While most people are talking about the fate of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, I think it's a good idea to switch gears and explore the idea of a whole new frontier. Hideo Kojima is no longer shackled to pumping out MGS games, where does he go now?
Secrets of Rætikon Preview – Fly Like a Bird, Sting Like a Bee
Secrets of Rætikon is a game that grew from a discussion about flying in dreams. You play as a bird… thing as you swoop around the Alps, interacting with the not-always-peaceful inhabitants and exploring the apparent remains of an ancient civilization. Honestly, I tend to be skeptical of games that try to capture some kind of feeling or atmosphere, but Rætikon really did it for me. Flying is very smooth and particularly natural with a controller, and the ability to dive down and glide through wind currents really lets you zoom across the screen. The world is built fantastically, and there’s a lot of wildlife to ‘play’ with, whether it’s reuniting lost bunny lovers or running from the cute kitty that’s trying to bat you like a hanging Christmas bauble. You constantly swap between a proud majestic bird that reigns over the smaller critters to a vulnerable animal that is harassed by the bigger ones. It’s the little things like the glaring light as you reach the top of a mountain that really add to the immersion.
Likely one of the main reasons that many people are interested in the game are the gorgeous graphics. Everything is simplistic, yet beautiful, as everything from the winding mountains to the colorful animals are made purely out of triangles. It’s pretty consistent throughout, and there’s always a new environment or animal to look at to keep your sense of wonder going until the very end.
There are some puzzles scattered around, but it’s primarily an exploration game. You collect ‘slivers’ as you fly about and interact with the environment which you can use to activate some of the old ruins, and you often have to put together statues using pieces that you find in the area – but there’s nothing particularly brainteasing to do. It spices up a little towards the end of the game as the environment turns against you, but it’s overall a little on the short side and therefore kind of ends quickly after it takes off. It’s not that big of a deal as long as you take the game as an ‘experience’ and think of the puzzles as little bonuses that add some direction to what you’re doing. The combat is in a similar vein – you can’t attack directly, but there are some ways to damage the enemies that are harassing you. It’s rarely the best option though, and you can go through the game as a pacifist quite easily.
While the game is fairly solid so far, there are a few annoyances I found throughout. Mainly, every time you find one of the magical relics, you have to run it all the way back to start where you store them. It’s not really that far to go each time, but there isn’t a mini map and there are a couple of areas where you can end up running in circles for a while before you find the way out each time, and there’s the odd tunnel that you can’t always find because it blends into the background. Not to mention that there are some annoying creatures dotted around to harass you that, while a novel experience the first time, become quite annoying on your fifth journey back whilst dragging a big rock with you.
All in all, it is in beta, so everything is subject to change. There are a couple of areas that are still empty but overall the game is quite polished. Even for a finished game the flaws are fairly insignificant, so it can only go up from there (hopefully)! If you’re interested in the game you can get access to the current beta version, of course with the final game when it’s available, for a minimum of $10 on their Indiegogo campain.