Kitaria Fables (PC) Review

Kitaria Fables launches into an oversaturated genre. Does it do enough with its world, characters, and gameplay loop to stand out?
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Kitaria Fables is an isometric action-adventure, with strong farming and crafting components, developed by Twin Hearts and published by PQube Limited. It has an intriguing setting and brisk pacing – thanks to several streamlined mechanics – but it still relies on a formulaic and often tedious gameplay loop that has dominated the genre for a decade or more.

Kitaria Fables places you in the anthropomorphic boots of Nyanza von Whiskers, an Empire soldier sent to Paw Village to defend it from increasingly aggressive creatures. The monsters, who normally coexist with the people of Kitaria, previously turned on them during an event known as the “Calamity”. Magic users emerged to save the world, but the practice was subsequently banned by the Empire once peace was restored. Naturally, Nyanza’s grandfather – a former resident of the village – has a link to this time.

characters
Dialogue is simple and characters stick to their basic archetypes. There are several eye-rolling animal puns thrown in for good measure.

That link forms the basis for current events, which sees Nyanza discovering their affinity for magic before heading off on a quest to reclaim magical artifacts that could prevent another calamity. However, this path may also lead to conflict with the Empire they serve. The narrative – although dragged out by multi-part quests that revolve around gaining access to parts of the world map – was an unexpected hook, as both the threat of a new calamity or oppression by the Empire feel more unsettling given the cute, anthropomorphic characters.

As is common in the genre, you’ll frequently ignore the looming threat to spend time assisting the locals with basic chores and proving your skills to them (always a good excuse to teach gameplay mechanics). These quests, simple in structure, flesh out several characters – important and secondary – but they inevitably fall in basic archetypes, with anxieties and problems you’ve seen and resolved before. Sure, the story functions as a fantastical fable of sorts, so this simplicity is not unexpected. However, it leaves all the NPCs in the game feeling artificial and their motivations paper-thin.

the-world
The world is visually diverse and looks huge, but ultimately consists of small surface zones and a few multi-level dungeons.

On the gameplay front, Kitaria Fables places a greater focus on real-time action and streamlines farming and crafting. Nonetheless, it still falls back on a well-trod formula, and I soon felt myself slipping into familiar routines. The combat remains the highlight, though it offers nothing you haven’t seen before in other isometric brawlers. Kitaria Fables plays like an ARPG, with several skills slots to assign, an active dodge, stamina management, and telegraphed attacks to avoid – a gamepad is recommended.

It’s fast, fluid, and easy to master, but it takes too damn long to kill basic enemies from the get-go, even those at your level. Tougher enemies function as level-gating, often capable of one-shotting you early on, and take even longer to slay. On the upside, death simply sends you back to your inherited farm and progresses a day, but it serves as a constant reminder you need to get back to resource gathering and crafting better gear.

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Combat difficulty ramps up swiftly if you don’t periodically upgrade your gear. The game always highlights attack zones, so you can avoid most damage if you master the dodge, and mixed groups of enemies present the greatest threat.

And gather and craft you will, if you want to make consistent progress. In theory, Kitaria Fables doesn’t force you into farming unless you’re tackling the many side quests, but you’ll need natural resources to upgrade your gear (and farming tools if you’re planning on doing anything efficiently). This is reinforced by the fact time progresses swiftly, which is important to a few quests, access to storekeepers, and maintaining healthy crops (at least Kitaria Fables never forces you to go to bed).

Resource gathering is a bit odd, seeing as the natural resources – think wood, stone, and ore – are either harvested from specific areas (and replenish slowly) or are dropped by monsters. Regardless of their source, this means grinding combat for item drops or passing time waiting on resources to replenish. Given that numerous primary quests revolve around construction or repairs, and you need to upgrade your gear to progress, this grind soon dominates the experience.

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Upgrades follow a basic tier system that always uses the lower-tier item as a base. It’s streamlined and ensures you don’t accidentally drop or sell an important item.

Kitaria Fables does deserve credit for streamlining the crafting and upgrade systems, and even provides a “for sale” box to dump unwanted items right outside your farmhouse. Basic items – think swords, bows, and tools – are combined with resources to craft higher-tier variants sequentially; ores can be used to create copper, silver, or gold keys to unlock chests with clothing and armour; food recipes work upwards from basic vegetable combinations; elemental spheres are combined to unlock new magic spells. Additionally, you can simply sell crops (and any other unwanted item) for “paw pennies” and buy several items instead of crafting them.

At this point, I might be preaching to the choir. I sunk far too many hours into Stardew Valley when it was first released, and sunk several dozen more into My Time at Portia before the underlying gameplay loop grew stale and I started being more selective about the experience I was after. Kitaria Fables makes several positive tweaks to the formula but still seems content to waste your time. Examples of this include a limited fast-travel system (with some one-way teleports) and having to grind to your upgrade farming tools if you want them to affect more than a single block per action.

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Unfortunately, Kitaria Fables is all too happy to introduce mechanics and immediately make you avoid it until you’ve upgraded your tools. Managing a large farm with a basic watering can – that you have to frequently fill from a well – is mind-numbingly tedious.

I’ve not touched too much on the presentation because it’s competent, cute, runs well on older systems, but it is otherwise unremarkable. The ambient audio and music add atmosphere to each location, while the combat sounds are reasonably impactful (especially once you start flinging increasingly powerful spells). However, the cartoonish art style and user interface ultimately feel generic.

All that said, if you’re still a die-hard fan of the genre, enjoy chilling out for a few hours to grind for resources and nurture crops, then tackle a short dungeon to progress the story, you might find Kitaria Fables a good time.  Personally, I feel it fails to stand out enough in the indie space where the genre is only slightly less common than “Souls-like Metroidvania”. It took only a few hours before the world and the characters within it faded into the background and become nothing more than window-dressing to an underlying system of resource gathering and beneficiation.

A review code for Kitaria Fables was provided to Gameblur by the publisher.

Kitaria Fables (PC) Review

Kitaria Fables (PC) Review
6 10 0 1
Die-hard fans of the genre might enjoy chilling out for a few hours to grind for resources and nurture crops before tackling a short dungeon. A new setting, focus on combat, and streamlined mechanics certainly help. However, Kitaria Fables ultimately fails to stand out enough in an oversaturated genre. It took just a few hours before the world and the characters within it faded into the background, becoming nothing more than window-dressing to an underlying system of resource gathering and beneficiation.
Die-hard fans of the genre might enjoy chilling out for a few hours to grind for resources and nurture crops before tackling a short dungeon. A new setting, focus on combat, and streamlined mechanics certainly help. However, Kitaria Fables ultimately fails to stand out enough in an oversaturated genre. It took just a few hours before the world and the characters within it faded into the background, becoming nothing more than window-dressing to an underlying system of resource gathering and beneficiation.
6/10
Total Score
  • Story
    7/10 Good
    The intriguing world and premise, and the protagonist's link to the past, made for a more compelling story than most games in the genre.
  • Gameplay
    6/10 Normal
    Slay enemies and till the soil, grind for resources, upgrade, then repeat. The basic gameplay loop has some streamlined elements but ultimately falls back on an overly familiar formula.
  • Visuals
    6/10 Normal
    Cute, clean, and capable of running on a potato. However, it fails to stand out.
  • Audio
    6/10 Normal
    The music and ambience are enjoyable enough, as is the sound of several spells crashing into enemies, but it too feels as generic as the visual style.

The Good

  • An intriguing world and premise
  • Streamlined crafting and upgrade system
  • Fast, fluid, real-time combat

The Bad

  • Relies on the same resource-grinding/crafting gameplay loop as other games in the genre
  • Generic visuals and audio
Total
8
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