Some time ago I received a preview key for an action RPG called Tanzia by Arcanity Inc., which opted for an MMORPG feel and control scheme for its action. From the few screenshots and videos I’d seen before giving it a try, it looked pretty interesting, with a strange blue character blasting things to bit on a tropical island.
Now that I’ve had a chance to play around with the Early Access build, I can say that there’s a lot of potential in the title, but it’s too rough to enjoy right now, with some bizarre design decisions that make the action feel like a slog instead of a fun time.
First, as a developer, you can’t get away with a 5+ minute exposition to start your game. It takes nearly seven minutes before I’m in control of the character and by then I’m already bored, as the cutscene clumsily attempts to introduce the entire world and the major conflict of the game, instead of letting the gameplay and questing do that. It introduces characters you’re supposed to care for but the truth is you won’t, as the cutscene is essentially a wall of text read aloud over some pretty pictures. Feels like a documentary instead of the beginning of a fantasy RPG.
This cutscene trend continues well into the game, with different sequences showing what’s about to happen instead of just letting it happen, completely ruining whatever surprise could be had from the gameplay. I don’t need you to tell me that the potion of True-Seeing will have an immediate effect and show me what’s on the bridge, I’ll find out when I drink the damn potion myself!
Character control is good, feels very much like an MMO, though both movement and combat lack any form of weight. Hitting something with a staff lacks the impact you’d expect, a hard thud or loud clang following the animation, instead feeling as if the character is striking air. When you tell me that if I do the backflip jump attack I will deal and extra powerful critical, let me feel it as much as see it in the shiny numbers.
The characters you meet tell you that as a spellcaster, using your stick will be a last resource, as you’ll primarily use your Arcanity—read magic—to defeat opponents. Then why-oh-why doesn’t Tanzia implement resource regeneration for your spellcasting? Why must I chug down potions if I want to restore my mana outside of combat.
Don’t get me wrong, halting (or preferably slowing) mana regeneration during combat is a great idea, as is having a cooldown on the potions, but restricting mana regeneration to save points and potions is baffling, especially considering that you don’t get recipes for mana potions from the get-go, forcing you to spend the very little money you have on the things.
It’s unnecessarily punishing and makes very little sense, considering the character is—according to the lengthy opening cinematic—a prodigy in Arcanity, coming to him as naturally as breathing. And you’re telling me his mana doesn’t regenerate naturally? Really? It’s not like it’s a passive skill you can unlock by levelling up, Tanzia doesn’t have skill trees as far as I can tell, just spells bought from trainers.
I’m a big fan of questing in RPGs, I can spend hours doing side-quests, but not when they’re all a variation of “Kill all the things,” which is what Tanzia has to offer on its starting quests. When you’re beginning the adventure, you need to bust out the creative content. You need to hook the players in and “Kill 10 birds with one attack,” sounds interesting on paper but really isn’t.
I want to like Tanzia. I should like it, it has the pieces in there for a fantastic single player RPG, with some nice MMORPG controls and design choices that will be familiar to anyone who’s spent even 5-minutes in World of Warcraft, but right now it’s clumsy.
The developers at Arcanity Inc. really need to look at how MMOs have evolved in the past years, especially World of Warcraft, its closest in look & feel, and see where they need to improve to make Tanzia deliver on what I know it can.