Tilo, a mouse, has been thrown into jail and separated from his wife. Rats are basically the “hero” species that had defeated a dark force that was killing all of the animals. Mice had attempted to make a deal with this evil by sharing the weakness of the other kingdoms. That didn’t go well and a lot of animals were slaughtered because of their selfish plan to save themselves. This has caused mice to be looked at as a traitorous species which is why Tilo is in prison in Ghost of a Tale. He’s not a strong character and actually cannot defeat the rats that he is escaping from. He must use stealth and outsmart his foes as he goes on his journey meeting new allies and discovering even worse foes.
Here’s what I liked:
Fantasy Novelesque — If you enjoy the fantasy genre, then you’re in for a real treat. Everything within the world feels straight out of an epic book you’ve read growing up. It’s as if you’re actually playing out a story you could have enjoyed reading. It’s a rather charming tale. Besides the elegance of enchantment, the way it looks on screen is quite remarkable. You might be surprised to find out that most of the game was done by just one person (Lionel Gallat). With over 15 years of Dreamworks and Universal Pictures experience, we are treated to a visually pleasant experience.
Animals Characters — There are plenty of characters to meet along the way. Even some of the rats (whom all mostly look alike) have their own personalities. Humor is not overused and is sprinkled into quests and some conversations. I really enjoyed all of my interactions with the frog pirate, who’s in a jail cell nearby when you first take control. Besides talking to them to figure out where your wife is, you’ll also be doing plenty of quests unique to each of them. The only real thing missing is voice acting, but because it’s so much like a book you’ll be making those up in your head. You can read notes and get a brief history of the ones you don’t actually meet (and some you get to dress up as). It’s actually all quite fascinating.
Questing — To reach your goal you must interact and do quests for others. There are tons of them and they almost seem to never stop. I will say that they’re not always very obvious. Many have you searching for things and they aren’t too obvious. Sometimes you must gain keys from a chest, while others you must steal right off a guard or randomly find sitting on a key hook. You really are encouraged to discover things yourself. If you want help, you can talk to the blacksmith and use your gold to have him put markers on your map for things you must collect. You can collect sets of attire that benefit you in different stats. As you complete quests you will gain experience and level up. Certain characters will enhance your skills and you’ll soon start to ease into things that once seemed very difficult. It starts off slow and almost feels overwhelming, but as you level up and get used to the environment, you’ll soon feel right at home. As home as a fortress guarded by rats can feel.
Dynamic — Sounds and atmosphere come together with life. Running through the forest or water creates a response that makes it a living world. The lighting is impressive, with shadows becoming important when walking around corners. It’s visually stunning, which makes sense with the mind behind the development. Attention to detail was precise and every detail made sense. There’s nothing much else to say, but this is a fine example of what I expect the graphics to look like on my Xbox One X.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Stealth Becomes Obsolete — Escaping the prison is your main objective when you first start playing. You have to slow your pace and be careful not to alert any guards. Once you get into the next area and finish a few missions, you’ll eventually be tasked with getting a suit of armor. This allows you to move around the world without guards noticing you. After that point, I always just had my suit on around the enemies. I was never detected and they were never an issue for me. There are other things that can kill you, but there is no stealth involved with them. I don’t hate the fact that stealth became seldom used, but there is a lot built around it that suddenly didn’t matter anymore. Choosing a suit that helps with going stealth were seldom used. I suppose the choice is ultimately up to the player. You can choose not to wear the armor, which would make your time playing a lot shorter than mine. You don’t exactly move very quickly while in the armor. The direction the game went wasn’t bad, but it was a bit of a surprise as if those mechanics were given up on too quickly.
Tedious Backtracking — With a lot of quests to complete, you’ll be scampering around every nook and cranny of the world. Once you obtain a map, you can travel a little bit easier. But not by too much. You can set a point of interest icon on the map but you are never lead to the marker. You’ll have to memorize the maze-like areas, or at least get used to being lost a lot of the time. It’s almost unbearable in some areas trying to simply get back to the courtyard. There is also no fast travel, so everywhere you go is by foot. Late in the game, you’ll find a shore and the way back to the courtyard can be a mess of an adventure, especially at night. I’ve actually been lost. Circling areas numerous times not realizing that I was. I felt like Winnie the Pooh except instead of saying “oh bother” I was muttering things I wouldn’t say in front of my own mother. Luckily there are shortcuts that are created with progress, but they can easily be forgotten about and your map doesn’t distinguish what is blocked or open. I probably could have drawn a better map myself.
A fantasy world can be anything the creator wants it to be. Many have seen high success, such as Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Star Wars. They’re made up places with a deep history spanning many years. They also usually start off as a book. Ghost of a Tale has no book to base it on but delivers the story just as well as one. Playing what feels like a deeply thought-out novel allows you to become enthralled with everything around you. You can literally spend hours upon hours playing through all the quests while trying to complete everything. I wish the stealth element could have lasted the entire time, but I’m okay with an adventure with RPG elements. The biggest gripe I had was the map and traveling system. It gave me a sense of wanting to give up because I felt too bothered to run to certain areas. It’s what may hinder people from reaching the story’s conclusion. If you do manage to stick with it, you’ll have a true appreciation of a world you’ll eventually want to know more about.
Score: Highly Recommended
Ghost of a Tale was published and developed by SeithC on Xbox One. It was released on March 12, 2019, for $24.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.