Roadwarden: The Power of Words Game Review

They don’t make them like this anymore. But it’s not just the novelty value that helped Roadwarden stand out from the crowd when it was billed as a text-adventure classic in the early 1980s.

You’ve probably only heard of subgenres like Zork or Colossal Cave Adventure (the latter being remade for a year-end release, incidentally). But the creators of Roadwarden certainly played them to heart, learning to build moods, landscapes and evocative characters with eloquent text descriptions.

You play as a passerby, a sort of roaming guardian whose job it is to map and patrol a medieval peninsula for your shady payment managers. Trouble is, the last passerby is gone and may have met a rough end. Maybe he somehow upset one of the communities he was supposed to help. Perhaps he was fed up with the uncomfortable and overpaid life on horseback. Or has he been on the run from the many fantasy beasts he’ll encounter on the uncharted trails that make up the murky peninsula?

Whatever happened, no one you met was willing to provide much information but few had good words to say about him.

Unlike early text-based epics, Roadwarden relies heavily on choosing action and dialogue options from a list. It also incorporates familiar RPG elements from modern RPGs. So you can build your character as a warrior, a mage, a healer and other character classes. Obviously, that affects how you approach the game’s problems but also how people react to you. Most inhabitants of the peninsula treat you with a little suspicion. Some defaults immediately become outright hostile. But you can get a lot of wins thanks to your looks, chat reactions and of course, the inevitable side quests.

Complementing Roadwarden’s appeal is the subtle use of pixel art to complement the vibrant text. Much of your attention will be focused on the excellent writing in the description of the places or the compelling dialogue. But sitting along this windowpane overlooking the world is a sometimes changing depiction of a building or place, adding another layer of insight to your adventure.

Much like the 1980s vibe, you’re advised to keep a physical notebook with you. The built-in quest log captures some useful details, but nothing beats your own observations about your character’s needs or the arc of your adventure.

Confusingly, at the beginning the game will ask where you want to play Roadwarden in the fall, limiting your mission time to 40 days. It acts as a sort of difficulty level, making sure you always anticipate your moves and forcing you to miss some important encounters. Without this restriction, the game loses some of the tension but could also feel more satisfying in that it allows you to revisit interesting puzzles you might have rushed through otherwise. .

Roadwarden is designed for playback so you can explore different options. But even one level of its unique story provides plenty of memorable moments on a fascinating journey. Roadwarden: The Power of Words Game Review

Fry Electronics Team

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