Full disclosure – I adore short games. Being an adult with little free time who still wants to experience as any games as possible means that I’m forever leaving one game unfinished in favour of the next. So, when a game comes along that openly advertises the fact that it can be completed in one sitting, you can bet I’ll be interested. What I wasn’t expecting from Leaving Lyndow, however, was less of a game and more of a paid demo, with a total runtime of 10-15 minutes and a $3.99USD asking price.
Leaving Lyndow is billed as an introduction to the universe of Eastshade, an in-development title by a studio of the same name. It follows Clara, a budding graduate preparing to leave her home island and set sail with a maritime exploration guild. Along the way, she deals with her Uncle’s desire for her to stay and live her life on the island, and says goodbye to her mother and friends, and then leaves – which is where the game promptly concludes, with little fanfare.
This is the first environment you’ll see in the game. There’s about two more
To get to this point, the player is asked simply to walk between a handful of small locations separated by loading screens, endure some woefully written text-only conversations with NPCs, and ‘solve’ a couple of ‘puzzles’. Although it could be said that some or all of these notions are part-and-parcel with this type of game (is walking sim still a taboo term?), here it feels particularly amateur-ish. Environments are occasionally nice looking but terribly inconsistent, performance is all over the place and collision detection is basically non-existent. Perhaps most confusing are the characters, all of which are some kind of human/primate hybrid and all wearing turtlenecks that cover their mouths completely. It comes off as less of an artistic choice and more as though the developers used the cheapest humanoid 3D models they could buy and didn’t bother figuring out how to animate their faces.
When the most complex character relationship in a narrative-driven game is with a shovel
In trying to critique this short experience I struggled with the knowledge that Leaving Lyndow, and its forthcoming ‘parent’ game Eastshade, are largely the brain child of one man and the effort of pockets of collaborators worldwide. It’s natural to want to overlook rough edges in a game that was clearly produced on a miniscule budget and the blood, sweat and tears of a passionate developer, but the fact remains that I can’t honestly think of a compelling reason to recommend it to anybody.
Although I firmly believe in a creator’s right to ask for compensation for their work, in this current market and considering the quality of the product, Leaving Lyndow should either have been released as a free teaser for a full release, or simply rolled into the one offering.
As a lead-in to the upcoming Eastshade, Leaving Lyndow looks and feels at best like a free demo, and at worst like an unfinished prototype. It’s not the worst way to spend 15 minutes, but rather than create interest in Eastshade, it only served to make me more sceptical of the developer’s ability to pull off the more ambitious ideas they’re promising for that title.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro