Warden: Melody of the Undergrowth (PC) Review

By Sandy Wilson 22.10.2018

Review for Warden: Melody of the Undergrowth on PC

Clearly inspired by the action adventure and collect 'em up titles of the N64 era, Warden: Melody of the Undergrowth presents an interesting addition to Steam. This marks the first full game release from the developer and it has a lot going for it. Cardboard Keep began work on Warden in October 2013 after it made a number of prototypes to test the waters for its future projects and settled on an idea for a large exploratory story-driven affair.

Warden begins with action, as the main character and his father head out to fend off monsters threatening their group. It is here that gamers learn about the main character, Tavian and his father's, the emperor, relationship. His father takes care of the first monster, and then arms Tavian, teaching him the basics of combat in a odd tutorial, but one that's nice and succinct. Before Tavian is swept away down a river, he comes face to face with a bizarre deity and is made a warden of the forest destined to protect it from evil.

The very first thing the game does is sooth your heart with what must be some of the nicest lighting effects in a cartoony, cel-shaded style aesthetic. Every aspect is glowing and colourful, and things never slow down with introducing new interesting things to look at as the player traverses the world. Warden's visual style harks back to the sort of Wind Waker look and yet it very much has its own identity. From every locale, to every character that Tavian interacts with, and the temples and dungeons among other things - each is impressively designed and has a visual atmosphere that befits the level.

Each locale is full of colourful conversationalists that can interact with Tavian. In the first level, it is training dummies, and they are all slightly depressed at the state of the temple maintenance. It's actually quite hilarious how grim they can be and how Tavian brushes it off as he tries to find his father. These kind of encounters happen frequently enough to emphasise the story but without drowning the player with dialogue. It's really quite refreshing.

Screenshot for Warden: Melody of the Undergrowth on PC

Gameplay-wise, the combat is a weak point; it's clunky. It's far from unbearable, however; the controls are responsive and Tavian can easily dodge enemy attacks if the player is keeping an eye on enemies for the build-up animations they have. There is a fair bit of depth to the combat system. Tavian can carry three weapons and his torch at all times, yet each weapon has durability and breaks pretty quickly. They also have their own stats for damage and speed, as well as each having their own animation styles. Managing the weapons becomes a key element as the game progresses and combat encounters a rise in difficulty.

The rest controls fantastically with very responsive movement and jumping that retains player control for directions and distance, making platforming very enjoyable. The reason, then, for the platforming and the main joy and draw for exploring is the collectables. The world is chock full of them. Most are called motes, which are delightful pick-ups that are glowy blue shapes that act as both currency and keys. When collected, they play an immensely satisfying sound that rises in pitch for subsequent pick-ups made in a certain time window, meaning if you grab a line of them quickly, it plays a little ditty. These are far from the only things on offer, though. There are also a multitude of standing stones that have little poetic insights into the world's lore, alongside treasure chests, armour, weapons, and lore documents… it really has a lot included.

One of the best and most important highlights is the level design. It's sweet as honey; each area is set up to highlight that area's important path but has plenty of off-shoots for Tavian to be dragged through. Each usually features a puzzle or too, as well, which are some of the most engrossing platforming challenges, mind-bending symbol matching, and even sometimes mathematical tests in a game for a while. It lives up to the idea of an N64 era puzzle and world set-up and it's thoroughly enjoyable because of that. The puzzles later on also make use of the three playable characters' powers to offer up more complex challenges and to ensure no character feels like a tacked on addition for the sake of it.

Screenshot for Warden: Melody of the Undergrowth on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

The biggest thing holding Warden: Melody of the Undergrowth back is its reliance on old school sensibilities that might push away new players or frustrate people who didn't enjoy the likes of Zelda and Banjo-Kazooie, among many other titles. It does offer a lot of its own charms, though, and they are among some of the best reasons why this developer's first game should be in many peoples' Steam libraries. This is a thoroughly recommendable indie purchase for any and all "Golden Era" gamers.

Developer

Cardboard Keep

Publisher

Cardboard Keep

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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