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‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s’ Seven Best Characters



Breath of the Wild is one of the best Zelda games in many regards. One particular way it beats most other Zelda games is with its characters. The art style has been compared to the likes of Studio Ghibli films, and it is the first Zelda game to contain fully voiced cut-scenes. These elements along with Nintendo’s ever-improving writing allows BOTW to portray its characters better than any Zelda game has done before. Let’s take a moment to appreciate what I believe to be the best of these characters (excluding Link himself).

7. Beedle


For someone who has no actual story relevance, Beedle has made quite a few appearances in Zelda games over the years. Ever since Wind Waker, Beedle has been in almost every Zelda game, providing Link with a reliable shop to keep him stocked with whatever items he needs. Over the years, nothing has stopped Beedle’s business adventures. When Hyrule was flooded, he put his shop on a boat. When humans were forced to live above the clouds, he put his shop on an airship powered by his own physical exertion. In Breath of the Wild, Hyrule is larger than it has ever been before, so Beedle straps his wares on his back and walks across the land. Truly, the face of determination.

While Beedle was always helpful, something about his newest incarnation has made him more endearing than he’s ever been. In a Hyrule as large as it is in Breath of the Wild, civilization is hard to come by, so seeing a new horse stable in the distance is always a great feeling. And, usually, when you wander into a stable, Beedle will be somewhere close by, greeting you with a smile and a polite hello. I legitimately found myself calling out in joy whenever I saw that Giant beetle backpack in the distance. In a world filled with monsters and unforgiving landscapes, a friendly face and some well-priced items is an invaluable resource.

Also, he gives you a free ancient arrow and that alone shoots him up the list. If you’ve used ancient arrows you’ll understand why.

6. Mipha

It’s probably common knowledge by now, but in Breath of the Wild, a lot of characters seem to have a thing for Link. Several NPCs comment on his attractive features, he gets ample compliments when he cross-dresses, and some characters are straight up in love with him (I’m looking at you Paya). Probably the biggest Link lover though is the Zora champion Mipha. The champions are an interesting bunch. In an almost Avengers-like story, they were the best warriors Hyrule had to offer, joined together in order to protect the kingdom, and pilot the four Divine Beasts. They’re easily the characters with the most screen time excluding Zelda and Link, so it’s not surprising that they’re as likable as they are.

Mipha is a lot like Ruto from Ocarina of time. She’s a Zora princess in a group of defenders, who has a massive crush on Link. The main difference is that while Ruto was snarky and confident, Mipha is shy and sweet. The over-pouring love for her coming from the Zora really makes you see how important of a person she was for them. She had the power to heal, and comes off as a benevolent spirit, despite being fully capable of holding her own with her trusty Lightscale Spear. It’s sad that we couldn’t see more of her. She doesn’t talk much when amongst the other champions, and we don’t get to see her interact much with anyone except Link, so she gets little character development. If the upcoming BOTW DLC allows us to explore Hyrule before Calamity Ganon killed the champions, Mipha might become an even more endearing character. Until then, she’s stuck near the bottom of the list.

5. Kass

Kass is in a similar boat with Beedle. In his first ever appearance, this avian Bard roams the land with his trusty accordion, filling the air with sweet music. Unlike Beedle though, Kass doesn’t provide any items. Instead, he provides quests. As you explore Hyrule in BOTW, I’d highly recommend keeping your ears wide open. Occasionally, you might notice an unusual song coming from somewhere around you. Look around enough, and You’ll run into Kass, who will play you a song that will lead you to a hidden shrine. Considering how enjoyable and rewarding Shrines can be, Kass’s services are invaluable. Even if you aren’t out shrine hunting, it’s quite nice to just sit around him and listen to his rendition of the game’s main theme.

Kass really helps drive home how good BOTW’s music is. Not only does he perform the game’s main theme out in the wild, when you find him at stables, he will play a beautiful rendition of the classic Epona’s song. His music is to him what Beedle’s items are, and along with his great design, makes him a character you’ll always be happy to see. He even has a quest line of his own, which I’ll let you discover for yourself. What I will say though, is that music definitely runs in his family.

