πŸ›£️ Roadwarden PC Review 9/10 "Endless Hordes of Shit-Throwing Apes" πŸ›£️ @AssembleTeam #GameDev #IndieGames

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Your first steps into Roadwarden’s unnamed peninsula are timid and paranoid. Anyone who’s played a dark fantasy game will steel themselves for untrustworthy inhabitants, death lurking around every corner, and your character forced into tough moral decisions for some ill-defined greater good. 

But Roadwarden soon proves to be something much more than a gloomy trudge through a sadistic world.

You play the titular Roadwarden, hired by big city merchants who want to establish trade links with an unmapped peninsula. Whichever choices you make when you begin you’ll enter this world as a seasoned adventurer with handy combat/magic skills, though you’ll quickly realize that your true ‘superpower’ is owning a horse that can outrun most foes (you get to name your horse, making ‘Binky’ my greatest asset).

You have 40 days to ingratiate yourself with the locals, convince settlements to sign on with the merchants, resolve any major conflicts or situations, and get the lay of the land. On top of that, there’s another more ominous objective. The last road warden disappeared in mysterious circumstances and you have to track him down. The problem is, while everyone was familiar with your predecessor, nobody wants to give any specifics on what happened to him.

What follows is an open-ended text-based RPG with a tangled branching path of possibilities. Cosying up to one settlement often means permanently alienating another.

Do you remain steadfast in your faith or open your arms to pagan superstitions?

Is seeking justice for victims counter to your mission of opening trade routes?

You’ll contend with all those chewy decisions, as well as a landscape teeming with unfriendly wildlife (particularly endless hordes of shit-throwing apes).

Though you start with a blank map it won’t take you long before you’ve got the basic lay of the land. The peninsula is effectively a large loop, with the rim studded with villages, inns, and places of interest. The interior is a dangerous woodland populated by monsters and bandits, and there’s always more than you think hidden just off the beaten track. 

As you explore you’ll pick up odd jobs, with your loops around the world punctuated by dropping off deliveries, clearing blockages from the road, or maybe a bit of lonely hearts matchmaking. And, surprisingly quickly, the peninsula begins to feel like home. You’ll soon become friendly with chatty innkeepers, gain the trust of the loners eking out a life in the wilderness, and ever so gradually figure out the buried past of this place.

It’s a wonderful world to explore full of memorable characters and scenery, so it’s a testament to the writers that almost all of this is conveyed through text. Roadwarden is full of graceful and detailed writing, often zeroing in on small elements that reveal the whole of the character.

For example, what do you read into a dishevelled man in rags wearing a pair of sturdy and well-kept boots?

Does he simply know the value of keeping his feet in good condition or have they been yanked off the arrow-filled corpse of some poor traveller?

Could this be linked to the caravan that was recently ambushed out on the roads?

I spent about 15 hours in my playthrough and, as the credits rolled, felt like I’d done fairly well. I solved the mystery of my predecessor's disappearance, fixed a handful of the peninsula’s major woes, and forged a couple of trade deals.

But, on reading other players’ experiences, I realized I’d only scratched the surface of Roadwarden. The 40-day time limit and the amount of either/or decisions make it impossible to see everything in a single playthrough and even now I can hear the lure of the road calling to me.

Maybe this time I’ll figure out what was really going on with that weird cave or learn the true name of the friendly druid.

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