s definitely a different approach that Tales Across Time is going for, and I must say it was a pleasant surprise. The fights especially felt very tense — even with the healing after each fight — as I knew that they were made to be challenging in their specific way. It uses the JRPG format as more of a vehicle to tell a story rather than putting a story in to an RPG, if that makes sense. It’s perfect for anyone that enjoys the combat of RPGs but would rather focus on the story and the characters rather than the stats. To you that were looking for more RPG-heavy playstyles, this might not be exactly what you were expecting, but it’s definitely still worth checking out. Good luck, and good hunting.




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