4. Revali

Impressive as his musicals skills are, Kass is sadly not the best bird this game has to offer. Taking that title is the Rito champion himself; Revali. Unlike Mipha, Revali is quite the talker, and if he’s present during a cutscene, you can bet he’s going to have quite a few lines. While Mipha heals and fights with her trident, Revali flies and uses a bow. Hailed as the best archer the Rito have, Revali doesn’t slouch on making sure you know how good he is, and how much worse you are. In their one on one scene, Revali goes all out berating Link for not being the amazing warrior everyone thinks he is and mocks his lack of wings. Also, I’ll just come out and say it. He’s Falco. He looks like Falco, talks like Falco, and mocks his allies like Falco. I don’t know whether there was some mixing between the Zelda and Starfox teams, but someone must have noticed the glaring similarities, right? Fortunately, he comes off just as likable as Falco and has one of the better voice performances in the game.

Also, his special ability is the most useful one in the game. The other champions’ powers might make you even more unbeatable in combat, but Revali steals the show when it comes to utility. After you obtain Revali’s gale, you can create a spontaneous updraft, taking link soaring into the air. This ability is a godsend for exploration and provides what might be the only way to beat the infuriating effect rain has on your climbing prospects. He might be a narcissistic Falco clone, but you can’t help but like Revali for his personality and his invaluable ability.

3. Urbosa

The final of the champions to grace this list (sorry Daruk), Urbosa is by far my favorite. While Revali and Mipha have their charms, they both suffer from a lack of character depth. Their base personalities are easy to see, and there’s something if you dig a bit deeper, but they generally stick to their normal roles. Urbosa, on the other hand, has a fair amount of depth to her. At first glance, Urbosa appears more intimidating than a Goron. She’s easily six or seven feet tall, keeps a huge red ponytail, and bares her abs that are so defined, they’d make the Rock shed a tear. She embodies the looks of a Gerudo perfectly and is just as capable as you’d expect, being able to summon lightning at will if her Scimitar and Shield can’t get the job done. But there is a softer side to Urbosa.

Of all the champions, she has the most interaction with Zelda. They seemingly have a pretty close relationship, as Zelda can be seen sleeping on Urbosa’s arm in one of Link’s memories. She also shows a deep understanding of Zelda’s feelings and anxieties and attempts to provide her with comfort and encouragement whenever she can. It’s very unusual for a character besides Link and Impa to be this close to Zelda, but It’s a welcome change. Hopefully, we can see more of Urbosa in some capacity in the future.

2. Sidon

This one was almost a given. If you’ve spent as much time looking at Breath of the Wild fan content as I have, you’ve seen this daring Zora prince many times. Despite only appearing in the Zora section of the story, Sidon challenges Link and Zelda in terms of popularity, and it’s not hard to see why. Not only does Sidon have one of the better character themes and voice actors in the game, but he has a level of positivity so high that it rivals your average anime protagonist. From the moment you meet him, Sidon does nothing but shower you with love and encouragement. He guides you all the way to Zora’s Domain, cheering for you the entire way, and serves as the middle-man between you and the Zora. Not to mention, his smile and pose are the thing of dreams.

I wrote briefly on the action sequence you have with him, but I must mention again just how fun and memorable it is. Few Zelda fans would’ve ever expected to find themselves riding on the back of a Zora, fighting off giant ice blocks being shot out by a mechanical Elephant. It’s easily the best pre-Divine beast sequence in the game, and it would be great to see more sequences like it in future Zelda games. Mipha might be a princess and a champion, but her little brother out stages her and the other champions in every way, simply by being your ever-encouraging friend in the dark world of Hyrule.

1. Zelda

Some of you might be a bit confused. Zelda? At the top of a best characters list? Isn’t she just another princess who gets kidnapped every game? First, no. Secondly, the Zelda in Breath of the Wild is easily the best Zelda that we’ve ever seen. Twilight Princess and Wind Waker did a good job of giving Zelda more personality and agency than she’d previously had, and Skyward Sword made her relationship with Link closer knit than ever before. Breath of the Wild’s Zelda takes queues from these other Zeldas and combines them to make a full character. In this game, Zelda has been in battle with Calamity Ganon for a century, while Link slept off his injuries. Zelda and Ganon have been equally matched and unable to take each other out, so Link must uncorrupt the four Divine Beasts, and reach Hyrule Castle to give Zelda some much needed assistance. This is the first way BOTW sets its Zelda apart from the crowd. This Zelda is at no point a prisoner. Instead, she’s the only thing keeping Ganon from completing his decimation of Hyrule and has willingly sacrificed herself to do her duty as princess of Hyrule.

