Have you ever fancied yourself a maker of worlds; a ruler of lands; a master of creation? Well, on top of minding how far that obsession takes you, Sketch Tales might just be the game you’ve been waiting for. Sketch Tales is an immersive drawing (that’s: Doodling; Roleplay; Action; With; Imaginative; Non-linear; Gameplay) sandbox where your power lies in your imagination. You want it? You draw it. Whether you’re redesigning mighty swords, pencilling fearsome foes, or fighting off ruffians with disturbingly detailed man-parts that you really didn’t set out to draw because that would be immature.
Developed by 8D Studio, these Kiev-based chaps are very comfortable with providing a fun, light-hearted experience for people to enjoy regardless of gender, race or background. They know what they like and I like that they’re making it their own way, using their initiative to finance the project, and that’s no minor feat. Considering the reception Sketch Tales has received from both Steam’s early-access users and the press, it’s evident that it’s got a fairly solid place in the sandbox genre and will continue to build a nice fan-base as the build develops.
When it comes to ambition 8D Studio has truckloads of it. To take on a project such as this where you can create your own characters, record your own sounds, design the very blocks that make up the world and so very much more would seem intimidating to some. No doubt there may have been some trepidation when it came to Sketch Tale’s development, and to imagine the workload that came with it is almost staggering, but it’s not hard to see how much they love their idea. From keeping up with blog posts, posting updates on Steam and continuing their Vlog development diaries on YouTube, it’s this little attention to detail that makes the game stand out more to me. It’s refreshing.
In Sketch Tales the colours of the world have been stolen, leaving the land in a drab state, and you must go on a mighty quest to snatch them back. In the announcement/teaser trailer it appears that the world is in sketch form with very little colour, whilst in the most recent version the land is clearly coloured in and no longer stark. This may cause confusion to some but as the game is still in early access things are subject to change. The world is still bleak and its limited colours are now there to guide the players to useful objects, such as chests or food.
With the game in its current state, unfortunately the Story mode is substantially lacking, but that’s been made clear. After reaching out to ask them a few questions, 8D Studio stated “The Story mode is in its primitive stage at the moment. We’ve got a full-fledged story worked out on paper, but not yet implemented into the game itself. So you can expect a lot more added to that mode throughout the next updates.” So it is coming, and like so many good things it’d be a travesty to rush it, especially in a game such as this.
You’ll also find that 8D Studio has much more in store than just updating its Story mode. So far they have three major updates planned to make it stand out from the others. ‘Einstein would be proud’ is their titled physics update, where you can abide by the laws of physics or break them and affect the world around you. ‘Living world’ is the second and most intriguing update in my opinion. By using this level of AI life simulation it’ll give the world a much more varied view. In its current state all monsters do the same sort of thing, though some may be stronger than others, so it could really use some variety to keep it fresh. By altering different monsters for different times of day it could make the whole experience much more immersive. That’s why sandbox games like Minecraft and Terraria are so nerve-wracking after night fall – until your armour and weapons become substantially overpowered of course. The final update is ‘Power in numbers’ and if they can set up appropriate servers, and hopefully online game play as well as LAN, then it could be hilarious. After laughing at my own creations I believe it’ll be ten-times funnier to play with friends so I’m very much looking forward to this.
As much as I can see the potential in this game I have to state the obvious as you can currently purchase it on Steam. It’s rough. All of the enjoyment I’ve gotten out of the game so far has come in its editing features: drawing silly pictures, making stupid sounds for my character or for the other creatures. But the Story mode at the moment might as well not exist. You have to escape the jail you start off in and it’s as easy as approaching the iron bars and pressing ‘E’ on them. After I escaped the building I essentially just explored the environment as there were no notable objectives and the interest dried up pretty quickly in that case.
What Sketch Tales could benefit from in future updates is a quick tutorial or obvious list of controls to peruse. I found myself just pressing buttons until something worked in most cases, but that could’ve just been the roughness of the Story mode. The same goes for using your inventory. It took me a good few hours to realise the ‘E’ on each item meant ‘edit’, not ‘interact’ as it is in live play. In the same sense, some sort of sign or symbol that indicates what items you can put in your hot bar/on your character could be beneficial. I didn’t know how to eat an apple or what bones were used for or why I had gemstones but I assumed they were useful in some way, I just didn’t know how to use them.
However, all things considered on what’s still to be developed in Sketch Tales, it is a very fun game. It shows a massive amount of potential and appeals to a large audience. The pixelated nature of the graphics also works in its favour as you don’t have to be an artist to be able to draw something creative. For me, it brings back a very nostalgic feeling about my childhood. I’m back in the 90s sat on the CRT monitor using programs like Paint to draw a terrible picture of a horse. Once the game has been developed further I’ll revisit and re-review the aspects that are currently lacking sometime later in the year, or perhaps when Sketch Tales comes out of early access and puts on its big-boy shoes. I can’t wait.
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