We all know already that a new Paper Mario games has been announced for this summer, but so far Nintendo has yet to prove themselves that they learned from the missteps they took with previous games in the series. In comes developer Moonsprout Games to bring us a Paper RPG experience that is well worth your time and money!
In the heart of nature is a small prosperous continent called Bugaria. Insects from all over the world travel there in search of treasures, including the famous “Everlasting Sapling” (the young immortal tree, literally) which, it is said, would provide immortality to individuals eating one of its leaves.
If the basic scenario seems relatively banal (with the exception of the insectoid context of the title), then do not worry, it will still expand over the hours and will really make you get attached to the different protagonists while making you want to discover more of their adventures.
Something that immediately catched our eye was the the depth in which the world was created. All over the place you will find monuments and books depicting the world further as you evolve through the story. This is a real plus in terms of immersion and it accentuates the “adventurer” aspect of the game.
On the gameplay side, the game is presented as a turn-based RPG. However, the clashes are rather original thanks to a whole set of well thought out mechanics. During your turn, you can spy on the enemy to gather information on the most effective way to fight them. This mechanism alone is particularly interesting since once an enemy type has been analyzed, all subsequent opponents of the same type will have their hit points displayed, which can define the rest of your strategy. But it is especially interesting because Bug Fables confronts us with situations that require a minimum of organization and reflection, since practically each species of enemy presents its specificities, forcing us to adapt constantly.
Our hero trio also has their own skills. Kabbu can cause an enemy protected by armor to come out of its shell, while Leif will be able to force an underground enemy to emerge from the ground. Finally, Vi is the only one who can easily reach flying enemies to bring them back down to the ground. The synergy of the group therefore works very well and the different capacities that each character will learn over the course of the game will regularly enrich the experience.
However, using skills and spying are not the only mechanics of the game. You can change the order of characters on the screen at any time (during your turn), which has an impact on the damage caused as well. only on the chances of being targeted by the opponent. In the same way, it is possible to offer the turn of a character to another if this one is necessary in your strategy. Be careful however, because making the same protagonist act twice during the same turn will have the effect of tiring him out, diminishing his characteristics momentarily.
Finally, each action in the game is original and makes sure not to leave you inactive. Indeed, any attack or skill you launch will require you to do various things. Maintain a directional key and release it at the right time, press in the right order and within a given time on the right keys, shake the stick from left to right, etc.
Everything is done to keep you constantly attentive, since missing these sequences will make your attacks much less effective, even totally useless. Same observation on the defense side since you can ward off enemy attacks by pressing a button at the right time. A normal parry will decrease the damage while a perfect blockage will reduce it to zero.
Despite all these possibilities, do not expect a walk through the park. Without being extremely hard, Bug Fables has a fairly old-school side in its difficulty and you will have to be careful during your progress so as not to die stupidly. A hard difficulty mode is also there for the bravest of you. The RPG aspect is successful thanks to a well thought out level up system which leaves no one behind, a lot of skills to learn and an interesting equipment manager.
A few minor faults are added to all these great qualities, stylized but not very ergonomic and a certain repetitiveness in the actions to be performed, but apart from that, the game does a very well job.
Level design is not to be outdone in this decidedly qualitative title. Each place forces you to change characters regularly checked in order to take advantage of its special abilities to progress. Indeed, the specifics of each of your 3 insects are used both in combat and outside. Thus, Vi will be able to actuate mechanisms remotely thanks to its boomerang while Leif will freeze the drops of water to create platforms. Other possibilities are unlocked as you go along and ensure a good renewal of puzzles and riddles, which will also require you to be attentive and keep your little gray cells working.
Without letting you roam freely, the game often let’s you figure things out yourself, which contributes to the impression of really being part of an expedition of adventurers. It is rather well punctuated (paradoxically with the pace of movement) by a whole bunch of pleasant and sometimes unexpected quests in various environments. Your wanderings will be accompanied by music of very good quality (and really numerous) and dialogues often embellished with a good dose of humor.
As for the gameplay, there sometimes are little tidbits of annoyances, in particular in the switch of characters which is done only in one direction, which poses a problem since we control 3 characters, forcing to make a complete turn to return to the first from the list. We also note some visibility concerns during the exploration, the fault of a fixed height camera which sometimes hides certain elements of the environment or even outright enemies who can then attack us by surprise.
In terms of content, the game is quite incredible. Offering approximately 25-30 hours to complete the adventure in a straight line while completing all the side quests and optional challenges will increase the counter to approximately 50 hours. The side quests are for the most part actually scripted with many small additional scenes. Pleasure.
Note that this figure is still to be put in perspective a little bit, because we will have to deal with a frankly slow rhythm during the trips, the only problem that really bothered us during the experience, but this is far from enough to spoil everything.
Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling, is the Indie RPG any Paper Mario fan should play!