This is a good start, but Zelda only gets better from there. Through Link’s memories, we see a Zelda that’s even more intelligent and responsible than she was in Twilight Princess, but also more friendly and childish than she was in Skyward Sword. This Zelda doesn’t view Link in a purely positive light. Her own insecurities concerning her powers lead her to resent Link and his seemingly flawless mastery of his destiny as the chosen hero. She allows herself to be vulnerable around the champions (especially Urbosa) and gets verbally and physically upset when things aren’t working out for her. Her fascination with wildlife and ancient technology show that she’s still a young and curious girl at heart, despite all the pressure she’s under. All this makes Zelda feel like a real character. She has doubts, dreams, interests, emotions; life. The memories show a genuine character arc for her, as she adapts to Link’s presence in her life while continuing to struggle with her destiny and her responsibilities. She’s able to exhibit a range of emotions unlike any Zelda before, and while her voice acting leaves a lot to be desired, it does a good enough job in bringing the legendary princess to life; better than she’s ever been before.


Gaming for almost a decade and writing even longer, Adeolu Adeoye is an avid fan of both art forms, with a love for convoluted storylines and cheesy dialogue. You can always depend on him to switch to support, or talk for hours about character design.



  1. Patrick

    April 16, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    I don’t get the love for Urbosa everyone seems to have; Riju was more interesting to me, but you’re spot on with Zelda. This might be the best version of her yet. She’s loaded with actual complexity instead of the usual contrived kind. Fascinating character.

    Also, Beedle forever!

    • Ricky D

      April 17, 2017 at 2:57 am

      BEEDLE should get his own game.

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From ‘dnd’ to ‘Death Stranding’: Good Old Fashioned Boss Fights

If Death Stranding proves anything, and it does, it’s that there’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned boss fight.



Death Stranding Higgs Boss Fights

There’s nothing quite like a good boss fight. With the creation of dnd in 1975– a Dungeons & Dragons inspired RPG for the PLATO system– video games would be introduced to bosses. It’s hard to imagine the medium without bosses, those perpetual protectors of progress. For dnd, an incredibly primitive RPG, a boss allowed the game to feature these miniature climaxes — memorable events independent of the core gameplay loop. Bosses demand players pay attention or die, and beating one is a triumph in and of itself. Looking back, dnd’s concept of what a boss is amounts to little more than the average random battle, but video games could now build towards emotional highs like any other medium. 

A good boss can make or break a game, but they’re almost always a given. dnd essentially set an inherent basic of game design: video games have bosses. As the seventh generation of gaming ushered in more narrative driven and “cinematic” titles, however, boss design fundamentally changed. Where bosses had evolved from dnd to often serve as explicit rewards or a means to thoughtfully challenge a player’s grasp of the core mechanics, developers started to primarily embrace the “spectacle” of fighting a boss. 

Spectacle and boss fights naturally go hand in hand, though. After all, a boss is spectacle in nature. dnd’s spectacle is comparatively primitive, but it’s there and bosses do feel like events. Boss fights have always demanded our attention as an audience, isolating the world of a game into a singular objective. Some of the best bosses in gaming are almost pure spectacle: Baby Bowser in Yoshi’s Island, Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time, and Metal Gear REX in Metal Gear Solid. None of these bosses are particularly hard, but they make up for their lack of challenge with scale, scope, and gravitas. Spectacle. 

At the same time, they engage with the mechanics of the game even if they don’t outright challenge them. Of course, it would be disingenuous to go on without mentioning that all of these bosses appear near the end of their respective games. They’re easier and focus on spectacle as a means of rewarding the audience for coming so far. Anyone who’s played A Link to the Past in full will likely remember Moldorm as vividly as Ganon, but it’s the latter who fans will remember. Ganon is a spectacular duel to the death inside of a pyramid where the environment changes over the course of the fight. The former is just a good old fashioned boss fight. Who wants that?

As it turns out, a good chunk of AAA developers. BioWare director Casey Hudson infamously spoke out about boss fights after the release of Mass Effect 3, criticizing them for being “too video gamey.” While, contextually, Hudson’s comment refers to narratively convenient bosses specifically, it’s a sentiment that clearly rang true with developers throughout the late oughts & teens. This isn’t to say games with amazing bosses didn’t release over the course of the decade -– very far from it -– but boss design has changed, to the point where the Iggy Koopas and Revolver Ocelots of the world seem almost out of place. 

