Dramatic irony, great story telling feeds on it like a large lumbering beast ready to swallow up the unsuspecting inhabitants of whatever fiction you might be indulging in, Shakespeare and much more recently George R R Martin, basically made their careers with the stuff. However it’s a narrative tool that has by and large escaped the realm of video games, Save for Mass Effect and the Reapers. However in The Yawhg no one is under the false apprehension that there is any chance of stopping the creature from destroying the Fairytale City in which the game is set. The apocalypse is coming, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
In six weeks the Yawhg will arrive, the only problem is that everyone has forgotten that it even exists, including the games cast of playable characters. So instead of spending the time preparing defences or rallying some kind of resistance to help stem the oncoming onslaught you simply live, however you see fit.
You could spend a week getting drunk in the town’s Tavern and then the next fighting crime in the slums and another tending to the towns gardens. With each activity a randomly generated event will occur, do you take part in the darts championship during your week long bender? Do you try and break up a dog fighting ring during your time in the slums or do you join in? What you spend your six weeks doing is entirely up to you and will effect the world around you ,as well as the final outcome after the Yawhg arrives, this is not always in a manner you would expect as sometimes, well, shit happens.
How well you perform during each of these events depends entirely on your characters current stats which are broken down into the usual D & Desque stats of Physique, Finesse, Charm, Mind, Magic and Wealth. So, for example, if your character has a high level of finesse chances are they’ll be able to easily win the darts championship. If you are playing to win it’s important to keep an eye on your stats in order to make the better judgments that’ll enable your character to have a slightly smoother ride through the six weeks leading up to the attack.
But in my mind, at least, that seems to be missing the point and had much more fun watching my character bungle their way through the game on gut decisions that I made based on what I would in the situation, regardless of whether my stats would permit it. It doesn’t necessarily make the end result better, but by and large it makes the game far more entertaining.
Like I said earlier, you cannot win, so attempting to stack the odds in your favour does little to change the end result and doesn’t actually effect your enjoyment of the game at all. Some things will always be the same and others will change, what is important is the journey itself and the choices you make. This simple twist eliminates any sort of play to win mentality especially when you play the game with other people you simply become travelers on the same journey. In achieving this, the games creators have managed to engineer an incredibly unique, captivating, refreshing and open experience.
The whole experience is a simple and beautiful affair, presented using static 2d illustrations like an interactive story book accompanied by a lilting accoustic soundtrack which helps to suck you deeper into the world of the Yawhg. As the end comes and the games haunting title track plays over the ending credits you’ll feel changed, enriched somehow that you can’t quite put your finger on, but eager to try again.
Thanks to the sheer level randomness involved in every encounter the results are mostly different every time you play, making the overall experience all the more compelling and gives the game a high level of replayability. Which is just as well because it is over way too soon, as the entire six weeks can be played through in about half an hour.
Despite the games apparent brevity I would still highly recommend checking out The Yawhg. At times funny, harrowing and bitter sweet the Yawhg is a game that deserves your attention and it’s creators; Emily Caroll and Damian Sommer recognition for being brave enough to try and create a game that does more than simply let you win or lose but do a little better each time.