General game information
Game name: Ghost of a Tale
Release date: 25 July, 2016 (Early Access) Full release in 2017
Price: US$ 19.99 for the Early Access version, US$ 24.99 once the game is fully released.
Genre: Stealth/adventure game with RPG elements
Ghost of a Tale is a stealth/adventure game with RPG elements set in a beautiful world inhabited by anthropomorphic animals. Developed by a five person team, it started as an action RPG game inspired by the Souls series, but as the development advanced, the team decided to make a stealth/adventure game instead of a combat heavy game.
Gamers control Tilo, a minstrel who has been imprisoned and separated from his beloved wife for political reasons. At the beginning of the game, a mysterious benefactor smuggles a key into Tilo’s cell, marking the start of an adventure in which our little mouse will have to sneak past guards and solve different puzzles in order to escape the prison.
Since Tilo is a small mouse and the guards are big, imposing rats, combat is definitely out of the question. If discovered, our character will have to run away and hide in pieces of furniture, or distract the guards with different tools that can be collected in the game.
Ghost of a Tale’s stealth elements are quite simple to master, and being discovered isn’t the end, thankfully. The player can enter a sneak mode at the press of a button (right trigger on the Xbox 360 controller) and there is a detection meter that fills out if an enemy can hear/see Tilo. Standing still will empty the meter if the alert came from a sound detection, and breaking the line of sight with the enemy will do the same thing if the alert came from a visual detection. Players traversing the world in the stealth mode can also enter different hiding places as long as the enemy isn’t looking, such as cupboards, chests and barrels. Many different items can be collected from the ground and used as distraction tools (bottles, branches, etc) and our character’s health can be replenished with food.
The game’s enemy AI isn’t very smart at the moment, and shortly after they lose sight with the player character, the enemies will return to their established routines. That tends to make stealth sections easier than one would expect from a stealth focused game, and there’s a big chance that this is a behavior set by the developers as a way to alleviate the amount of backtracking that gamers will have to do in the Early Access build. Tilo can also use disguises in order to fool the guards and get access to areas previously closed off, a gameplay element that will hopefully be expanded upon in the full release, as I found it quite compelling, even in the limited form that was present in the build that I played.
Aside from the disguises, our hero can also wear different pieces of clothing that will also bolster his stats, letting him run faster, or regenerate stamina quicker, for example. Collecting full sets of clothes will unlock costume bonuses, though players who wish to take advantage from that mechanic should get ready for a long journey, as those items are usually hidden away behind locked doors.
As the game progresses, players can meet different characters who will seek material gains from our hero before helping him with information or useful items. Sadly, most of the quests found in the Early Access release are glorified fetch quests. Hopefully that will change once the game is complete, as the developer stated many times that his team is using the Early Access phase to fine tune the game’s mechanics. The world’s backstory can be pieced together from the NPCs’ dialogue, and there are many notes and trinkets that offer even more information, a storytelling device that feels quite effective in this kind of game.
Ghost of a Tale is an audiovisual treat, with beautiful environments and exquisitely modeled characters. The soundtrack is also exceptional, featuring different themes for each non playable character that Tilo meets, and an intro song that would feel right at home in a movie.
The game’s current build can be completed in a bit less than 5 hours, but there are many optional quests that can take at least an hour or two more. The developer said that savegames will probably not be usable in the full release of the game, but gamers who beat the Early Access build will unlock secrets in the full release.
Overall, Ghost of a Tale‘s Early Access build feels like a teaser for an incredible adventure, and if the full release can deliver the same level of quality and polish, adventure game fans will be in for a treat in 2017.