Welkin Road Preview

Welkin Road Preview

From developer Gregor Panič, partnered with publisher Nkidu Games Inc we take a look at their PC platformed, Mirror’s Edge inspired, parkour themed early access love-child: Welkin Road 

I entered Welkin Road with an open mind. Inspired by Mirror’s Edge (a good game but one I couldn’t get into), virtually every gameplay screenshot looked cheap and hinted at underdevelopment in terms of graphics and depth of play. Above all it looked extremely repetitive, thus as the game downloaded after an impulse purchase I was given pause to think about how I could have utilised that $12.99US better. A used Tamagotchi, perhaps. But, with an open mind I logged in and started learning the ropes. The long, tedious process of learning these frustrating ropes was gruelling, but I made a big ditch effort to hone my skills in order to get through the levels to reach my main objective: to finish all the levels. Did I enjoy myself? We will tackle that later, first let me explain what this stylish little indie game’s about.

You spend the first couple of levels finding your rapidly airborne feet

I always end up needing an extra inch or so

As mentioned prior, Welkin Road is a Mirror’s Edge-inspired indie game currently in early access. Now I should emphasise the word ‘inspired’ because I genuinely don’t believe it to be a Mirror’s Edge clone, the games are very different in terms of feel and actual gameplay and I definitely need to tip my fedora to the developer for not just taking a cheaper version of Mirror’s Edge for us to fumble around with and graffiti their name on. You take on a first-person perspective as an unnamed character who parkours his way around a block-style level, jumping across platform and running up walls with nothing but some sturdy shoes and a couple of grappling lasers attached to his gloves as his tools of traversal. You follow a loosely defined pathway of interesting bends and junctions until you reach the end of the level, at which point you progress to the next, more challenging one.

Well… crap

Would a ‘pink walls’ joke be too much?

My only advice to anyone who wants to play this game is to persist through the first two levels. These first levels are ridiculously boring and (as you’ll find after the thousands of times you’ll fall to your death) very challenging. This is on purpose, and the developer was quite clever in making sure your in-game skills are completely honed properly before you start reaching the interesting levels, and doing so eventually makes the game much more enjoyable. Nobody likes to be terrible at a game and it can be frustrating to the point of rage quitting, so they’ve taken that into account and thrown the first two levels at you as a pacer until you’re confident in progressing. As a rage-quitter myself this was really handy. They also throw in plenty of handy hints within the levels so you’re not idiotically thumping around a level wondering why that gap was just too big for you to jump across. It also adds a few more ways to utilise your player’s movement slightly so you can change up your jumping and landing style to feel more bad-assy.

Visuals are extremely pretty and make you feel bright and up-beat

Practise your grappling laser skills… you will need them

My only advice to anyone who wants to play this game is to persist through the first two levels. These first levels are ridiculously boring and (as you’ll find after the thousands of times you’ll fall to your death) very challenging. This is on purpose, and the developer was quite clever in making sure your in-game skills are completely honed properly before you start reaching the interesting levels, and doing so eventually makes the game much more enjoyable. Nobody likes to be terrible at a game and it can be frustrating to the point of rage quitting, so they’ve taken that into account and thrown the first two levels at you as a pacer until you’re confident in progressing. As a rage-quitter myself this was really handy. They also throw in plenty of handy hints within the levels so you’re not idiotically thumping around a level wondering why that gap was just too big for you to jump across. It also adds a few more ways to utilise your player’s movement slightly so you can change up your jumping and landing style to feel more bad-assy.

When it comes to the actual graphics and how it looks in-game (as I mentioned before I was turned off by the screenshots that had found their way onto Google and I made the assumption that the graphics weren’t going to be anything worth taking a breath for), once I started actually playing the game the atmosphere is really pretty, completely different to the impression the screenshots had originally given me. The visuals are smooth and simplistically textured and as it’s a game where you’re constantly moving and thinking about what your next action’s going to be. They do a good job of separating the foreground from the background and a better job of highlighting the particular objects you use to get through the levels such as platforms, ramps and walls. It’s definitely gorgeous looking gameplay and I love the game’s idea of throwing the scenes around you so you feel happy and uplifted with its bright and beautifully contrasted colour schemes.

Hardcore parkour!

Now, onto the mechanics. I was infuriated by how many times I hit my target with the grappling laser perfectly, only to have it not work and send me falling into oblivion. Yes, the respawn feature is generous as to where you’re placed after you fall and it’s very quick, but there would be too many times where I’d clearly make a jump using the ‘sprint-then-crouch’ feature and then visibly see myself slowing down in mid-air and falling just short of my mark. Even with my mouse sensitivity on full-noise it takes far too long for me to look down to see where I’m at with my jump and that constricts the visual realism of a parkour-type game like this where people want to be immersed. People want to feel less lazy by imagining themselves flying across huge gaps and landing them on a roll-on sprint to a perfectly executed wall-run jump… I didn’t feel that. Another mechanical feature to the game is while you’re wall-running you can look at the place you plan to jump to and it will spring you in that direction every time…well, it’s supposed to at least. As much as it worked for me the majority of the time it still wasn’t consistent enough and couldn’t be attributed 100% to human error. The developer is working hard to fix these mechanical issues and they say they will tweak it until it’s as smooth and as accurate as we need it to be, and I have faith, because at the end of the day it’s quite an intricate game made by a single talented developer . The fact he has managed to get the game to where it is today is a feat in itself, and while the mechanics aren’t quite on point right now there’s still loads of potential.

I hope this isn’t what heaven looks like

Final Thoughts

I enjoy my puzzle games and this one is great for anyone who likes a fast-paced game where you have to think on your feet with a minuscule amount of time. I love the simplicity of the whole experience; it’s beautiful and makes you feel happy and confident. But a parkour/puzzle style game like this absolutely needs to be tight as a drum in its mechanics or risk becoming infuriating to play. Unfortunately you get the feeling that even after you perform trial-and-error runs for hours on end and practice getting your perfect lines down pat, you still have a hefty uncertainty of whether or not all this effort makes a difference when the mechanics can fail you at any given moment. That paired with no plot or the excitement of finding hidden loot or earning extra skills makes gameplay quickly become a bit boring. Taking all this into consideration this is an early access game of course so while there is room for improvements there is still time to fine tune the experience. Nice game, pretty, good idea and impressive for a sole developer. But would I go out and buy it in its current form? No, much needed mechanical fixes mean you might want to wait.

Seafood, gaming, music and sports bikes. In that order. Brett's been a radio presenter, event manager, wedding reception host and even a telemarketer, whatever allows him to listen to his own voice. When he isn't working on silly Instagram sketches and broadcasting poorly executed playthroughs of free Steam games on YouTube, he's writing hiphop tracks, strumming guitar or playing RPGs. Add him on PSN: unclebrett90 - follow him on Instagram @ brettbatley