We’re back. The story of our absence will be told another time. For now, here is our experience with the delightful yet intense story driven turn based RPG, “Small Saga”.
In the mountainous piles of games on itch.io, it’s difficult to find quality and simplicity. Luckily, we didn’t search far before our filters returned “Small Saga”. “A turn-based RPG set in a medieval rodent society beneath the streets of modern London” as the press page states on their website. It continues to describe how the protagonist rodent, “a particularly angry mouse armed with a pen knife”, is hunting the human who stole his tail. Along the way he, “Verm”, befriends other rodents with specialized medieval professions like, a mole wizard, a squirrel harlequin and a lab rat lancer. They team up to face off against the humans, “gods”.
Solely created (development, art and music) by London-based developer Jeremy Noghani who began work on Small Saga in early 2018. The game was successfully funded via Kickstarter in July of 2019.
Strategic turn-based gameplay with an energy system that emboldens players to think about the timing of each move
Hard mode enhances boss patterns
Straight to the point, no grinding, just play and fight bosses
The quick highlights
Excellent conversational narratives
Pick up and play
RPG elements are digestible
Gameflow is pleasant and simple
Sleek transition between normal and battle gameplay
The length and pacing was well orchestrated
Well placed music for action and regular gameplay
The protagonist, Verm, and his brother Lance have true to life conversations throughout the demo. Meaning for being set in a medieval era, the dialogue is more modern than classical. I believe this positively affects the lightweightedness of the IP overall. There are harrowing and humbling moments in the narrative where each expresses fear and courage. A few times, you’re asked to choose a dialogue option which can make you question your own feelings at the time, courageous or fearful. This back and forth brings you closer to the duo. Being a brother of a brother myself I personally connected with this story, being able to go on adventures with my brother was always fun back in the day.
The game controls are dead simple. Using only the arrow keys, Z, and X you’re able to enjoy the game for hours with minimal input. I’m no stranger to complex controls in games, in Small Saga controlling the action is refreshingly simple. Compound this simplicity with a minimalist amount of options yet again ties back to it’s lightweight feel that maintains a hefty amount of enjoyment
Admittedly, growing up I was a weird one that didn’t like turn based RPGs. I know, I know, wtf Jordan?! I needed more action and waiting for the enemy to hit me felt awkward. Small Saga mysteriously removed the awkwardness for me (or as I get older, I’m cool with playing slower..). The action is reasonably fast and strategizing takes little effort. This of course is just during the demo, I’m sure as you progress complexity will show its beautiful face. During the demo you’re given a taste of building up each character. You can increase their skills as you progress.
Additionally, equipping items is super easy as well. It’s a quick menu with a couple of buttons and you’re back in the thick of it. With only a handful of slots, you’ll have to be picky about what you keep. It’s unknown at this time if those slots are expandable, fingers crossed.
From the beginning overview of the city to the correctly scaled supermarket, the gamer’s purview is properly shrunken to the point of view of a typical sewer mouse. The gamer never leaves this embodiment which generates a naturally occurring immersion. Immersion, it’s quite the buzzword. It’s merit surfaces when considering games like Small Saga. Even the name alludes it’s relative scale yet powerful story.
The transitions from exploration play to battle scenes was a glorious shift in pixelation, music and character point of view. Glorious because of how well it transported the gamer from exploration to a heightened intensity with a refreshing cadence. In just a few seconds the point of view is zoomed in and the music intensifies.
We started the demo with no information. In the first minute your character steps out from a sewer wall. You traverse more of the sewer until you find obstacles and your first fight. A lot of games would’ve stopped after the first hefty boss fight. The developer expertly allowed us to continue into the supermarket and face off with one of the “gods”. It was just enough story to corral our attention and good enough for us to write this piece.
The musical score sets the tone properly for what the player and character on the screen are experiencing. There’s splashes of light classical and waves of upbeat rock n roll tunes during battle scenes. The music and sounds eb and flow well not too harsh or flat, always transitioning smoothly.
If you’re clever enough to find it, the demo has at least 1 secret place to reach. If there’s more, we didn’t find them all (let us know if you find more). The place we encountered had a treasure chest with some food inside which we used during the subsequent boss fight (hint). The whimsical nature of secret or hidden places always brings a smile to our face.
The whimsical nature of Small Saga is intoxicating. A novel approach to story telling is a clear expert level skill set of developer Jeremy Noghani. Our experience with Small Saga left us wanting more, a ton more. In viewing the trailer, there sure is a large game hidden in this title. We can’t wait until launch and will probably play the demo again soon.
To learn more about the game and see the trailer, check out their website: https://smallsaga.com/
The browser based demo is available on itch.io: https://sketchylogic.itch.io/small-saga