Over the course of almost a decade playing video games, only two have ever reduced me to tears. The first was Dark Souls 2 when my third attempt to try and navigate the infamous Black Gulch after nights of disrupted sleep proved a little too much for my over-tired self to handle, and the second, much more recent instance, was whilst tackling Kitaria Fables for the purpose of this review.
On the surface, Kitaria Fables looks entirely harmless - it’s a cutesy casual action RPG with a unique farming sim twist. The original intention seems to have been to create something of a hybrid between The Legend of Zelda and Harvest Moon, which is an undeniably appealing prospect. Unfortunately, despite very positive first impressions, underneath the surface is a veritable Pandora’s Box of unfathomably frustrating, often bizarre, design decisions that drag the entire experience down and, ultimately, managed to push me to breaking point.
Fresh Farming, Rubbish Roleplaying
Before I dive into the plethora of things that Kitaria Fables does wrong, it’s important to understand that the game still manages to do quite a few things very well. The graphics, for example, are great with a cartoon aesthetic that is consistently pleasant to look at. The 2D art for items and character dialogue is similarly excellent, with a bright color palette and eye-catching designs that are immediately likable. What little story there is, a basic tale involving a conflict between light and darkness in a fantasy setting is entirely coherent and, although not particularly exciting on the whole, still packs one or two twists that had me genuinely interested at times.
The farming mechanics, which involve players buying seeds from merchants to grow crops to sell, are well implemented and make use of the otherwise fairly redundant day-night cycle and calendar system. There’s a nice rhythm to waking up, planting seeds, watering, and eventually harvesting a variety of fruits and vegetables. Although it’s incredibly time-consuming, I found the farming to be surprisingly relaxing and far and away the most enjoyable part of Kitaria Fables. Therefore I was very disappointed to see that these mechanics are criminally underutilized, being entirely optional with the rare exception of side quests that involve harvesting goods.
Through the main story questline, the player is very strongly pushed towards the action-RPG side of the game - which is unfortunately where everything falls apart. My first impressions of the combat systems were good, with a satisfying dodge-roll and an almost MMO-like range of powerful spells and abilities to play around with, but as the story progresses the enemy's difficulty very quickly becomes insurmountably high. I soon found that battles began to stretch on for minutes of just spamming left-click at a time and, considering that almost every quest in the game involves killing something to collect items, this is a massive problem.
You can overcome the scaled-up difficulty by upgrading your gear but the upgrade process, which involves painstakingly collecting huge quantities of materials from dead enemies, is hampered by the same balance issues and, as a result, the sheer time it takes to actually get your gear upgraded far outweighs the time it would take just to grind through the difficult sections.
Sadly, repetition is a problem through Kitaria Fables' roughly 12-hour plotline. Throughout the game, there are effectively two types of quests: delivery quests, where you talk to a character and then walk to the other side of the map to deliver an item, and collection quests, where you kill enemies in specific areas to gain a certain number of items. The delivery quests are ruined by the almost comically slow walking speed, which makes navigating the world an absolutely torturous affair, and collection quests are horribly overused.
Early on in my playthrough I burst out laughing at the point a character, like some kind of on-the-nose parody of terrible RPG design, gave me the fourth overly long fetch-quest in a row. This amusement turned to dread as I began to realize that this pattern was to be repeated throughout the entire game.
The Icing on the Cake
I would have been able to overlook a lot of these faults were it not for the game’s map screen, which is by far the single worst part of Kitaria Fables and the aspect that transforms an otherwise mediocre game into an unmitigated misery to play.
For starters, the map is incredibly zoomed out and, at best, gives you a basic gist of which direction to head in to reach your objective. If your objective is inside a town or fortress, you’re out of luck and the map will give you zero guidance on where to find it. Matters are made worse when you factor in the fact that the vast majority of areas have multiple exits, all of which are miles apart and lead in completely different directions. The directions of each area on the map screen seem to have little correlation to the direction each exit actually leads to and there is no indication of which locations are connected to each other.
This means that it is far too easy to get lost and the repetitive music background loops combined with the aforementioned slow walking speed make backtracking a hellish ordeal. In fact, it was the ordeal of spending almost an hour backtracking between identical fields to try and find the path to a seemingly inaccessible portion of the map that drove me over the edge and into tears. It was accessible, it turned out, through taking a winding path of exits that bears almost no correlation to what was shown on the map but the act of getting from one area to another should never be this hard. There is a fast travel system, I suppose implemented in an attempt to mitigate this, but it only extends to certain predetermined points and is therefore mostly useless.
Similarly, the save system seems designed to annoy. There is literally no reason why the player should have to walk for minutes at a time to reach the pre-determined manual save points to save their progress. Even more frustrating was the fact that a persistent bug arose throughout my playthrough that caused my controls to freeze up at random points, with the lack of an autosave making me lose large chunks of progress every time I was forced to restart the program.
Kitaria Fables Review - Dragged to Rock Bottom
Beneath its slightly janky exterior, Kitaria Fables is a decent farming life sim that is unfortunately held back by its lackluster RPG trappings. Even the surprisingly good combat and cute character art cannot overcome the painfully uninspired quest design and brutally repetitive soundtrack - especially when it's all dragged down by the single worst map screen I’ve ever seen in a modern game.
TechRaptor reviewed Kitaria Fables on PC using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.
- Solid Farming Mechanics
- Good Character Art
- Words can Hardly Describe How Bad the Map Is
- Uninspired Quest Design
- Repetitive Music