What happens when you do non-linear explorations using adventure game and rhythm game elements? Surprising, but one of the most atmospheric mountain tours of all time!
Hiking shoes and jacket
The saying that the journey is important, not the goal, more than once serves as a consolation – well, the desired result was not achieved this time, but do not focus on that, but think about how much experience and knowledge you have and the efforts have enriched you! However, video games work differently than in reality – if the software truly focuses on exploration and rewards free adventures, it can actually be more satisfying than arriving at a future destination. I bring this up, of course, because Inckel's new work, The Song of the Highlands, to be published at the end of 2023, also belongs to these games: young Moira MacKinnon's journey through the landscapes of the Scottish Highlands, startling even in their harshness, has many special encounters, Secrets discovered by chance and amazing scenery, so it doesn't really matter what happens when we finally reach Uncle Hamish.
Because ostensibly, that's what the game is about: Moira receives a letter from her long-lost relative, who invites her to his house for the Beltane holiday, which is due in a week. However, Moira lives behind God's back with her mother, so even this relative visitation requires significant effort on her part—and it's not only possible, but likely that she'll miss the festival and with it the film's more complete ending. Game in the first few tries. However, Highland Song is also similar to Inke's previous great game, 80 Days, in that our journey is not linear at all – there are countless different paths to get to our destination, far more than can be explored in a single playthrough. And although this time the journey is not about circumnavigating the entire planet, the smaller scale did not make the events less interesting: from the depths of the valley to the top of the mountains, the hiker will find at least as many people close by – human adventures where we participated in mudslides An epic at that time in 80 days.
This is only because Moira, who has brazenly disobeyed her mother's warnings, sets out on the journey with almost no knowledge of the landscape – along with the player, the girl only knows that she lives deep in the Highlands, with Uncle Hamish at her side. The big city far away, the sea in which he lives on the coast in the lighthouse he oversees. Accordingly, our main “antagonist” will be the orientation, and unfortunately this is the part of the game that I feel the developers did not give enough support to. That's why I'm helping: The game world basically consists of layers lined up behind each other, i.e. actually zones, and you can move between them at infinite points. Our goal in each of these layers is to find a way forward, and in addition to free exploration, map pieces located in as many different places as possible help us: Looking around from a mountaintop that juts out of the landscape, we can use these maps to find points of interest in the area – Tourist houses, dams, sawmills, caves, bridges and even the road leading ahead. Of course, it is up to us which of these places we visit, and of course also what we do there.
Although the game world is built layered one behind the other, Moira's path is shown by a side camera, and her steps can only be controlled in two dimensions. At any time, a view can be displayed showing the rope network around us, with non-climbable spots marked in red. However, we can't have the slightest complaint about the little girl's stamina: Moira climbs steep rocks and descends slippery canyon walls with moss like a well-trained chamois. However, A Highland Story is not a platformer, and these sections present no real mechanical difficulty: although the heavy rain makes the climb difficult, the game does not punish us with a game over after seeing Moira's potential fall into the depths, but politely returns us to the front of the section Ominous.
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