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PAX East – Road Not Taken Hands-On Impressions

Walking up to Spry Fox’s Road Not Taken‘s booth instantly sets the tone for the game. Banners of the games subtle, chilling aesthetic hang above a demo table dressed with flowers. Road Not Taken is a beautiful puzzle, roguelike about building relationships and sacrifice. The demo starts with the mysterious hooded ranger being rowed into town. Upon arriving, a grieving mother pleads with the ranger to help find her child; that is the rangers task. Saving children from the grasp of the forest’s frostbiting grip.

Road Not Taken has a rather interesting puzzle mechanic. The ranger has the ability to lift and carry environmental objects across the games grid-based playing field. However, anytime the ranger carries an object a pool of mana is depleted, which is were the sacrifice I mentioned earlier comes into play; Road Not Taken cleverly communicates the feeling of sacrificing yourself to reunite a parent with their child.


The two levels I played were broken-up into different sections, and each room had a specific requirement the ranger needed to meet in order to proceed. For instance, a room would ask the ranger to move two trees on opposite ends of the game’s grid adjacent to each other. But when the ranger picks up an object in the environment not only does his health deplete while he is holding it, like previously stated, he can only throw items. They can not be sat down, and will continue to travel the path they were thrown until hitting a wall, or another object in the puzzle. It leads to quite a bit of satisfying experimentation, with the player balancing the depleting mana, and object placement. In addition to certain environmental objects I had to bring together, I had to bring together parents with their child, which works exactly the same way as bringing together trees in the game.

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Scattered around the forest are items that can heal the ranger — i.e., apples and honey pots. Combining objects in the puzzle was also an option in the demo I played. If the ranger is able to maneuver two bee-hives next to each other they will turn into a honey pot. There was a journal that was recording how to craft certain items, so the player would be able to take advantage of the items that are able to be combined in the puzzle.

When the ranger saves all of the children in a particular puzzle he is rewarded with resources from the villagers. I received several charms that made the puzzles easier by reducing the number of children inside of it, and could use the resources to change the relationships I had with villagers. Villagers have a preference in the resources they would like to receive, and it is going to require a bit of experimentation on the part of the player to perfectly match villagers with their favorite resource. I gave a pompously dressed woman rice, and she all but scoffed at my gift, but I gave another villager a berry, which lead to us becoming acquaintances.

Road Not Taken is a rougelike, so when, and when is probably more appropriate than if, the player dies another ranger will take the place of the deceased. Albeit, all of the information collected in the journal and charms received from villagers will remain in the ranger’s house, however, the new ranger will have to build an entirely fresh relationship with the villagers.

Road Not Taken looks absolutely amazing, and is a game I almost missed in the PAX East blur. It is coming to PS4, PS Vita, PC and Mac. You can follow along with the game’s development on the developer’s blog.

 

 

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