If Redwall and Mouse Guard have taught me anything, it's that being a mouse in a fantasy world isn't exactly easy. They've been in the bottom of the food chain before, but with bipedal critters of all sizes roaming around, things have gotten a lot harder. And in SeithCG's Ghost of a Tale, things aren't any different. In this Early Access stealth game, you play as Tilo, a minstrel mouse locked up in the impenetrable fortress of Dwindling Heights Keep, run by the ruthless rat king. A mysterious stranger has let Tilo free, and now it's up to you to guide him on his quest to escape and reunite with his wife, Merra.
The first thing I noticed about Ghost of a Tale was just how damn good it looks. Every single character I've encountered is wonderfully modeled and animated, from the rodent soldiers to the peg-legged pirate frog. The environments also look quite nice, with living spaces appropriately cluttered with all sorts of books, tools, and cups. During my playtime, I only encountered a few minor graphical glitches, which is practically unheard of in the realm of Early Access.
Like any fantasy game worth its salt, Ghost of a Tale features a fascinating world filled with pirates, kings, and a primal evil from ages past. Perhaps the best part of the lore is the fact that during discussions you can open a pop-up menu explaining certain terms and events being mentioned, which is a lot easier and more intuitive than slogging through volumes upon volumes of exposition explaining the world a la The Elder Scrolls.
Character interactions are relatively simple menus, but I was surprised by just how many paths the game can send you down based on dialogue alone. Entire quests can open and close depending on how you play your cards, and you can even take advantage of your minstrel abilities to play a variety of songs when the situation calls for it. On top of that, you can collect a multitude of disguises which can open up entirely new dialogue paths. While the dialogue is mostly serious, there are quite a few instances where it dives into some surprisingly natural comedy that left me with a big, dumb smile on my face.
While Tilo may be brave, he certainly isn't strong, and thus you'll have to spend your adventure either fleeing or hiding from the king's guards. Thankfully, Tilo is quite the nimble one, and you have plenty of movement options if you do get caught. However, part of me thinks escape can be a bit too easy at times, and I didn't find any challenge until I was confronted with the spiders in the sewers. This wasn't helped by the fact that I encountered to occasions of the guard's AI just completely breaking, but this was only in the game's starting jail area.
While the stealth may be on the weaker side, it's exploration where the game truly shines. Most of Ghost of a Tale's quests will have you scouring every nook and cranny of the keep to get the needed item. While I'm usually not one for fetch quests, it was always a joy to find new hidden locations around the keep thanks to the superb level design coupled with the aforementioned masterful presentation.
Perhaps the greatest achievement the game has going for it is that while playing Ghost of a Tale, I honestly had to keep reminding myself what this was Early Access. It's only '90% done' mechanics wise and only has '25-30%' of the full content available, it plays like a charm. And while the AI and stealth may need a little touching up around the edges, it already feels more polished than most full priced AAA titles. And if that's not worth commending, then I don't know what is.
Ghost of a Tale was previewed in Early Access on Steam with a copy provided by the developer.