GDC 18: Hands-On Preview: Away: Journey to the Unexpected (Switch)

A one-man developmental marvel from Playdius.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 04/03/2018 11:45 Comment on this     ShareThis


That one word really defined my response to Playdius and its upcoming first-person adventure game Away: Journey to the Unexpected. The project is astounding for a couple of reasons, but perhaps the most interesting is the fact that Away is being developed almost exclusively by one person, Aurélien Régard. Spending any amount of time with the game will likely leave a very positive impression on anyone, but taking into account the singular effort behind Away makes it even more special. The presentation is on par with countless other premium games on Switch, and I’d dare go so far as to say that Away looks better than some of them.

Away is about a young boy living with his grandparents. The house that they all live in acts as the central hub of the game. From there, the player is able to enter into and explore different worlds. I mentioned the presentation right off the bat because Away is beautiful to look at. The actual game environment is rendered stunningly in 3D and is popping with color and delightful lighting effects. The art direction is reminiscent in spots of the works of Dragon Quest and Dragon Ball artist Akira Toriyama. What sets it apart even more, however, is the integration of 2D animation and renderings of the cast and enemies. The result is a delightful blend of visual styles that is practically impossible to not stare at.

As I’m wont to say, however, being pretty ain’t worth a thing when it comes to video games if the gameplay doesn’t back it up. Thankfully, Away doesn’t seem to have a problem in that regard, either. Along with exploring through the various environments on offer, Away has a very cool approach to combat. The main character has nothing but a stick to attack with (he is a little boy, after all) for the entire game. The whole thing! That sounds crazy, but the workaround is great: besides being able to upgrade his stats and abilities to make that stick a whole lot more effective, players can also recruit a variety of other characters throughout the adventure.

There’s a set number of characters who can be recruited, but part of the goal in Away is figuring out which ones and meeting the criteria needed to win them over. Once made a part of the travel party, each character can be swapped between. The characters all have their own unique weapons and attacks that can be utilized, meaning players will want to go through and gather them all in order to broaden their abilities while making their way through Away. Indeed, the game can’t be beaten otherwise, so it behooves players to be mindful of who they encounter and what requirements they have to join up! As an added bonus, each recruited ally also sees the game world in a different way, so the entire environment will change looks once you switch to a different partner.

I thought that the combat was fun and snappy, although the movement speed felt slightly too fast. Sort of like the action was on fast-forward. Regardless, the controls were smooth and not difficult to learn, and I found myself traveling around with ease and anxious to see more. The variety of environments to explore, from what I got to see, is pretty high, not to mention diverse, which makes Away feel even more like a fully-realized place versus a backdrop full of NPCs. Away is coming to Switch in June and Playdius also tells me that fans can expect a physical edition of the game, as well. Definitely keep this one on your radar if you’re a fan of adventure games!

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