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Röki – A Fairy Tale That’s Darker Than It Seems

Röki is one of our Top 10 Games Coming Out this July and it’s been on my watchlist since I last saw it at E3 2019. Not all games need to be high skill, movement-based, button-mashing combat for it to be fun. And some days what I really want is a simple point-and-click adventure that I can immerse myself in without getting too stressed. Röki has delivered on all fronts and I found it a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Röki starts off as a charming little fairytale to romp around in but gets surprisingly dark the deeper you go. In this game, you play as Tove, a young girl looking for her little brother Lars. While on her quest through this wintery landscape she begins to discover that all the fairy tales she heard growing up just might be true.

Röki is a point-and-click adventure game that’s logical and exploratory. It isn’t quite a linear game, at least it doesn’t feel like one. But instead encourages you to explore the world around you. There will be certain obstacles you face that will happen in a specific order but there are others that you will find at your own pace. The more you click, the more your item pool and knowledge base grow.

The world of Röki is vast and full of secret depths. Floors with cracks that show hidden rooms, staircases that fold down into the soil. It’s a fascinating magical place where not is all as it appears. A path of gnawed rib bones might lead you deeper into a lair. A twilight grotto may have bookcases and chairs stacked by the oily shore. It is a delight to explore.

The game has a little bit of a The Neverending Story / Pan’s Labyrinth vibe where the beasts and monsters are not split into “good” and “evil”. Instead, they’re more complex beings with their own personalities and convoluted issues. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the creatures are the true hidden stars of Röki. The big scary bridge troll might not really want to hurt you, she may just be in pain. That’s not to say none of the creatures are dangerous, as Tove will face many real threats along her journey.

Throughout Röki, you’ll encounter a whole menagerie of fabled beasts, from gnomes and trolls to the Nøkken, aquatic Kraken-like creatures. Talk to them and you’ll obtain the tools needed to make your way through the game. For the exceptionally tough obstacles, you can also drag to combine items in your inventory to craft new tools. Some of the tools don’t pay off until much later, or you’ll need to go back to use it but all the puzzles make sense and tie up neatly in a bow.

I’m not going to spoil too much here but the storytelling in Röki is just phenomenal. Told to you in little bits and pieces as you traverse your way through the mountains and forests. You learn in snippets about Tove’s life and her past. The story is woven in masterfully throughout the adventure and creates a tale not only of whimsy but of overcoming hardship and letting go. It is a wonderful and relatable story of family, love, bravery and learning from your mistakes.

It goes without saying that Röki flat out looks amazing. In fact, it was their simplistic, fairy tale art book style that really drew me into the fantasy of the story. Coupled with the perfect haunting soundtrack, the heavily stylised characters, stunning creatures and use of colour are elegant and well used to reflect the situations in the game. You just know from their usage of art that Polygon Treehouse is a master in their craft. Which comes as no surprise actually as the studio is co-founded by two ex-Guerrilla Games Art Directors.

Clocking in at 12-hours, Röki is a meatier game with surprisingly more depth than I expected to see. At first glance, it looks like a light adventure-puzzle game but it’s so much more than that. Like all great folklore stories, there is quiet devastation lurking beneath Röki’s picturebook world, and it’s well worth your time to find out what it is.

Röki is out now for PC on the Steam and GOG Store. But will soon be coming to the Nintendo Switch and Mac in Winter.