By Dan Spence on August 21st 2015
Qora is a 2D indie adventure game that was developed by a two-man team consisting of Holden Boyles and programmer Ciprian Stanciu. Published by Curve Digital, the game features an unusual story and a unique pixel-art style.
Qora’s opening revolves around a man (our unamed hero) moving into his new house in a new town. Shortly after the game begins we spend a few minutes talking to the townsfolk. We learn that the town is hundreds of years old and that some of the local landmarks are even older still. A brief run-in with the gods leads us to learn that we are the chosen one: a hero gifted by the gods with telekinetic abilities. Our newfound powers allow us to see long-forgotten remnants of the past. The village elder then presents us with our quest. Our quest should we choose to accept it (spoiler: we will), is to investigate the nearby ancient temple.
As videogame set-ups go: it’s standard stuff. But it’s where Qora takes us after these clichéd beginnings that makes things interesting.
Qora’s pixel-art style is gorgeous. The game’s characters are naught but simple stick men, but it’s in the backgrounds where the art truly shines. Qora’s art is simple but makes great use of block shading to create scenes with much more character; the final effect looks wonderful. Rolling plains, vast deserts and Arctic tundra all look fantastic when drawn in Qora’s signature style.
The core gameplay is a simple affair which consists entirely of moving to the right to continue your journey. There are several obstacles (steep ledges to climb up and down, etc) but these will never impede your progress for more than a second. Other obstacles include tall grass that can be cut down with your machete and rocks/boulders that can be broken with your pickaxe. Early on, it felt like the tall grass and boulders had been shoehorned in; as if they were only there to give the player some meaningless task to perform. Later I realised that the obstacles were there to slow me down; to make me stop and take notice of the pretty scenery.
If Qora’s gameplay sounds basic, that’s because it is. Qora isn’t a game about skill or puzzles; it’s a game about discovery. As you travel across the game’s landscape you’ll discover incredible things about the world you’re in. You’ll see beautiful landscapes, meet bizarre creatures and learn about the vast history of this strange land. “The journey is the thing”, and in Qora’s case it’s a thing of such magnitude and wonder that it makes it impossible to become bored. It is a short game (1-2 hours long) but the journey somehow manages to feel so much longer.
Qora’s greatest strength lies in its ability to provide the player with an amazing sense of discovery and exploration. It’s an impressive feat for a linear game with no alternative or branching paths. I felt a constant need to push on with the next leg of my journey. I always wanted to see what wonders the next location would hold and to see what waited for me at the adventure’s end. Our hero’s newfound telekinetic abilities prove to be a great aid to this sense of discovery. Our telekinetic powers allow us to “look through the divide and into another dimension”. This dimension contains various fragments of the land’s storied past. The most notable of which feature an ancient empress who appears to be on a voyage identical to our own, albeit a few centuries earlier. The sense of history and the incredible nature of the world makes Qora feel somehow profound. It’s reminiscent of taking part in some sort of religious pilgrimage or spiritual experience .
Being such a thoughtful game, I’d expected Qora to feel somewhat po-faced yet I found the game to have a decent sense of humour. I’d expected Qora to take itself too seriously but it’s nice to see that the game seems light-hearted in its approach to the whole thing. There’s a generous measure of silliness in Qora that gives the game a refreshing feel. That isn’t to say that some of the humour found in Qora can’t be quite dark in nature, though. One memorable gag involved “a pair of star-crossed lovers from warring families” discussing their unfortunate situation before one suggested: “could you steal the rat-poison that your mother keeps under the sink? I think I may have an idea…” Qora incorporates several moments like this and they fit its unusual style well.
Replay value is something of a strange topic for Qora. I do look forward to replaying Qora in the future but it is not a game I would want to replay immediately (even with the reward of a hidden ending). This is because I don’t think a second playthrough would provide me with enough variation from the first to make the whole thing worthwhile. The only notable change would be to the game’s ending while the core experience would be almost identical. It is a brilliant experience, just not one that I’d want play back-to-back.
To summarise, Qora is a short (between 1 and 2 hours) game about going on a long journey filled with amazing things to see. With great art and a fantastic atmosphere, Qora is definitely worth your time. The gameplay IS minimalistic, but this just gives you the chance to soak up more of the game’s excellent mystique.
Qora is: RECOMMENDED
Posted on August 21, 2015, in Indie Games, PC Games, Reviews and tagged Ciprian Stanciu, Curve Digital, Game Reviews, games, gaming, Holden Boyles, indie games, PC Games, Qora, Reviews, video game reviews, video games. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.