I’ll admit, when I was handed a copy of Qora to review by the gaming overlords here at Expansive Towers, I had never heard of it or its creator, first time game designer Holden Boyles.
I took to the Internet to do a spot of pre-gaming reserach. Qora (or Spirit as it was originally known) was Kickstarted to the tune of $10,692 – more than double the original goal – by 765 people back in April and promised a stroll through the mystical landscapes of this pixel art game to uncover the long forgotten past of an ancient temple. To be fair to Holden, that is exactly what he has delivered in Qora.
When I first logged into the game, I thought ‘this is a world I want to explore’; beautiful pixel art and relaxing music really draw you in to the world. So I fired up the menu to get a look at the controls. Left, right, up, down and action; it didn’t look like this was going to be complicated.
The story, too, is a simple one. You play an old man who has retired to a remote mountain village to build his dream home. The house is still under construction so you wander into town and hear rumors of a mysterious temple beyond the valley. With nothing better to do, you decide to go and take a sneak peek while the builders finish up your new digs. Along the way you gain the power to view glimpses of the past and it is these snippets of history, as well as the beautiful scenery, that will keep you exploring the wonderful world of Qora .
The first stop on your journey is a nearby village where you can interact with some of the locals, some of whom will give you gifts that will come in handy on your journey while others are just fun to talk to. A couple of the comments from the villagers did make me laugh out loud but the further you get in the game the more isolated the main character becomes and the laughs get further apart.
This is where it may all get a little tricky for some; after exploring the village, the gameplay consists of walking to the right occasionally stopping to press the action button to chop down some long grass, climb a ledge or play a tune. If you haven’t been captivated by the world then there isn’t really much for you to actually do. Walk right, look at some past event, walk right climb a ledge (very slowly), walk right chop some grass, chop more grass, walk right; it really is quite minimalistic on the gameplay front.
It does make for a relaxing couple of hours, enjoying the scenery and the music, but it wouldn’t have hurt to put a couple more puzzles or a little action in to add a bit of variety. You can comfortably bat through in one sitting and it feels designed for that to happen. There didn’t seem to be a save option either which wasn’t ideal.
There are multiple endings to Qora, but whether you will want to see them all totally depends on the kind of gamer you are; I’m looking forward to taking a another run at it, but I can see how the slow pace and lack of action could turn some people off.
The Good Stuff
– Beautiful pixel-art graphics
– Emersive soundtrack
– Some real laughs
The Bad Stuff
– Qora is slow, like glacial
– Lack of action and challenge
– No ability to save on demand
If you’re hoping for an action packed platformer, or thought that Gone Home was just a walking simulator, then Qora is probably not for you. However, approached with an open mind and a couple of hours spare, Qora can be a rewarding and entertaining journey through some of the most interesting and beautiful pixel-art locations in indie gaming at the moment.