By Chris Picone, 09 August 2022
I wasn’t sure what to make of Batora when I first saw the screenshots; some make it look like one of those walking sim-style exploration games while others make it look like a top-down shooter – but it’s being sold as an RPG. In any case, it’s very pretty.
Having played Batora for a few hours now, it’s definitely an interesting hybrid, but if I was forced to label it I’d call it an ARPG. At first it feels like an adventure game; you control two girls and must navigate a post-modern wasteland, there’s no combat and every time you interact with the environment you’re launched into a gorgeous cutscene that explains a little piece of the story. But before long your character has a sort of awakening and you’re gifted a sword and some sort of mental blast weapon and suddenly you’re playing a twinstick shooter. Combat is innovative; it revolves around dynamically switching between sun and moon “polarities.” In sun mode, your sword deals physical damage while in moon mode your energy attacks deal mental damage. Interestingly, you have two health bars, one for physical and one for mental health; the damage you receive is determined by the polarity you’re in at the time. Enemies are colour-coded and take substantially more damage if you attack with the matching polarity – but sometimes trying to fight them with the weapon attached to that polarity might put you in greater danger. It works well, adding an interesting element of strategy to an otherwise traditional fast-paced twinstick combat system.
The story, although I suspect aimed at a slightly younger audience than myself, has strongly featured throughout the game and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the amount of choice & consequence so far. What also surprised me is the inclusion of puzzles as a core element, and although so far the puzzles have been easy (it’s the start of the game, after all), they’ve already featured a range of mechanics. So far I’ve seen colour switches combination puzzles, timed puzzles where you must shoot switches through moving blocks, and even a puzzle where you create a mental link that allows you to move an activator around the level, engaging with switches remotely.
The verdict? Although I think Batora might be aimed at a younger target audience, I’m really enjoying it. The combat’s dynamic, preventing it from feeling grindy, and the story’s engaging even if I find some of the dialogue mildly grating – and the choice & consequence has so far been genuinely meaningful. The hybrid gameplay makes the audience difficult to pigeon-hole but if the idea of a story-driven game with twinstick combat interests you, jump on this one.