Author Topic: Highwater (Switch) Review Mini  (Read 1325 times)

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Offline John Rairdin

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Highwater (Switch) Review Mini
« on: March 14, 2024, 05:00:00 AM »

An oddly cozy end of the world.

Highwater is a unique and charming narrative adventure. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic, flooded world. What is left of humanity is relegated to small islands. The rich elites live in a place called Alphaville and until recently, were sending out aid to the rest of the world. But now it appears that the citizens of Alphaville are intending to leave Earth altogether. Outside of their walls, insurgent militia are forming in the wake of food and supply shortages. Our hero, Nikos, has decided that he needs to journey to Alphaville, find a way inside, and escape with them from a world that is clearly on its last legs.

Most of Highwater’s gameplay is what you’d expect from a narrative adventure. You sail your small boat from island to island, talking to people, completing quests, and occasionally branching off the linear story to explore some optional areas. Sprinkled on top of that, however, are some very light tactical RPG elements.

When faced with an enemy, you’ll enter into turn-based, tactical combat. There is no real leveling system or skill trees, so combat isn’t particularly grindy. Rather each encounter feels like a very intentional puzzle. The linear, scripted nature of the game means that each encounter is well thought out and balanced based on the party you have. Your one bit of wiggle room is in optional weapons and buffs you can equip to your characters. These are largely found by exploring side areas. Most of the time, though, it's just about effectively managing your very set resources and making use of environmental hazards to take out foes effectively. Combat is fun, if a little slow to move between turns. That being said, I did notice that the equipment screen is devoid of any sort of control guide. Navigating it and switching between weapons and buffs is vague and often requires some random button pushing. The game does tell you the controls once, the first time you open the menu, so you better be paying attention because they won’t tell you again.

By far Highwater’s greatest strength is in its story. The plot is told through a combination of character interactions, along with regular radio broadcasts that give you a sense of what's going on in the wider world. The whole story has a great, albeit grim, sense of humor. Satire abounds both in the plot and in random bits of newspapers and other things you can find lying around. The world feels inevitably doomed and yet the game itself is not dark or depressing. The visuals are bright and upbeat and the soundtrack is chill. It feels as though there is an unspoken theme of finding good people doing their best in spite of the world falling apart around them.

Highwater's well told story, and surprisingly deep gameplay, made it hard to put down. It's not quite like any other narrative adventure game I’ve ever played. Combat and menu design can be a little clunky, but ultimately every encounter serves as a deliberate and well crafted puzzle. This is a very fresh take on a post apocalyptic story that oozes with satire, dark humor, and some oddly cozy end of the world vibes.