That’s just a consequence of consuming only AAA content, though. The indie scene has been thriving, and Japanese game development is the best it’s been in quite a while. In a generation where gaming is more mature and grounded than it’s ever been, the medium needed to end the decade with a reminder of video games in their purest form. Death Stranding is anything but, but its core philosophies play to the strengths of the medium with an evident passion. Death Stranding demands that audiences slow down and play by the game’s rules. 

In a generation where holding a player’s hand is the norm, this is a welcome breath of fresh air. It’s not only appropriately old-school, it’s a step back in the right direction. Like any facet of game design, bosses need to be thoughtfully considered. Being “too video gamey” can indeed be a bad thing depending on a titles tone, but swinging in the wrong direction and playing it too safe is never a good idea. Especially since Death Stranding proves mature, grounded AAA titles can absolutely still have the same over the top, pattern-based boss fights of yore — and comfortably, at that. 

“No BTs. No Voidouts. No bullshit. Just a good-old fashioned boss fight.”
– Higgs, Death Stranding (2019)

What’s interesting to note about Death Stranding’s boss fights is that they all play up the spectacle. Now, given the context that’s been established, that might seem like a step in the wrong direction, but any medium has to evolve with time. AAA developers haven’t historically used spectacle well, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. Not every boss should be Ganon, but they should always be memorable. The problem with modern spectacle is that it doesn’t go beyond the surface level. It often carries little to no weight or context. Players are expected to care for the spectacle of the spectacle, but that’s simply not where the medium shines. Games are inherently about interconnectivity, and nothing demands more interconnection than a boss fight. 

From the moment players formally meet Higgs and he floods Port Knot City, it’s clear that Death Stranding’s boss fights are more Snake Eater than they are Peace Walker. They’re all incredibly meaty with tons of health, typical of a modern Hideo Kojima boss, but they’re not bullet sponges, and Sam’s limited inventory means that players will constantly be cycling through different weapons over the course of a fight. Couple this with bosses having identifiable patterns and Death Stranding’s boss loops end up being real highlights. 

As expected of a first boss, the Squid BT is on the simple side. At this point in the game, Sam really only has hematic grenades to fight back with. Anyone who hasn’t taken the time to learn how to use the grenades are now forced to do so as it becomes the only means of making progress. Since Higgs also ambushes Sam, players won’t be prepared for a fight on their first playthrough, forced to scavenge the flooded environment for gear. Most bosses strip Sam of his gear, but this approach only results in tense, well crafted battles that offer plenty of variety. Should Sam already have grenades on him, players can rush in to fight the Squid. Should they not, however, they’re going to have to search while staying alive. 

Starting with the next boss, the first fight against Cliff, Death Stranding begins allowing players to choose exactly how they approach a fight. Much like in Metal Gear, there’s no right or wrong way to tackle a boss. Where bosses in MGS2 onwards could be tackled lethally or non-lethally, Death Stranding’s bosses are more about action versus stealth. Both approaches are totally viable, and they lead into their own isolated boss loops. As Cliff Unger hunts Sam through World War I era trenches, players can stealth their way around him or just dive in guns blazing. 

It’s an incredibly tense battle, but it doesn’t let the spectacle of the situation outdo the actual fight. Cliff isn’t a set piece even if he looks it. He’s a genuine boss and players have to play well to beat him. Stealthing around to hit him from behind is safer, but it means players will be fighting Cliff for much longer, requiring more mental stamina. On the flip side, cutting to the chase and unloading the moment he rears his head will end the fight sooner, but only for players who know how to get in & out of combat fast. Otherwise, Cliff’s personal army will slaughter Sam. 

Cliff is fought twice more over the course of Death Stranding, and each encounter builds off the last. The World War I trenches provided plenty of cover for players regardless of which approach they chose, so naturally the second fight takes place in a World War II city. There’s still plenty of hiding spots, but Sam is now out in the open. Just as easily as Sam can see Cliff, so can he be seen. Getting to Cliff is harder in general. Stealthing towards him means taking advantage of any and all blind spots, no matter how brief. Starting a gunfight either requires some pre-established course of action or quick reflexes. 

