AWAY: Journey to the Unexpected is a wholly unique game coming to Switch on February 7 from developer Aurelien Regard and publisher Playdius. We recently got our hands on a PC preview build of the game, and wanted to share some of our thoughts ahead of the game’s release.
The first thing you notice when you start playing AWAY is just how bright and colorful the game is. Light streaming through the windows is overwhelmingly bright. Saturation is turned up to 11 and everything really pops. My favorite touch is the fact that characters and enemies are not 3D at all, rather they’re 2D sprites who are always facing you. In a gaming world filled with more subdued grays and earth tones, AWAY stands out immediately, in a good way.
The story begins in a quite basic manner, with your hero heading outside to investigate the source of a strange noise. Arriving in the forest, you find that a company called Labiworks has been harvesting a strange substance in the ground and causing havoc to the environment. As you progress further, there are some genuinely fascinating revelations that made me want to learn more about what’s going on in this strange world.
Out in the world, we encountered a variety of caves to explore, enemies to fight, and most interestingly, allies to recruit. If you have a Friendship Cube in your inventory, and pick the right option from a dialogue tree, you can get characters to join your party. From what we’ve seen, there’s a lot of variety here, from a Labiworks employee, to a fireball-shooting wizard, and a disembowled bat (?!) who can spawn hearts for your hero to use. Switching to each party member applies a unique visual filter to the screen. For example, the Labiworks employee sees everything in red, and the wizard has cracked glasses. Some of the effects are a bit overwhelming to be honest, so you’ll probably control the hero most of the time, only switching to allies to help you out of a pinch.
It’s only after playing for a while that the game’s “roguelite” inspirations become obvious. When your hero dies, he respawns in his bedroom, but not before cashing in his EXP towards permanent upgrades. Recruiting new allies gives you Stars which open new doors in the hero’s home. The overworld doesn’t change, but upon returning to dungeons, the layout is randomized. Still, even with these changes, a feeling of repetition was beginning to set in by hour 2 or 3 of the preview.
But honestly, the game is such a breath of fresh air, that the repetition didn’t bother us. The game is really gorgeous, and with such a unique concept that we can’t wait to see the rest of the game. Like with developer Aurelien Regard’s previous game The Next Penelope, AWAY looks to be full of variety and surprises.
Thanks to Playdius for access to the preview build! All screenshots in this article are from the PC version of the game. We’ll be posting a full review when the game’s closer to release.