Title: Kona (Early Access)
Released For: PC (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)
DRM and DRM free Versions Available
Released On:Mar 10th, 2016
Copy Received By Developer and or publisher
Kona is the tale of a private detective going into the roots of 1970 Northern Canada. After a request by industrialist W. Hamilton, he calls upon the detective Carl Faubert to investigate vandalism against the wealthy capital industrialist and to handle the affair. After being trapped in the Northern Atamipek region of Canada due to a huge snowstorm, it’s Carl’s job to find his client and figure out just what’s going on. We’d make a Courage the Cowardly Dog reference about how creepy stuff happens in nowhere, but we’re hoping the joke just writes itself really.
We first saw the game a few months after release when it appeared in GoG’s Connect offering. Early Access games that are hosted on GoG while not entirely in a rarity, are certainly uncommon and we really enjoy featuring games that have DRM free counterparts in one form or another. We hope the free deal with GoG connect is offered again at some point upon release for those who buy the game when it’s ‘officially’ launched, mostly because we support GoG’s Connect.
The game starts off in a nice, isolated woodland area. After traversing in your truck (the main mode of transportation in the game) you become trapped thanks to a snowstorm, leaving you to look for your client in a deserted town in the middle of nowheresville northern Canada near Atamipek lake. From there, the game breaks off into all the different areas for you to go in whichever as you see fit and when you see fit. There is ‘some’ degree of guidance where you go, but for the most part, you’re free to go in what direction you see fit.
We won’t spoil the story, but it tells the story in a very similar way as to how The Vanishing of Ethan Carter told it’s story thus far, complete with narrator. We have some predictions as to where the story will go, but we’ll end with the hope that they go for the more human route and not the ‘and this was all done because of magic from the Cree people, the end.’ route.
As for the puzzles and the ‘survival’ elements, they’re there and they exist. The survival element is really just a glorified timer counting down about how long you can be exposed for in the cold outdoors. While it does get in the way a few times, it does add some spice to the gameplay without going full survival man on us. Once you craft a fireplace or campfire, you have the ability to save there when you want. It’s a nice way to not spam the save button. The other really minor survival element is the inventory management. It’s clunky and we hope it gets changed before release. As for the management itself, you can either store things in your truck or on your body. The truck has a slightly below unlimited storage capacity, while the player is limited to a certain carry weight. Again, it plays into the time management aspect fairly well. Want to go exploring in the snow? Bring some wood with you to make campfires so you don’t freeze to death. Want to explore areas with enemies (we only saw wolves, though that may change on final release) ? Than bring a weapon, etc etc. It makes you think (at least a bit) into what you’re carrying and how much of something you’re carrying. Again, it’s clunky, but it doesn’t get in the way. As for the puzzles, they also exist. They aren’t grand, but they don’t exactly hinder gameplay. Most of the survival elements we’d more classify as puzzle-like because they really didn’t do much other than add puzzle or puzzle-like elements to the game. The actual puzzles and mystery-solving (of what there was of it) was interesting enough to peak our interest and the story (for the most part) compelling us to continue.
As for the combat, it’s…um…there? It too exists, but it’s not nearly as focused upon. It needs refinement. It’s clunky and rather place-holderish from our time with the game. However, combat sections are both extremely short and have very little tactical ‘edge’ to them. You shoot wolves, the wolves die. We hope future updates focus on greatly improving combat. The combat isn’t downright horrible nor unplayable, just rather bland and boring as is. Hopefully, future updates will also add other wildlife to shoot like bears or moose. Ever see an angry moose? You don’t want to see an angry moose. An interesting thing to see would be if combat were more dynamic in the same way that some fights might be better to use tactics or traps maybe.
As for the visuals, they’re not bad. The game has a nice visual cohesiveness to it that made the world come to life. That being said, it needs updates regarding performance as it seems fairly unoptimized for just about everything, and we struggled at points to stay above 40fps with our system.
As for the controls and settings, the controls are meh but the settings aren’t actually that bad. The controls don’t have any mapping, but it did recognize both the Xbox One and the Xbox 360 controller we had around. We’d suggest playing Kona with a controller, mostly for the fact of waiting until it receives rebindable keys for keyboard. The settings while towards the generic side did have an FOV slider and the ability to play at an unlocked framerate and at least offered a fair bit of options. The menu system and overall UI are clunky, but we heard those will be improved with time.
To mention the soundscape briefly, the music and ambiance are well done, and the sound effects are okay.
Overall, Kona is a difficult game to throw into a jar without just comparing it to another game. The obvious comparison is ‘It’s almost exactly like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter but with some combat’. However, we’re not sure it does Kona (or the latter) much justice, as it does have an identify of it’s own, even if that identity seems confused as to what it wants to be. The easiest way to describe Kona would be is that it’s a story-driven first person mystery em-up with a sprinkle of survival elements, a small cup of puzzle elements and a teaspoon of combat. It has all three and while adequate from our experience, it’s rather clear none of the three are the central focus, we’re just not sure if Kona realizes that they’re not the focus from our time with the game. The game is a good baseline for what could be to us, the next The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. From a first impressions standpoint, the problems we had didn’t stop us from enjoying our experience with what the game offers. What Kona offers currently is a short, slightly open beginning to a mystery that (if nothing else) has us intrigued to see more and we’re interested how the survival/puzzle elements will improve over time and integrate more into the story. If you liked The Vanishing of Ethan Carter or was intrigued by how they told their story, it’s worth at least taking a look at Kona if our first impressions were anything to go by.