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Developer(s): Bits & Beasts
Platform(s): PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One
Reviewed on: PS4
Release Date(s): PC, Mac, Linux (July 23, 2015); PS4, Xbox One (December 13, 2016)
What would you do for the one that you love most in the world? What sacrifices would you make? How much hurt would you endure?
This is the question posed by Feist, an action-platformer and the first game created by Swiss independent studio Bits & Beasts. The player takes on the character of a tiny, vulnerable “fur creature” on a desperate journey to rescue its mate from a pack of evil beasts.
Traveling through forests, jumping from branch to branch and struggling through dangerous obstacles are all par for the course on your seemingly impossible adventure. As if the environment didn’t offer enough challenges, a myriad of enemies with everything from stingers to magical attacks stand in your path. Can you succeed in rescuing your lost love?
The beauty of Feist strikes you from your first moments in the game. Resembling the design of Playdead Games’s Limbo, the world is an absolute joy to explore and is often breathtaking enough to stop you in your tracks.
Even the ugliest elements of the world have a sense of magic and wonder about them. The darkest caverns are grim, but that fear causes the light that emerges at the end of the tunnel to be one of the most beautiful you will see when playing Feist.
Aside from the sheer prettiness of the game, the level design and progression are really well done. While the game gives you virtually no instruction on how to traverse your dangerous world, subtle clues are placed in strategic places to gradually teach you. This allows you to better control and maneuver your fur creature as you go along, allowing him to mature and develop in his attempt to reach his love. This progressive build in difficulty was incredibly satisfying and kept the gameplay fresh.
The sheer size of your furry friend makes every battle in Feist feel meaningful, as you must be scrappy and downright ferocious to stand up to the sometimes ogre-like creatures that mean to stop you. While some players may wish for more sophisticated combat, the desperate attacks make every triumph all the more gratifying. You have to earn every victory, but in a world where games are too often watered down or “too easy”, it is refreshing to need to mentally prepare before entering every scenario.
It’s this strategy that allows you to see that the environment can be utilized as a weapon against your enemies, as traps that were meant for your furry friend can be triggered to fire at your foe. Some enemies might even accidentally attack each other, as your character’s agile movements outpace your lumbering adversaries.
This choice of movement and strategy allows for almost every battle to feel completely unique and memorable. Although there can be a repetitive nature to the killing of some enemies, this is easily avoided by taking stock of what’s available and finding new ways to utilize it. The primitive nature of using your unrefined natural resources matches the simplicity of your fur creature. Every new discovery is like an advancement for him as he digs deep within himself to find the will to keep going.
The combat, despite seemingly being so simple, is what allows the player to create an emotional bond with that adorable fur creature. It is easy to see that he was not meant to be a fighter. He moves through the forest with a fluidity that speaks to a life of freedom and fun, making the player feel the glee of what it means to bound through the branches of the tallest trees.
This makes every other frightening encounter all the more terrifying. You can almost sense your character’s fur standing on end, the pure fear that must grip him when facing a giant that looms over him. In the next moment, you take a deep breath alongside him and steel yourself for the encounters to come.
By the end of your journey together, it becomes tough to separate yourself and your feelings from those of your fur creature, an experience that is becoming harder and harder to come by.
While playing through Feist truly is a joy, it did feel a bit like taking another crack at Limbo in the animal kingdom. On its own, Bits and Beasts’s creation feels great, but having that comparison on the mind due to the shared art style and gameplay gave it a slight staleness. Both are wonderful experiences, but because Limbo came first, it feels like this territory was somewhat already covered. Feist gives a strong effort at reinventing the elements that made Limbo so loved, but it can be difficult to seperate the two.
At the end of the day, Feist is a gorgeous adventure that all should undertake. The game can be challenging, but its gradual build and the environment’s guidance make it accessible to anyone. The story of this innocent fur creature risking life and limb for love is simple and relatable, and the resulting emotion is a driving force in the darkest of times. Release your inner fur creature and save your love. You won’t regret it.
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