To say I'm excited about the full release of Tchia would be an understatement. Ever since we got to see a preview build of the game back in August, it has been seated firmly at the top of my list of most anticipated games coming out in 2023. Its tropical locale, and the many options it presented for exploring and interacting with the wider world, had me giddy to get my hands on a playable build and run wild within its setting.
We've still got a little ways to go before the game releases in earnest, but the game's developer Awaceb was kind enough to let us play a hands-on preview build of the game in the meantime. Now, having gotten my hands on the game for a handful of hours, I can safely say that my excitement was well-placed.
As with the hands-off demo presented last year, we were dropped into a section of the game where we needed to assist some of the island's inhabitants and complete some tasks to progress the main plot. Items needed to create an offering needed to be gathered, and a young girl about the same age as the game's titular protagonist was the person to go to for said items. To that end, Tchia must track her down and otherwise spend some time with her before she would hand over the necessary materials.
While this may sound like your typical in-game task, it was far less restrictive than it sounds. Instead of railroading the player into completing this task, it was largely left as something to be completed whenever one feels like it. The game's world was open to being explored however much or little I wished to, and I had all the tools I needed to do so with ease.
To that end, I used everything in my arsenal to go from one end of the island to the other. I launched myself using the swinging momentum of trees, swam in the sea, glided down from mountaintops overlooking tropical vistas, and otherwise sought out possible ways to explore the island.
I also used the game's Soul Jumping mechanic, which is just as much fun to use as it is to watch. Taking control of different objects and animals is a blast, and everything offers a new set of movement or traversal mechanics to make use of. Jumping into a deer allows for swift movement across land and speedy scaling of mountainous inclines. Gliding through the air as a bird makes for an excellent means of bypassing terrain while taking over a shark grants one a speedy and deadly form for crossing large bodies of water quickly.
Soul Jumping into objects, meanwhile, served as more of a means of circumventing obstacles. While rolling around as a rock or lantern won't get you anywhere fast, it can allow you to move under obstacles and get into the range of a new Soul Jumping target, which you can then hop into so long as you have enough Soul charge.
Making things all the better was the fact that all of these different traversal mechanics felt great to use. The game has a weightiness to its movement and a stamina mechanic which does force one to consider how and when to use certain mechanics, but not in a way that hinders the gameplay. If anything, it encourages using everything available and ensures one knows exactly how to use different options for travel at any given time.
There's also the wealth of physics-based gameplay to make note of. In addition to all of the traversal mechanics, players can utilize the fact that a large portion of the world is reactive to Tchia and what she does. Rocks can be thrown or tumble down a mountainside, while stacked objects or lanterns lying around villages and camps can be used to reach new heights or reshape the surrounding landscape respectively.
These interactive elements come into play most readily when facing off against the game's Fabric Soldiers. Minions of the game's antagonist, they can only be defeated be setting them on fire, which can be tricky due to how quick and nimble they are. Fortunately, the game's physics and movement options provide one with plenty of options for nailing them down. In one instance, I lured a Fabric Soldier into a more narrow area before lobbing a lantern at it. In another, I maneuvered around several Soldiers by Soul Jumping into a lantern before returning to normal and lobbing it at them from a safe distance.
It felt like a perfect test of what I'd been practicing while traveling around the map, and served to hammer in just how much could be done using the game's mechanics.
Of course, this would all be for naught if Tchia didn't have a fun and engaging story. Fortunately, this aspect of the title seems well-polished and refreshingly minimal. As opposed to lengthy dialogue exchanges, the story is told through more brief and intimate moments between Tchia and the island's inhabitants. A party enjoyed with the residents of a village, and a moment spent bonding with the young girl who has the items needed for an offering, move the story along in a way that is charmingly light on exposition and heavy with emotion.
Rounding out the experience is the game's visual and audio presentation. Aesthetically, the game pops with a design and color palette which perfectly sells the tropical setting. The sea glows with purple and crimson hues as the sun sets on the island locale, while the character models ride the line between moving realistically and looking like they were pulled straight from a picture book. All of this remains true even when the game is in motion, which is saying something considering how smoothly the game can run even with so much of the world visible on screen.
In terms of audio, the game makes just as good of an impression. The sounds of animals in the distance, and the rustling of trees and grass by the wind, accompany the musical medleys that play during general exploration wonderfully. The segments focused on Tchia playing her ukulele or characters singing, meanwhile, are excellently handled and lend scenes even more emotion than they already had.
It's hard to properly convey how good Tchia already looks and feels. Between its variety of ways to interact with the environment, the excellent approach to story, and the beautiful presentation via both its visuals and sound, it already feels like a fully-realized adventure well on par with other notable open-world experiences. Open-world fans won't want to miss out on it, and I'll be counting the days until I can dive into the full experience.
TechRaptor previewed Tchia on PC via the Epic Games Store using a code provided by the publisher.