Kandria presents itself as a challenging 2D platformer and a hack-and-slash RPG. You’re thrown into a world that has mysterious lore and allows you to investigate wherever you like. Unfortunately, only the challenging 2D platformer aspect stands out, and that’s because most of the areas are unnecessarily difficult to explore.
You are meant to spend hours trying to navigate areas filled with spikes with little guidance, or run time trials. The struggle forms the majority of the gameplay, shielding the player from the rest of the flaws. If you go through the game itself, you will find that there is barely a story, nor a hack-and-slash adventure. Kandria could have done a lot with its premise, but chooses to waste your time instead.
Kandria is available on PC for USD 19.99.
Story – Android Making Peace
Kandria puts you in the role of an android named Stranger, stuck in the ruins of a ravaged world. You are woken up by a group of individuals who try to survive on the surface. Stranger allies herself with the group, and performs tasks to help everyone survive. Stranger also travels further underground to meet various factions, and uncovers a dangerous plot that will shake every faction.
The story has a great premise to start with, but it isn’t investigated much. Your interactions with the world are few, and the small amount of side quests don’t give much information. As you proceed with the story, you will find it is short and plot points appear randomly. Different factions will interact with you differently, but there isn’t much you can do except trade.
The promise of “mysterious lore” is exploring different locations and examining objects. From these examinations, you get glimpses of the past. But the rest of the setting is left untouched, which is a pity.
Unlike other platformers such as Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, the story is left relatively untouched. It won’t take you much time to finish the story, and it ends before anything interesting happens. It’s a shame that the story and setting weren’t developed more, as there is a lot of material to investigate.
However, Kandria does its best to hide its story weakness behind the gameplay. It’s not exploration or combat that’s going to take the bulk of your time. It’s repeatedly failing on spiked areas designed to stall for time.
Gameplay – Trying Again & Again
Kandria promises you the freedom to go wherever you want, but you must work for it. Many areas are filled with dangerous spikes that are fatal if you touch them. There are various platforming objects that you must use to go from area to area. Kandria is a precision platformer, and forces you to go through these area because Kandria wants you to waste time on them.
Most of your time will be spent getting the precise angle and direction to proceed. It’s trial-and-error, and you are forced to learn on the fly. Failure is expected, since you will rarely get the solution right on the first try. You will spend several minutes if not longer just clearing one area, only to do it again for six-nine areas.
There are two frustrating aspects to this gameplay style. First, mechanics such as recharging your dash aren’t explained. You don’t know that you can recharge your dash at first, which makes it hard to traverse these areas. Players could think these areas can’t be navigated yet, and would wait until later. Unfortunately, they do have the tools, but no one mentioned how it would work.
Second, these areas don’t fit the narrative of the setting. Stranger has to use their android abilities to travel through these areas, but everyone else didn’t use these paths. These spike-filled puzzle areas are unnecessary, but their exclusion means the game is significantly shorter. It’s disappointing to see that Kandria’s game length is primarily due to this, because there is a lot of potential for the other aspects of the game.
Combat – Repetitive Sword Swinging
Combat in Kandria is almost worthless, as another aspect that was ignored in favor of precision platforming. While there are enemies to fight, there’s barely any reason to use your sword against them. You do not gain EXP by killing enemies, but through picking up items or discovering locations. It’s more efficient to level up by avoiding combat and picking up items, than it is to spend time fighting enemies.
When you are forced to fight because areas are blocked off, you can simply use your light attack and win most battles. You can dodge if necessary, but it isn’t necessary most of the time. There are heavy attacks but they are too slow to be useful. There is no variety in combat, and it’s repetitive sword swinging until the enemy is dead.
Even a precision puzzle game such as CrossCode has skill trees and various forms of combat. Other platformers such as Monster Sanctuary also found the time to add in skills despite being a turn-based platformer. That made combat interesting and immersed you in the world. Kandria lacks that draw, as there is little motivation to fight and little motivation to innovate. All you do is move around, slash, and repeat until an opponent falls. You don’t get anything out of it except the chance of an item, which isn’t guaranteed.
You can upgrade equipment in Kandria, but it’s just Stranger’s sword, and only to deal more damage. It speeds up combat, but doesn’t do anything otherwise. The materials are often found through exploration, but that involves precision platforming. Upgrading the sword isn’t worth the trouble, but there’s not much else you can do.
Another aspect of Kandria is the ability to freely explore without being blocked off. Kandria promises that you won’t be bothered by backtracking or not knowing where to go. Unfortunately, you are often clueless about your next destination, and backtracking is rampant. It’s true that you are never blocked off from any location. However, this hides the fact that as you progress, locations have increasingly difficult puzzles. There is little “free” exploration, as progressing through areas requires getting past the spike puzzles. These puzzles only have one solution, which isn’t very “free” if you can’t go through another way.
You also have no choice but to backtrack since there’s usually no other way to leave a dead end. This often means doing a puzzle in reverse, which is frustrating because you must keep experimenting. If another path is available, it usually involves backtracking to another area to begin with.
Kandria does have fast travel, but it only applies for five areas, four of which are relevant to the story. For all other transportation, you travel on foot.
If you are playing through the main story, you must travel to specific locations. Unfortunately, you must find your own path with a rough location. This forces a player to spend time finding a route, getting several dead ends, and wasting time solving puzzles. It’s further proof that Kandria could have balanced other aspects of the game, but deliberately chose not to.
Audio & Visuals – 2D Visuals & Fitting Soundtracks
Fortunately, Kandria has smooth visuals for its environment and characters. Character expressions are clear and you can tell what they are feeling. While exploring the world, the environment gives off the feel of a post-apocalyptic landscape. Ruins are everywhere, abandoned machinery lies in empty buildings, and age has taken its toll on your surroundings.
The soundtrack reflects this, playing music that isn’t happy or sad. It’s a soft tone of somberness. You journey through the world and you understand that the past will never return. The sights you see will never move again, but will help future groups prosper if a use is found later on.
Kandria was reviewed on PC with a code provided by Shirakumo Collective.