Come for the gorgeous hand-drawn art style, stay for the challenging mix of action, strategy, and roguelike elements in the gameplay
Original Journey is unlike almost anything I’ve ever experienced, and that immediately makes it both intriguing and a bit confusing. Mixing elements of strategy and action, it’s a roguelike that will challenge your planning, execution skills, and your ego.
You begin as a member of what is apparently a plant-based race where you learn that your planet is becoming uninhabitable. The task of avoiding apocalypse is given to you as you set out to explore space in search for a solution. Having discovered an alien planet that appears to show promise, a wide variety of both enemies and environmental hazards stands between you and potentially saving your civilization.
Survival from enemies will require strategic placement of various turrets as well as hands-on action between a choice of two weapons. Each stage is randomly laid out with a wide variety of environmental hazards as well as an assortment of enemies that will vary per region. Sometimes it will be easy and you won’t even need to use a turret, other times you’ll feel a bit overwhelmed and you can’t place them fast enough to give you some passive support. Variations occur randomly, such as friendly reinforcements appearing or even equipment that you can utilize to plow through obstacles.
One of the roguelike tricks to the game, and one I struggled with quite a bit initially, revolves around risk and reward. After you finish each stage you’ll go back to a screen where you can choose to forge on or go back to base. As you get deeper into an area each additional stage will bring additional opportunities for finding new resources that you can use for things like upgrades. But if you aren’t careful and don’t know your limits you can easily fall victim to the next wave of enemies. If you do die you’ll have one chance to start from the beginning, get back to that stage, and reclaim the majority of the loot you had collected on the previous run. Unfortunately, there’s usually a good reason you were unable to finish that level the first time so I found many of my follow-up runs would also come up short. The lesson I learned here is to definitely pace yourself and if you’re more than, say, 8 or 9 levels in, consider going back to base. Once I gained more discipline to return to base, I began making progress much more quickly by not losing so many resources to my ego and a “Bah, I’ve got this” mentality.
The last thing I’ll leave you with is that the two boss encounters have been chaotic and challenging. I struggled quite a bit with the first boss as the variety of its attacks caught me off guard. Even with my turrets placed and guns blazing I just couldn’t keep myself alive quite long enough to defeat it. The second boss I was able to defeat more quickly but that isn’t to say the battle was easy by any means. The absolute chaos on screen you can check out for yourself, it was a lot to take in and account for but I was able to tough it out. Original Journey is a refreshing splash in the face with new challenges and hand-drawn art keeping everything looking distinctive. I look forward to being able to take it on the go and I imagine it will look stunning on the Switch’s screen.