The Redwall book series was a huge part of my childhood. I’d borrow them from the school library mostly, purchasing them when I’d wash the parent’s car enough times or done whatever chores I had to do. It certainly wasn’t the most popular series amongst the people I knew, but it was an imaginative series – and I was an imaginative kid. As good books do, it allowed my imagination to run wild, turning words on a page into visions of grandeur. Characters had faces and voices, locales were lush and laden with flora and fauna, and every food or drink had an illusory taste. So when a Redwall game was announced what feels like a millennia ago, it was always going to be a tough ask to live up to my childhood fantasies.
Soma Games is the studio that has been bestowed the honour of turning Brian Jacques’ (RIP) world into a video game. The studio initially put out an Early Access version of the game, which was more of a taster of what was to come from the full release. You can read my initial thoughts here. However, a lot has changed since then and we now have a full release, titled The Lost Legends of Redwall: The Scout, which although doesn’t quite live up to the expectations I set, has enough charm about it to make it worthy of a playthrough for Redwall fans.
Perhaps the most impressive facet of The Scout is how the game’s story feels like it fits seamlessly into Brian Jacques’ universe. It’s an original narrative crafted specifically for the video games that is set six months before the events of Redwall in the small village of Lilygrove. The story centres on two characters, Liam and Sophia, both of whom are emerging Lilygrove Scout Corps members. After completing a series of tasks, your chosen hero graduates and celebrations ensue, albeit briefly, as your village comes under attack from a party of marauding rats serving the notorious Cluny the Scourge. From here you’ll need to put your training into practice, using your newfound skills to help save your village by lighting a light in a nearby lighthouse.
Playing through the story feels like you’re playing through the pages of a Redwall book. Everything from the language used to the artwork in the cutscenes, it all feels redolent of the source material. Even the voice-acting – which is far from memorable – feels apt in the circumstances. Characters speak with varying accents, emphasising their well-travelled and eclectic nature. After all, Redwall is a book series based upon great adventures and a myriad of character types.
Three cheers to this artwork
Where the game does flounder sadly is in the gameplay department. Initially, players will have to prove their worth to the Lilygrove Scout Corps (a faction of the most courageous mice in Lilygrove) by completing a bunch of tasks. While it is intended to teach you the game’s mechanics (which are basic in nature), it drags on for what feels like far too long and ultimately becomes a boring slog. Tasks include finding four geocaches strewn across the map, completing a scent course, a stealth course, and collecting ingredients for cooking. In theory it’s a neat way of introducing players to the game, but the execution ends up making it a laborious affair.
Once the village has been attacked, the game will have you using these skills to sneak your way past enemy rats. Here the gameplay feels a little livelier, as you’ll have to tread wisely in order to avoid detection, which equals game over. Frustratingly, the gameplay is hampered by a constant battle with the game’s camera. More often than not you’ll attempt to crouch and peek around a corner only for the camera to jam you up inside a wall or spin you the complete opposite way. There were numerous times when I tried to alert a guard to my presence by using the slingshot, only for the game to face me in a different direction leaving me exposed and leading to my capture.
As you trek towards the lighthouse, you’ll come across village inhabitants that need rescuing, and saving them will earn you brownie points at the end of a mission and will open up further dialogue options. Here you’ll learn more about the lore, which is a nice touch.
You sneaky rat
The game also throws in a chase sequence in the penultimate scene, which is a nice change of pace, but sadly one that is beset with frustrations. Naturally, getting caught will end your hero’s run. However, the problem is that game’s detection mechanics are looser than a suburban footy player on an end of year footy trip to Adelaide (or Bali – depends how flush your club is). Your adversary can end your life before even making contact with you. If the game decides that you’re too close for comfort, your game will be over.
This isn’t the only technical shortcoming either. Characters will often walk through objects, such as trees or walls. Animations will often occur in the wrong sections – your character will climb ledges that aren’t there (or lower/higher than where you are) or they’ll try and run up invisible walls. They’re not frequent enough to be game breaking given the likely low-budget nature of the title, but they do detract from the experience.
Thankfully the game’s atmosphere makes up for some of the technical shortcomings. While the visuals aren’t going to win any D.I.C.E. Awards anytime soon, Soma Games has done a commendable job at constructing a visual adaptation of Redwall’s universe. The cutscene artwork is especially vivid, evoking a sense of nostalgia as they play on screen. There’s even a tribute to author Brian Jacques in a small chapel in the game, which adds a touch of class to the proceedings. The soundtrack is also excellently done and really sells the whimsical tone the game exudes.
RIP Brian Jacques
It’s a hard task to take a loved text-based franchise and turn it into a video game that is both faithful to the source material and appeals to a wider audience. In my Early Access impressions I stated that Soma Games really had to make this game feel like Redwall, and admirably The Lost Legends of Redwall: The Scout certainly does that to a certain degree. Everything from the story to the artwork feels like it could have been written or imagined by Jacques himself. However, when it comes to being a video game The Scout pales in comparison to what could have been. It’s not a bad game by any stretch, but it’s one that only Redwall fans are likely to find any gratification in at the $21.50 AUD price point.
Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher