We’re working on a review for Yaga, so I got in touch with indie studio Breadcrumbs to talk a bit about the game. Come check it out!
PS4Blog: Morning! Good to have you with us today. Could you help us get this one going by telling our readers a bit about yourself and your work?
Morning! I am Cătălin, game designer and writer at Breadcrumbs, a small studio in the heart of Transylvania. Our goal as a team is making games that you can get lost in. We try to create experiences that lead you into our game’s world by a trail of breadcrumbs and then keep you there with narrative elements, aesthetics, and gameplay mechanics.
PS4Blog: Yaga is ready for it’s November 12 release on Nintendo Switch and PS4. What can you tell us about the game?
Yaga was born out of our love for storytelling and games, and it is an action RPG where you play as Ivan, a one-handed blacksmith cursed with bad luck.
The game tries to mix three main ingredients: we created a combat system inspired by games like Bastion and Hyper Light Drifter, blended it together with a story-driven by choices and small roleplaying encounters, and all of this is wrapped in a layer of narrative, visuals, and audio that draws heavily from Slavic and Easter-European folklore and folk tales.
The story puts the main character in a challenging position. The Tzar, the ruler of the lands, sends Ivan on an impossible quest, hoping he will die and never return. It will be your job to take Ivan through this, get rid of his legendary bad luck, and, who knows, maybe even please Ivan’s grandma who wants her grandson to find a wife.
A key element for us was giving the players the chance to roleplay their characters. Throughout the game, you’ll be able to make choices that lead your character towards one of four different personalities: Selfish, Righteous, Aggressive, or Foolish. The choices you make will define what kind of upgrades you get and what outcome you can expect at the end of the game.
In your journey, you’ll get to discover different events that form a collection of small stories that highlight peasant life and beliefs from 14th-century Slavic countries. The characters you meet and the choices you make in these often humorous encounters will give you a small slice of that epoch and culture.
PS4B: How long did it take to develop Yaga? Where there any hurdles or challenges you had to overcome?
We’ve been working on the game on and off for the greater part of the last five years. At first, it had some slow progress, as we explored the direction we wanted to follow, and did all the research needed to stay faithful to the source materials.
There were many ideas in all aspects of the game we tried and abandoned, from the narrative structure, to different art styles, and to what characters we wanted to focus on. Finding a unifying theme that is consistent throughout all of these aspects can sometimes be really frustrating, but we’re thrilled about how the game shaped itself in the end.
One of the bigger challenges was finding the right balance between player expression, and a narrative structure that follows the story beats expected in a folk tale. It’s always hard to stop when you want to give players freedom of choice, but you need some way to tackle the growing complexity.
Funnily, the solution came to us from the source material. One aspect of oral storytelling is that the story changes slightly each time it is told, as different narrators imbue stories with their own interpretation and feelings. This lead us to creating the Personality system we implemented in the game. Thanks to this, we allow players to focus on how and why their characters solve certain problems they are faced with while keeping the branching story at a manageable size.
The big arc of the story follows similar story beats, but the moment-to-moment details are different from player to player, and the choices made can have an impact on what happens in the game.
PS4B: Due to the game’s procedurally generated maps and how content is presented to players, how long would it take someone to see everything the game has to offer?
A single playthrough, where you also take time to do some sidequests and explore the environments, can last between 9 to 12 hours.
Seeing everything in the game requires a handful of playthroughs. We have several different endings, and choices that affect the endings are spread throughout the game. In addition to that, small encounters are solved differently based on your personality and choices. So if you were to try and see every little thing in the game, you would likely need up to around 40 hours playing, depending on how skilled you are and how much you optimize each playthrough.
PS4B: And that’s all the time we have for today. Is there something else you’d like to add before we go?
Make sure to check out the soundtrack of the game! The music is a mix of modern hip hop tunes with folkloric elements and instruments, created by a group of wonderful people in Romania, called Subcarpati and Argatu. It’s really a unique take on traditional music, and it’s something that we’re sure will delight you.