Death Stranding

By the third and final fight, Sam is taking on Cliff in an open Vietnamese jungle. Stealthing through and fighting back are both harder, but players will have built up the proper skills over their past two fights to adequately stand a chance. The fights against Cliff are the most video gamey Death Stranding ever gets, with each one sharing the same definable patterns, but they’re ultimately a net positive for the game. Having to learn a pattern, finding a way to fight back, and reveling in the scope of a great boss fight makes Death Stranding better on a whole. 

Honestly, the final fight against Cliff isn’t going to be a challenge for most players, but it’ll still stand out as a highlight. Each boss fight is a playground in and of itself. If Sam’s not being transported to a secluded battlefield, areas will be flooded with tar so that they can be molded into proper boss arenas. Even Dark Souls, a modern series that rightfully prides itself on its bosses, often won’t give the same level of care toward boss arenas. Good bosses need good level design just as much as they need good patterns. 

Perhaps more important than anything else, Death Stranding’s boss fights are long. Even if players know what they’re doing, they still have to endure an endurance match of sorts. Boss fights aren’t just about overcoming a challenge, they’re about surviving and making progress. Cliff’s not particularly difficult, but one mistake can result in Sam getting torn into. The majority of BT boss fights will try to overwhelm the player in the second half, the final one even featuring a nasty one-hit-kill that can easily sneak up on players wading through tar. Bosses should feel like events, from how players can engage mechanically, to how they’re presented narratively. 

No discussion of Death Stranding’s good old fashioned boss fights would be complete without mentioning the boss fight: Higgs. After serving as the game’s main villain for dozens upon dozens of hours, Sam finally gets his chance to fight back in a three phase boss fight that could have (very) prematurely ended the game on a high. Unlike the fights against Cliff, Sam really does have nothinghere, no matter what. He’s stripped of his gear, his weapons, and even BB. “Stick versus rope. Gun versus strand.” It’s a great way not only to wrap up Higgs’ arc, but it also challenges a player’s mastery of the most basic mechanics. 

Death Stranding

Phase 1 of the fight requires players understand not only Sam’s hand to hand combat capabilities, but his ability to throw packages. Throw a package at Higgs, beat him up, rinse, repeat. All the while he’s hunting Sam in one of the most constricted boss arenas in the game. Popping up too early means taking a few shots courtesy of Higgs. Popping up too late means needing to find him all over again. 

Phase 2 puts Sam on the offensive, and expects players to fight back with his strand. Higgs needs to be countered, hog-tied, and then kicked into oblivion. On-screen button prompts make the ordeal easier than it would otherwise be, but it’s thrilling to fight a boss who requires players to pull off reflex-based inputs that go beyond the typical QTE flare. Players need to set themselves up accordingly to counter Higgs, actively taking him head on. 

By the time fighting game health bars pop up for the third phase, it’s fairly obvious Higgs’ boss fight is a love letter to the very concept of the boss fight. It’s over the top, almost nonsensical, but it has the right narrative and emotional context to stand out as one of the best moments in an already spectacular game. The fight against Higgs is a miniature climax in a massive story that spans half a hundred hours, and is about to keep on keeping on for half a dozen more. 

Death Stranding

When it really comes down to it, there’s no right or wrong way to conceive a boss fight. Those spectacle bosses have their place, and this generation has seen a lot of amazing ones. What’s important is that developers build and contextualize spectacle accordingly. Boss fights aren’t just an inherent part of gaming, they’re a tool that can make a title better. Opportunities to shine light on the core mechanics, or an interesting aspect of game design. Death Stranding’s penultimate mission essentially pits Sam against a boss gauntlet across the entire UCA, a last chance for players to really indulge in everything at their disposal before the grand finale. 

Death Stranding would still be good without its boss fights, but it certainly wouldn’t be great. Each one elevates the game, not only by presenting a visually memorable and mechanically engaging challenge, but by existing as natural consequences of the story. Each boss is contextualized properly with enough weight where each victory has a considerable amount of impact. Boss fights have come a long way since dnd, but they’re recognizable for what they are: a reminder that games are games, and the medium should be embracing those video gamey elements. It’s through this “video gameyness” that the most memorable titles are made. If Death Stranding proves anything, it’s that there’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned boss fight.

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Game Reviews

‘Life is Strange 2’ Episode 5 Review – “Wolves”: A Worthy Send-off

The final episode of Life is Strange 2 may take a while to get going but it does offer a solid conclusion to the Diaz brothers’ journey.



Life is Strange 2

Life is Strange 2 hasn’t made any bones about being a political game over the course of the last year. The 5th, and final episode, “Wolves”, doesn’t just continue with this message, it doubles down, and in a big way.

Set near the Arizona-Mexico border, “Wolves” follows the Diaz brothers on the final leg of their journey. Having escaped from the cult that held Daniel up as a messianic figure in the previous episode, Sean and Daniel are camping out in a sort of pop-up town filled with outsiders like themselves.

Life is Strange 2

The location provides Life is Strange 2 with its final breath of relaxation before the story enters its high tension endgame, and it’s a much needed reprieve. Unfortunately, it does seem to go on a bit longer than the player might like, and that makes things drag a smidge.

To give you some idea of how long you’ll be spending in the village, 4 of the 6 collectibles are found here. So, yes, this starting area is the main place you’ll be spending “Wolves” in. To be clear, the area isn’t bad per se. There’s a lot to see, a scavenger hunt to go on, and a few interesting characters to speak with, including a surprise cameo from the original game. The bummer of it all is that players will be feeling the time here more laboriously simply because there isn’t much of anything happening.

Life is Strange 2

In the 2nd or 3rd episode of this story it’s perfectly fine for an extended bit of down time. Episode 3, in particular, benefited greatly from allowing you to settle into the setting and get to know a diverse and likable new group of characters. However, by the 5th episode, players will be so eager to see how things are gonna settle up, they won’t be able to get out of this area fast enough.

On the upswing, once Sean and Daniel leave the village, the story moves at a pretty solid clip to the credits. As the key art and trailer for “Wolves” might suggest, the Diaz brothers do indeed challenge the border wall in the final leg of Life is Strange 2. Where things go from there, I won’t spoil, but rest assured that Daniel will absolutely go through the crisis as you’ve trained him to do.

By this I mean, you will see the final results of your choices throughout the game, and they’re pretty impressive. With 4 possible endings, and 3 possible variations on those endings, Life is Strange 2 can ultimately play out in a variety of ways. How yours plays out will, of course, depend on the choices you’ve made and how you’ve influenced your brother throughout your journey.

Either way, though, Life is Strange 2 closes off “Wolves” with an emotionally satisfying and generally fulfilling conclusion to your journey. It might be a necessary evil that the events can’t be intense the whole way through, being that this is not an action or combat-focused game, but the fact that things take so long to get going in the final episode is a bit of a problem.

Still, fans worried that Life is Strange 2 might fail to stick the landing can rest easy. “Wolves” might not be the best, or most satisfying, episode of the series but it does what it needs to do and it does it well, particularly in the back half.

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Game Reviews

‘Yaga’ Review: A Bittersweet Fairy Tale



Yaga Game Review

Some games feel perfectly suited to their genres, as if they fulfill every ambition that their genre could promise. On paper, Yaga from the developer Breadcrumbs Interactive, should be one of those games. This roguelike RPG is meant to bring traditional Slavic folktales to life, and its procedurally generated structure allows the game to change in every playthrough, just like how the ancient fairy tales it’s based on can change in every telling. Yaga immediately shines on a conceptual level, but as a game, the most important question remains: will this fairy tale be enjoyable to play?

From start to finish, Yaga uses the rich source material of Eastern European history and folklore to create a vibrant, fantastical world. The entire game is framed as three elderly women telling the story of Ivan, a heroic blacksmith who has been stricken with the curse of bad luck. These women spin a fanciful yarn, one in which Ivan is constantly plagued by horrors from traditional fairy tales such as the hideous One-Eyed Likho, along with more realistic foes, such as a corrupt, overbearing Tsar. The game thrives on this balance between history and fantasy. Its world is filled with peasants who face daily, universal struggles with war and agriculture, while massive ogres and goblin-like Vodyanoys haunt the surrounding wilderness. This mixture creates a strong setting that finally gives Slavic history and mythology its long-overdue representation in games.

Yaga Game Review

“Take the presentation and story together, and Yaga becomes a playable portrait of the lives and superstitions of Eastern European peasants.”

