It seems like just last week that I finished playing The Witcher 3. Just kidding, has anyone ever truly finished it? But at the same time, it feels like a century since the release of The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. Today’s gaming scenario definitely lacks options in terms of Medieval RPGs that could match The Witcher Series. So when an indie studio comes up with a game looking quite similar to our much-loved franchise, it was definitely gonna go under the hammer for scrutinising. And boy, oh boy, is it something.
Animal Rescuer puts you in the shoes of a medieval “animal activist” who has decided that the sole purpose of his life is to rescue every single animal he comes across or hears about. Looking at the sheer amount of animal species in the game clips and images, it was guaranteed to be an in-depth experience. But as it turns out, that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Animal Rescuer is available for purchase on Steam. The Prologue releases on 7th October 2020.
STORY – AS SIMPLE AS IT GETS
You are greeted by a lovely main menu where you, the player character, stand staring at you, the actual player, while a cute beagle stares at the player character in a nice jungle clearing. The actual game starts with a cutscene that introduces you to the hero. Your wife has fallen gravely ill, and you set out on a quest to find a cure for her. You come across a witch who can apparently help you out. She gives you a medallion that allows you to tame any animal in existence. No animal will attack you, domestic or wild. She also warns you of the enemies you’ll make who want to steal the medallion from you. This plot forms the crux of the game, and the actions and quests you undertake henceforth will shape your story.
The Unique Selling Point – Works Like a Charm
The characters are designed in a way that adds content to the story but is non-interfering at the same time. You don’t have to interact with people unless you look for quests, travel or buy/sell stuff. A huge portion of the game can be played by just interacting with the animals. And I am a huge fan of that coz humans are overrated anyway. The game is non-linear for the most part, allowing the player to pick quests without feeling the bounds of a semi-open world game. One glaring issue that I noticed, or rather, thrust upon, was the language. It is evident that English is not the native language of the studio, and it shows in the dialogues, titles, labels and everything else. It is not too bad, but it certainly breaks the immersion. A proofreader should be the top priority, amongst other things.
GAMEPLAY – ENJOYABLE FIRST, TEDIOUS LATER
Despite releasing in Early Access, Animal Rescuer doesn’t actually plague the user with a lot of bugs/glitches. But their presence is enough to be felt within the first hour of gameplay. Naturally, they will be polished as time goes on. You will find a Game Guide in the main menu that will provide all tips and context regarding each game mechanic. It is very informative and I recommend you to go through the guide before you start the game. You start the story with a tutorial that introduces you to the combat mechanics. Once you complete the tutorial, you are taught how the healing system works and lastly, animal interaction and travelling. The core gameplay of Animal Rescuer can be split into 2 sections.
COMBAT – Sluggish but Satisfying
Now, Animal Rescuer does not focus on combat. But it does take up a fair share of gameplay. I can confidently say that the combat, although realistic, needs some polishing. Entering combat mode is as easy as pressing “C” (no, it literally is! That’s the key bind). Block and Fight stances look almost identical, and it is difficult to say if you’re blocking or not. I died 3 times in succession because I couldn’t block the attacks in time, bringing me to my next dilemma. There is a definite lag when blocking and attacking. The character takes a month to swing his sword. The charging animation of the attack is definitely realistic and does lend credibility to the mechanics, but my poor soul, who grew up on quick slashes and stabbing, couldn’t figure it out. It takes some time getting used to it. Evading and Rolling work like a charm!
ANIMALS – Heal The World, Make It A Better Place
Quite literally, in this case. You meet a lot of animals—A LOT, which is never a bad thing. But when you meet the 6th injured animal in the same courtyard, it does feel overwhelming. Animal Rescuer has an All-in-One Inventory system where you keep track of all your herbs, plants, medicines, active quests, injured animals met, and much more. Speaking of herbs, you will never run out of them, thanks to the world being crowded with them at every earthy surface. The Alchemy Lab is used to create medicines that can be then used on the wounded animals. Once healed, you can transfer them to your sanctuary. Besides hurt and trapped animals, you will also find healthy, frolicking furballs that only want to run around and play. You can pet them (I would have been a very angry man if we couldn’t) and watch them tag along with you.
The enemy AI is quite intelligent and does offer competitive combat. Animal AI is fun, innocent and really refreshing. The Travelling system works on the concept of Fast Travel, very similar to Far Cry and/or Assassin’s Creed Black Flag.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO – A HIT AND MISS
I might have mentioned The Witcher once or twice, or maybe more. That’s how Animal Rescuer looks at first glance. But after a while, you start noticing the beautiful and unique world Turquoise Revival Games have created. There are traces of The Witcher, Black Flag and yet, is very distinct from the two. The world is well-populated, filled with colour and is immensely detailed. Character models are good but nothing to write home about. As for the animals, each species feels unique and handcrafted, but subtle lapses can be noticed upon closer inspection, mostly while petting. The animal models could do with another layer of geometry and texture details without which, they look a little blurry and of a low-poly count. Even then, the animals are gorgeous with proper textures and look really really good overall.
Audio – A Contrasting Perspective
Never have I ever been this conflicted with a game’s audio design. That might be because I have not played a lot of games that use text-to-speech software for their dialogues. It is understandable for an indie dev to employ whatever tools they have available. But listening to a robotic female voice narrate the story is a major turn-off. That, coupled with grammatical mistakes, really affects the gameplay experience. Again, the game has a long way to go and should be something that’s fixed in Early Access. Nevertheless, there are plenty of positives in the audio department. Animal Rescuers has one of the most immersive background music I’ve come across. The music and the game are a match made in heaven. Sound effects are precise and natural sounding, especially animals. One can easily mistake a meow to come from a cat sitting next to the PC.
Animal Rescuer was reviewed on PC via Steam with a key provided by Turquoise Revival Games.