A Medieval Yokai Cure

HIGH Unlocking several new characters and weapons in a single run.

LOW Finding out new weapons only show up randomly.

WTF Being forced to forfeit a battle because of a glitch.

Lately it feels like every game has to feature some kind of roguelike element. This often means that the player is bound to die soon and often, but in recent years as the genre has chilled out, it also often means incremental progression — one usually gains something with each defeat and likely becomes just a bit more powerful for the next run. The Wind and Wilting Blossom has the first part down, but they don’t seem to offer the second.

TWAWB is described by developer Picklefeet Games as a “FTL-style roguelite”, which in this case means it’s a hex-based, turn-based strategy set in medieval Japan. The player will battle hordes of demons (yokai) in order to free the land and its people from the evil witch Takiyasha. Things seem historically appropriate apart from the demons, and it features plenty of colorful details about Japan and an attractive artstyle.

On the map, the player will encounter people who need help in the form of money or food, and demons who want to spill his blood. Battles generally have the objective of killing all enemies or sometimes protecting certain characters. In each turn it’s possible to both move and attack, but only once for each action — it’s not possible to move twice or attack twice in a single turn.

This seems to be fairly straightforward on its surface, but the movement is where I felt lost for the first time — while there’s a full tutorial for battles, I found no explanation for how moving around is supposed to work. After some experimentation, I figured out that the player spends food to move forward. Running out of food means spending one turn scavenging while the evil army catches up to the player. Also, it’s mandatory to stop in cities that have story developments, otherwise it will be impossible to leave the level.

It’s possible to unlock new leaders, soldiers, weapons and allies with each run, but many of these are difficult or even random to unlock, and many runs end with nothing earned at all. Also, any unlocks need to be purchased at shops or found randomly on the map.

I feel this randomness doesn’t lend itself to a turn-based strategy title, as it made me feel like too much was left to luck, instead of learning and getting better at planning battles. Other similar strategy or roguelike titles use similar structure, but most of those give the player something to improve their chances at survival on the next run. Not here.

The Wind and Wilting Blossom is hard, but it’s the kind of hard that feels unfair, rather than challenging — even at the normal level of difficulty. In one battle with only my leader left, I was forced to lose because the only two enemies remaining kept regenerating health and we were stuck on a loop where it was impossible for either side to win. Occurrences like this aren’t really my definition of ‘strategy’.

Graphically, Wind and Wilting Blossom perfectly represents its chosen historical era and shines with sprites that reflect classical Japanese illustrations of the time, along with many different kinds of Yokai. And, since everything is in 2D, the woodblock-print style feels very appropriate. The soundtrack is also a good fit, featuring several classical Japanese musical instruments that follows along with the gameplay, quiet one moment and dramatic the next.

I loved the idea of a medieval FTL and fell immediately for the style of The Wind and Wilting Blossom, but sadly, the gameplay leaves the player in the hands of random chance and a repetitive formula. However, this is exactly the sort of experience that might be markedly better after a few patches and some balancing. I’ll check back on it in a few months.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Picklefeet Games. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PC. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and one run was completed. There is no multiplayer mode.

Parents: The game is not rated by the ESRB. It features demons and violent battles, so even though there is no blood shown on screen, I would recommend the game for a teen audience.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game offers subtitles (they cannot be resized or altered) and play does not make use of sound or audio cues of any kind, so I would say it’s fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: The game can be entirely controlled via the mouse — left click is used for everything, from moving characters to selecting an enemy to attack. Right click is not used. The keyboard can be used and these controls are not remappable.

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