A Highland Song review: finding freedom in the Scottish Highlands | Digital Trends

    A Highland Song
    MSRP $18.00

    “A Highland Song successfully brings the awe-inspiring freedom of Breath of the Wild to the Scottish Highlands.”


    Painterly artwork model

    Freeform climbing

    Creative “run” construction

    Excellent music


    Players can get caught

    Musical sections get tedious

    I performed A Highland Song 3 times earlier than reaching its true conclusion, nevertheless it’s my disastrous first try that sticks with me most. After spending a number of hours misplaced within the Scottish Highlands, my impatience acquired the most effective of me after I unintentionally misjudged a leap and rapidly dove right into a stony pit. My already low stamina bar lowered to just about zero and I discovered myself unable to climb again out. Frustrated with how my journey panned out, I used to be tempted to drop the sport there and settle for the truth that my story was destined to conclude with a lifeless finish.
    I’m positive glad I didn’t.
    Developed by Inkle, A Highland Song is constructed on teachable moments like that. The 2D platformer is a coming-of-age story a few runaway woman looking for herself in a winding world that feels hopelessly overwhelming. While there’s a direct narrative to comply with, its most essential moments are the emergent tales gamers uncover in-between mountain peaks. It’s solely by means of the act of wandering that the journey’s most profound fact emerges: You can’t end up if you happen to’re by no means misplaced to start with.
    A Highland Song is a meditative quest for self-discovery that efficiently interprets the liberty of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to a grounded indie journey. There could also be frustrations and setbacks alongside the best way, however imperfection is a part of the journey. It’s our job to study from these errors and be higher for them.
    Let’s get misplaced
    A Highland Song turns a childhood fantasy right into a one-of-a-kind survival journey. It opens with Moira McKinnon, a younger woman dwelling within the Scottish Highlands who makes a break from her rickety dwelling and nagging mom. She’s a younger lady on a mission; her plan is to run away to the ocean to fulfill up along with her uncle in time for Beltane, a Scottish competition that marks the start of summer season. There, she hopes to discover a treatment to her rising pains, as her uncle guarantees to assist her perceive who she actually is. It’s a easy story of childhood angst changed into a tactile quest for self-discovery.
    To replicate Moira’s newfound freedom, Inkle creates a novel gameplay loop that pulls inspiration from Breath of the Wild. Moira merely has to make her approach to the ocean by traversing a sequence of valleys dotted with climbable peaks. Despite being rendered in 2D, the Highlands really feel as grand in scope as Zelda’s Hyrule. It’s a multilayered panorama portray awash in pure element and wealthy earth tones. I get that fast sense of the elegant as I start bounding between peaks and scaling any floor by merely shifting my joystick up.
    That preliminary pleasure quickly provides approach to nervousness as the fact of Moira’s journey units in. A Highland Song shortly reveals itself as a small-scale survival recreation. I must handle Moira’s initially massive stamina bar, which dictates how a lot she will be able to climb in a single go, by resting between arduous hikes. A hasty leap or arduous touchdown would possibly end in a skinned knee that cuts down the bar till I relaxation. I additionally want to seek out appropriate shelters for her to sleep in when evening falls, as making an attempt to snooze below a rocky overhang will lower her stamina the following day. It’s an efficient little bit of useful resource administration that encourages me to maneuver with warning and at all times have an emergency plan able to go when the sunshine fades.
    Every impediment in A Highland Song will be overcome.

    To make issues extra aggravating, Moira is on a timer — she solely has a number of days to get again in time for Beltane. She can arrive on the sea late, however she gained’t discover the solutions she’s on the lookout for. That creates a powerful push and pull, as there are occasions after I must get shifting on the threat of harm. That stress is additional compounded by the truth that the Highlands are a sprawling labyrinth of hills, caves, and secrets and techniques. Like Moira making an attempt to navigate her tangled feelings, I start to really feel like I’m hopelessly misplaced, questioning if the hills ever actually finish.
    That makes it all of the extra rewarding after I’m inspired to push on. Every impediment in A Highland Song will be overcome. Even when it appears like I’m at rock-bottom, desperately clawing my method towards the horizon, there’s at all times a peak that I can climb to get a view of the place I’m going. There’s readability on the finish of each battle; I simply must rise as much as discover it.
    A roguelike musical
    The core gameplay concepts make for a advantageous platforming journey, nevertheless it’s the broader construction that makes the expertise particular. Like Inkle’s final launch, the narrative homicide thriller Overboard, A Highland Song takes inventive notes from the roguelike style. Each journey works like a conventional “run,” the place Moira tries to get to the ocean as quick as she will be able to. Actually getting there in time for Beltane is difficult at first, nevertheless it turns into simpler the extra gamers start to know each the Highlands and themselves.
    In every playthrough, the aim is to discover a method by means of the mountains through discoverable paths. Those will be sussed out by means of scattered papers that maintain clues to shortcuts. When climbing up a peak and getting a view of the land, gamers can drop a pin on the map to mark the key areas. Going to the spot and verifying the clue will reveal the trail. And for the reason that map doesn’t change between runs, which means any information gained carries over (as do all collected papers). I may also discover varied objects by means of my journey that I would discover have some use later, like after I uncover that I want some flammable wooden to gentle a torch.
    The extra I study in regards to the land, the sooner I’m in a position to conquer it on my subsequent run. And which means I can higher tempo myself subsequent time too, studying when it’s OK to decelerate and relaxation. I uncover one thing new about myself every time that makes life a bit simpler, simply as Moira does in her story.
    Less profitable is the journey’s musical element, which doesn’t fairly maintain the identical narrative weight. When gamers attain a protracted stretch of valley, they’re abruptly whisked into a fast rhythm minigame the place they should press buttons in time with music to leap between rocks. While finishing a track efficiently supposedly raises Moira’s energy, the change typically feels negligible. By the tip, the segments wind up feeling like lengthy, repetitive interludes constructed to make flatland traversal a bit extra flavorful. Though to Inkle’s credit score, these segments are dwelling to among the greatest music you’ll hear in a online game this yr, because the passionate Scottish folks tunes carry cultural authenticity to the journey.
    Like Moira, A Highland Song feels prefer it’s on a quest to find its personal identification at occasions. It throws loads of gameplay genres on the wall they usually don’t at all times work collectively, like a teenage goth making an attempt to slot in with the jocks. It can lead to some messy moments, like my doomed first playthrough that left me little alternative however to reset. There’s some inadvertent honesty in that, although. It wouldn’t be a real teenage coming-of-age story if it was too afraid to seek out its voice by means of experimentation. A Highland Song reminds us that it’s OK to strive one thing new and perhaps even slip up, so long as we’re keen to choose ourselves up after and hold shifting with confidence. That’s what rising up is all about.
    A Highland Tale was examined on PC and Steam Deck OLED.

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