I wouldn’t need much convincing to believe Mask of Mists is a remaster of a PS2/GameCube/Xbox era RPG. Not only does it resemble a pre-Oblivion console-only roleplayer, with angular low-poly visuals and a small walled-off world, but it feels like one too due to the simple two-button combat and the overreliance of switch-flicking puzzles.
Visually, it even resembles the many remasters that have graced this generation – it shifts at a breakneck pace, but that’s only because there isn’t a great deal going on behind the scenes.
The biggest thing that makes this lie believable (to reiterate, it isn’t a remaster of an older game) is that the engine suffers from pop-up and fade-in. When entering indoor locations, no matter how small, a loading screen appears too. For something being released in 2020, these shortcomings both came unexpectedly.
Having read the press release, I don’t think the developers were going for a retro vibe – the game’s limited budget and rudimentary game engine, along with a slight lack of ambition, has somehow lead to an experience that feels trapped in 2005.
Weirdly though, I didn’t dislike playing through this somewhat humble first-person adventure. Its mechanics are all rather basic, but because of this, they all work perfectly well. Combat is a simple case of swiping with a sword and dashing in different directions to avoid enemy attacks – with a rickety pistol later added to the arsenal – while the quest log and inventory are both easy to navigate and manage.
Due to the small game world, it’s also impossible to imagine anybody becoming lost or frustrated (and unlike some games we’ve played recently, it also auto-saves regularly – hurrah!) Helping to keep the pace fast-flowing, objectives are always clear while the main quest – to locate an archmage by finding six crystals to reactivate a portal – remains the focal point throughout.
These crystals are stashed inside dungeons, most of which house several puzzles, as well as spike-laden traps that you’ll need to promptly dash past. While you may have to explore all rooms thoroughly to progress, there’s nothing too taxing here – the puzzles entail flicking switches in the correct order, finding and light torches to open locked doors, locating missing valves and levers, etc. You never have to backtrack far to find a solution.
When out in the wilderness, meanwhile, it’s occasionally essential to go foraging for berries in order to craft potions. Another quest is based around digging up hidden artefacts, prompting you to look out for patches of dirt. Thankfully, items and areas that can be interacted with are highlighted from afar – a modern touch in an otherwise dated experience.
Modern RPGs are convolved, multifaceted, and time-consuming experiences. Mask of Mists is the complete opposite – a short and straight-forward adventure that just wants you to come along for the ride, asking for no more than a few hours of your time. It’s too simplistic to recommend to genre veterans, but younger gamers may want to wallow within its colourful world. It’s better than that Beast Quest game from a few years back, at the very least.