The frame story always remains the same: Ivan will always have to serve his Tsar while avoiding bad luck in every playthrough. However, beyond these core details, the old women are extremely flexible storytellers, often switching events around or changing story beats entirely. In some playthroughs, you may discover a woman raising an enormous chicken; in others, you may instead encounter a band of thieves waiting to rob you. You will frequently face important decisions to make that will dramatically impact the outcome of your quest. yes, you can always break into monster hideouts with hammers blazing to slay every creature before you; but more often than not, you are also given the opportunity to peacefully talk your way out of these toxic situations. Even more dramatically, oftentimes the game will zoom out to the old women storytellers and allow you to choose how they tell the rest of Ivan’s story. Yaga is at its best when it doubles down on this player freedom. It makes every moment engaging and allows its stories to truly come alive.


Yaga’s writing and presentation only serve to make this world even more striking. It features a distinctly dark sense of humor – for instance, a man may ask you to push a boulder into a well behind his house, but he will neglect to tell you that he has also thrown his wife into the bottom of that well ahead of time. Much of this dialogue is even written in rhyme, enhancing the otherworldly, fairy tale atmosphere. On top of that, nearly all dialogue is fully voice acted, with most voice actors delivering some eccentrically charming performances that make the game feel as if it’s a playable Disney film. The visuals look like they’re taken straight out of a Russian children’s book of fairy tales, while the music incorporates traditional instruments and language into an electronic, hip-hop fusion soundtrack that captures the cultural heritage that Yaga focuses on while connecting it to modern culture. Take the presentation and story together, and Yaga becomes a playable portrait of the lives and superstitions of Eastern European peasants.

However, this leads to the gameplay. Quests may be randomized each time you play, but nearly every one of them takes the same general format. One character will request help, and then Ivan will have to venture out into the world to fight some demons or recover an item. Worse yet, the levels are just as randomized in their procedurally generated design, and not in a particularly clever way, either: most of them likewise follow the same formula, being little more than arenas full of enemies connected by copy-and-paste environments. Many paths in each environment lead to nothing more than pointless dead ends. The combat has a satisfyingly simple basis, with basic moves like long- and close-range attacks, roll dodging, items to use, and a variety of different weapons to equip, although his trusty old hammer is generally the best choice. However, while this simplicity makes the combat enjoyable on its own, there is very little depth to it, and the inherently repetitive design of the mission only serves to highlight how paper-thin combat can be. Most battles involve little more than hacking away at enemies until they die, which becomes increasingly repetitive by the end of the roughly ten-hour campaign.


At the very least, the robust customization system helps add a little intrigue to the combat. As a blacksmith, Ivan is naturally gifted with the ability to craft weapons for himself to use. By scavenging parts and items from fallen enemies and treasure chests around the world, Ivan is able to create the most powerful weapons. Crafting is simple to use yet extremely ripe for experimentation, requiring only one base item and a handful of accessories to create unique new items. With dozens of components to discover and use in your forging, there are plentiful opportunities to create the best possible weapons.

“All told, Yaga achieves a bittersweet ending: it’s bitter as a game but sweet as a fairy tale.”

The crafting system would be the standout aspect of the moment-to-moment gameplay if it weren’t foiled by another one of the game’s systems: Bad Luck. Ivan has been cursed with perpetual Bad Luck, which grows constantly throughout the game – whenever something good happens, Bad Luck is sure to increase. Whenever the Bad Luck meter fills all the way, Likho will appear and strike Ivan, generally breaking one of his weapons or stealing his money.

Yaga Game Review

On paper, this mechanic makes sense, since it prohibits the player from becoming too overpowered and also fits into the folklore style off the story. In practice, however, it is an infuriating limitation on player progression and invention. It effectively punishes players for putting thought and care into their weapon crafting and character-building – at any moment it can all be washed away in bad luck, so what’s the point? Considering how enjoyable the crafting and combat systems are, it’s a shame that Bad Luck seems to exist solely to diminish the very best parts of the gameplay, leaving the game feeling like it cripples itself.

Your enjoyment of Yaga depends heavily on what experience you want out of it. If you’re looking for a deep and satisfying RPG, then it likely won’t deliver. Although it features satisfying combat and customization systems, the frustrating randomization of its level design and Bad Luck system only serve to foil these good qualities. If you are instead looking for a faithful, fleshed-out image of Slavic cultural heritage, portraying both the harsh realities of peasant life along with its fanciful folklore, then Yaga is a clear triumph thanks to its emphasis on player choice, its excellent writing, and its beautiful hand-drawn visuals and inventive soundtrack. All told, Yaga achieves a bittersweet ending: it’s bitter as a game but sweet as a fairy tale.

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