Feist Review

By Marc Hollinshead,
ID@Xbox continues to publish title after title. With such a large number of titles being released as part of the program, a game needs to feel unique and well made to be considered worthwhile. While we have seen plenty of brilliant titles come out of Microsoft's indie scheme, there have also been a large number of awful games that have had us questioning their existence. Recently, we saw yet another game from ID@Xbox and that game is Feist. With a name as random as that, it makes you wonder what the game even is and, more importantly, if it's any good. Let's find out, shall we?

Logo

At its heart, Feist is a rather simplistic game. Once you begin, you are promptly taken straight into the gameplay in a nameless forest. The story with which you are presented is never told in an obvious way. Rather, you are put in the role of a small creature that has to make its way through these harsh, savage environments that are filled with deadly critters and beasts, using only its wits to come out unscathed. The tale that unravels is simply the ongoing battle that the natural world and its inhabitants have to deal with, both against each other and the environment around them. Nearly everything will attempt to kill you and the poor little blob that you control is all on its own. It's quite charming in an unusual sort of way and the fact that no narration or obvious plot devices appear shows that gameplay can be substantial enough on its own to tell a story.

Another way in which the game keeps alluring the player is in its art style. Immediately upon starting Feist you may be reminded of LIMBO. The dark and shadowy nature of the characters adds an air of mystery and intrigue to each of the game's levels, but unlike LIMBO, Feist isn't completely plastered in blacks and greys. The background is regularly of a lighter tone and the juxtaposition of these brighter backgrounds and silhouettes of the characters gives a vibrant feel to the overall aesthetics. This vibrancy continues in the darker areas of the game as well, such as caves, even to the point where the blob is surrounded by complete blackness. The game looks impressive; for something so simple, the art style helps to give it an extra edge over other games, making it one of Feist's greatest strengths.

A lot of danger lurks in this forest...A lot of danger lurks in this forest...

The gameplay and controls of Feist are very easy to grasp, but the way in which they are used is the tricky part. Your little blob will need to run, jump and move the occasional object to make it through each of the game's ten levels. You are also able to pick up certain objects as weapons to throw at various creatures and traps. As you meander through the environments, traps and deadly enemies will quickly obliterate you, making every step more and more dangerous.

The challenge here is that it is extremely easy to die, whether that's through the immediate death from a trap or a four-hit death from enemies. Worms and flies will shoot darts at you, giant weights that are supported by a rope will snap on impact, and strange bug-like creatures will constantly try and sting you from above. Dodging all of these can put quite a strain on the blob, but it's the giant beasts that pose the biggest threat. At the end of a level, you will regularly come face to face with what the game just calls "beasts". These take quite a lot of hits from objects to kill and they are also quick on their feet. Fleeing from them is sometimes an option, but most of the time you will need to endure what can often be a tough battle, ending in a prolonged earthquake after the beast's death. They can be exhilarating fights, but also quite frustrating due to how suddenly death can spring upon you.

Despite the odds, this blob sure is a feisty one.Despite the odds, this blob sure is a feisty one.

This frustration can linger a lot more than you'd hope due to the challenge that the game presents. Because of the regularity of death, you will find yourself replaying segments over and over again before coming out victorious, but it is also the ambiguity of the levels that can throw you off (quite literally). It will often be the case that you will be unsure on how to proceed because the game isn't completely clear on what you should do next. While this can add a rewarding feeling when you have figured out these puzzle-like sections, other areas are just plain aggravating. One such area towards the end of the game needs players to jump across tree branches; one particular jump is extremely difficult to make even after you know exactly what to do. It almost feels like the game is being difficult for the sake of it, which crosses the line of a fair challenge to just unfair. This may be subjective, however, as difficulty affects many players in different ways, but don't expect an easy ride on your first time through, whatever your skill level might be.

Unwanted lag was another issue that cropped up on a later level. The section in which it occurred sometimes felt ruined because of this lag, as it was already difficult enough with enemies bouncing everywhere and mistimed jumps costing more progress. Feist performs at its best when your blob is constantly on the move, evading traps and enemies at a moment's notice, so when the game slows down or you are plagued by death and don't know where to go next, it can be tough to motivate yourself to keep going. Despite this, there is always a feeling of relief once you scrape through another level and make it to the next.

You'll quickly begin to despise these bouncing baddies.You'll quickly begin to despise these bouncing baddies.

Much like the game itself, the achievements of Feist will be tough to complete in their entirety. There are a number of random challenges that are dotted about that will have you playing the game in certain ways, but half of the list is devoted to either completing each level in a very short time limit or without dying. As you can imagine, this isn't going to be easy. After completing each level, you can play it again via level select, so this will be extremely useful when going for practice runs for those particular achievements. Some players will find satisfaction in just making it through all ten levels once, but for those who crave more, you potentially have quite a bit of work cut out for you.

Summary

Feist is a great looking game that takes a lot of inspiration from LIMBO in its art style. Nonetheless it manages to put its own spin on things and still look beautiful in the process. The little blob that you follow will get many, many scrapes and bruises from its journey in the savage woodland and caves, but throughout it all you will gain a feeling of relief and reward after making it to the other side. However, due to the occasional ambiguity of levels, constant death and the odd spell of lag, the game can sometimes become too frustrating. This may get too much for more casual players, so prepare yourself for a rough ride if that's the case. If you look past the frustration, though, Feist is a commendable title for someone who is after a simple story and simple gameplay.
3.5 / 5
Feist
Positives
  • Beautiful art style
  • A simple yet charming tale told through gameplay
  • Progression feels rewarding
Negatives
  • Can be extremely frustrating
  • Unwanted lag in later levels
Ethics
The reviewer spent 4.5 hours playing through all levels and dying a grand total of 226 times. 10 of the game's achievements were earned throughout. An Xbox One code for the game was provided by the ID@Xbox team for the purpose of this review.
Marc Hollinshead
Written by Marc Hollinshead
To summarize Marc in two words, it would be "Christian Gamer." You will usually find him getting stuck into story heavy action-adventure games, RPG's and the odd quirky title when he isn't raving about Dark Souls and Mass Effect. Outside the world of gaming, Marc attends and helps out in his church on a regular basis and has a not-so thrilling job in a supermarket.