To quickly put Mask of Mists into perspective, it can sort of be described as a Skyrim-lite only with a stronger emphasis on collecting items to solve environmental puzzles. Taking the role of a mercenary, the player needs to play detective to find a missing mage, exploring an enclosed but vast world along the way.
In comparison, Metroid had players collecting items to enhance Samus’s abilities which opened doors for greater exploration. Mask of Mist follows this Metroid formula but swaps new abilities for items that are used to unlock new areas and story progression. For example, early in the quest the player can interact with a dark, small hole only to find a rabbit hiding inside. Once a trap and carrot have been found by rummaging through a nearby house, the rabbit can be captured and skinned for meat. Once the meat has been collected, it needs to be cooked. To fire up the stove, the player needs to find enough fire wood by scavenging the area and locate a cooking pan. After the meat has been cooked, it can be thrown at a meat-eating plant to open a new passageway. It seems intimidating at first but the player can slowly start to piece together where to go and what to do just by patiently exploring and clicking on the indicated objects in the environment.
Although the sense of accomplishment and gameplay progression is satisfying, the overall navigation of the environment starts to become a chore within the first hour due to a lacking map system. Since there is no map or quest indicator, the player is left to wander aimlessly until that one collectable item is found and put into the spot where it needs to go. Even though the world is enclosed by massive walls, it is big enough to get lost especially as the quest continues. This is only made worse thanks to the environmental background elements that repeat, making it easy to lose track of where to go. Playing through the entire campaign in one sitting is recommended otherwise you will never remember where you were going or what you need to do. Being a working adult, I started playing this over the weekend but couldn’t go back to it until later that week. By that time I totally forgot where I was going and what was happening. The menu screen doesn’t even provide a history of what has happened or provide a hint regarding what to do. Busy adults beware.
One of the first items the player finds is a sword which is used to slay repetitive enemies. The combat is so simple and tedious I can’t help by think the game would have been better without it. Circle strafing to use hit-and-run techniques is good to defeat any enemy so combat becomes chore-ish. It is sort of cool that enemies can spit goop which covers the screen like a temporary poison but even this starts to grow annoying when hit.
Movement is also very fast, like Quake fast. In fact, the camera moves so fast I started to get motion sickness. However, even though I wanted to puke after a while, I still agree with the speed of the game. Since there is no map and the player is left to wander and backtrack constantly, the campaign would be borderline unplayable with a slower movement speed. It seems the fast walking speed was implemented to compensate for the lack of quest objective markers and map.
Mask of Mists also looks like a fairy tale. The bright, solid colors pop off the screen and easily set this narrative within a fantasy land. It also seems the developers leaned into this by including a color wiping screen transition. Instead of having the game awkwardly load with ugly pop-in, the game initially loads the world in gray overtones but the color fills the environment in one massive wave. It is a pretty cool effect
Mask of Mists is unique because it is unlike most other games in the Sometimes You library of digital releases. It is cumbersome to navigate thanks to the lacking map system but this adventure RPG still manages to provide a laid back and casual experience if you can work through the shortcomings. The brightly colored fantasy setting might hold you over until the next Avatar and the soundtrack is one of the most calming you can hear this generation too.
Also Try: Fighting Fantasy (Nintendo DS)
Kinda Sorta Reminds Me Of: the original Wolfenstein (PC)
Wait For It: The Witness 2