Review: Tales of Inca: Lost Lands10 Jan 2018 0
Review: Tales of Inca: Lost Lands
Released 14 Dec 2017
The Inca Empire is remembered for its innovative agricultural irrigation systems and a vast network of roads that allowed relay runners to convey messages within a range of 150 miles in a single day. In the 1500s, disease, civil war and the superior weaponry of Spanish invaders devastated this once impressive empire.
Of course, the Inca were also fond of offering up child sacrifices to their Sun God, an aspect of Incan life that the designers of Tales of Inca: Lost Lands wisely elect to steer well clear of. Instead, the player is tasked with the far less bloodthirsty job of discovering new lands and connecting them by road to the ever-growing empire.
You begin each level with a very limited number of workers to call upon, the best bet is to immediately hand them the task of gathering food. Food is the key resource, without it your people will not be able to complete other tasks such as clearing pathways and repairing obelisks. Initially, you will have to rely upon gathering fruit from nearby trees, but as you progress, your workers will be able to construct fields and then irrigate them to double the crop yields. If you manage to build up a stockpile of twenty food then you will have the option to recruit an extra worker, allowing you to complete tasks at a faster rate.
A typical level will begin with your tribe gathering fruit that will give them the necessary energy required to clear boulders from a path. The result is not only a nice clear path, opening the way to other resources, but also the beginnings of a very useful supply of stone. Next, you may be required to send your workers off to chop down some trees. The gathered wood can then be put to use repairing a bridge, allowing access to a fallen obelisk that can be repaired by using your supply of stone. These are the basics but as the game develops, a range of new features will become available. You may need to gather the supplies needed to mollify one of those very famous South American dragons, or feed a hungry Llama, or build a hut for a shaman and then instruct him to light a nearby beacon.
You progress through the levels in a linear fashion and will be against a strict time limit. Failure to complete all of the level’s targets within the time limit means that you will have to restart the level from scratch. This can be really annoying, especially when you have been playing a level for 15 minutes only to fall just short of your target. Successfully complete a level and you will be awarded a gold, silver or bronze star. If you find the time pressure too harsh then there is a more forgiving casual difficulty setting.
On approaching Tales of Inca for the first time, you would be forgiven for thinking that the game is going to be shallower than your average reality TV star. However, as new features are introduced you begin to feel that the game may have more to offer than initial impressions suggest. Sadly, it then dawns on you that these new features offer little in the way of variety, and you are left with a game that soon declines into a repetitive rut from which it never manages to escape. Each of your Incas has to complete their current task and return to the hut before they can be sent out again, and frustratingly, once a task is selected there is no way to cancel it. Thankfully, you can hit the fast forward key to speed up proceedings but even when your villages hurtle around at turbo pace you will still find your finger twitching to get on with things, especially when they have to follow a convoluted route to the other side of the map and the back again.
It is obvious that the game has been designed for mouse control, even the tutorial instructs you to click the mouse button. What this means is that selecting items and determining what you actually need to complete a task can be unresponsive and problematic. I found selecting the obelisks to be especially hit and miss, to the extent that I actually began to doubt that I was actually trying to select the correct thing. When you are up against a time limit the unresponsive nature of the controls is particularly annoying. It can also be difficult to identify what objects are actually blocking your path, and when objects are clustered close together, selecting the correct one becomes a matter of luck. There are other little niggles, which suggest that a little more optimisation was required; the achievements page, for instance, doesn’t align the text correctly on my iPad.
The use of sound is pleasant enough, with a selection of chirpy tunes, although it is rather bizarre to hear your South American villages confirming your actions or suggesting that you need more workers in a voice with a distinctly German accent. Graphics are of the usual bright and cartoony but rather generic kind that you find in countless casual games.
Although it is true that some levels do initially require a little lateral thinking there is nothing too brain taxing here. You may need to clear paths in a certain order to ensure a supply of food, but since it is pretty obvious what you need to do and the steps you need to take the challenge becomes one of endurance. You soon realise that the new obstacles you have to deal with are smoke and mirrors and in effect just require you to gather more stuff before the time runs out. You never really feel enthralled or in the zone, partly because you are constantly wrestling with the controls and partly because the repetitive nature of the game ends up feeling more like a chore than a form of entertainment.