6:35pm // 4.1.2024

I have rewritten this review a few times now. Each time, I have struggled to determine the best way to do the game proper justice, as it greatly impressed me for its mature presentation and refreshing inclusion of explicitly Christian religious elements without resorting to the usual "woah, the Catholic Church is evil" stuff. Nope, you do in fact play the good guy and the cult you're investigating throughout the game is evil. You could argue that that's a spoiler, but I think it is a strong point in favor of the game and a good reason to play it. There is no sudden turn halfway through showing how you've been manipulated the whole time and that the cult is trying to liberate you from patriarchal oppression!

Outhouse Felvidek
Taking a break to use the restroom

You play as Pavol, an alcoholic knight in an alternate history Slovakia. Drunkenly gazing out your window, you see the old castle in the distance set ablaze and are tasked by your lord, Jozef, to investigate it alongside the monk, Matej. Throughout your investigations, you encounter plundering Hussites, scheming Turks, deranged cultists, and some eldritch abominations, for good measure. One of the core motivating things for Pavol, beyond his duty to the kingdom, is finding the truth about just what is going on with his estranged wife, Paula, as she not only seems to despise him, but is highly ranked within the cult. The plot doesn't take any extreme turns or go in any particularly surprising directions, but it still works rather well. The characters are especially compelling. I particularly like the monk, Matej. While you initially get the impression he's somewhat of a disagreeable coward, he proves a formidable asset in battle and has his fair share of humorous dialogue.

The dialogue in Felvidek isn't necessarily laugh out loud funny a lot of the time, but it is consistently amusing. You'll enjoy your run-ins with the brothel-frequenting priest, the drunkard man-beast, and the lonely painter on the cliffside. I cannot read Slovak, so I experienced the game in English and was impressed by the quality of the translation. The occasional slight technical, grammatical, or spelling issue aside, every character is memorable and interesting.

Cursed Grain!
Unintentionally killing a hen... for investigation purposes!

However, the most obviously striking and memorable thing about the game are the excellent visuals. It has the most lovely environments, with each screen rendered in different shades of a single, muted color. In contrast to most RPG Maker games, the game played in a semi-isometric point of view, contributing to the unique sense of style. The cutscenes use the same kind of coloring, but with low-poly 3D animations. The character portraits and models are all semi-realistic. Some are seemingly pictures of someone, with their armor/clothes driven over the original image. When taken in consort with the soundtrack, it can make for an especially eerie or cozy game, depending on where you happen to be. I especially love the village's BGM, with its relaxing guitar and slightly melancholic nature. The rest of the OST is great as well. While not as experimental as some other examples in the medium, some tracks are definitely not what you might expect to hear in a medieval video game. Overall, the presentation is very effective and perfectly fits the mood of the story.

You'll notice that I haven't mentioned anything about the combat yet, and that's because it's about what you might expect from an RPG Maker game. That's not to say it's bad... it's serviceable! You're unlikely to be challenged at any point, especially because of generous it is with handing out cash and items, but each battle has enough strategery to stay engaging. The most interesting aspect of the system are the fullscreen animations accompanying any action you take. These appear to be rotoscoped and add a sense of style to the otherwise standard turn-based proceedings.

Recovering with Plum Wine
Using some plum wine to recover my health - as one does!

The strength of Felvidek lies in its aesthetics and the feeling you get while playing it. Although short, you'll enjoy exploring the map, meeting different characters, and solving the mysteries. It doesn't overstay its welcome, but I do wonder what a longer game in this style might be like. I would be interested in seeing more of the exploits of Pavol and Matej. And it looks as if many people would agree with me, as despite coming out only a few days ago, it has seemingly already attracted a cult following. You can definitely count me amongst those ranks! Felvidek comes highly recommended to anyone who is even remotely intrigued by the screenshots and description.

Andro's Verdict
Highs: Wonderful aesthetic; interesting story and characters.
Lows: Standard combat; short playtime.
Bottom Line: One of the most compelling games I've played in some time. Get it!
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