Kya: Dark Lineage Updated Preview
We take another look at Atari and Eden Studios' upcoming platformer.
We got our hands on a near-final version of Kya: Dark Lineage, the upcoming PlayStation 2 platformer from Atari and Eden Studios. The game has made significant progress since the last time we saw it a few months ago. Eden Studios has done quite a bit of polishing on nearly every aspect of the game, resulting in a tighter look and feel that bodes well for the final version.
The version of the game we played offered a much tighter unveiling of the story, thanks to a proper opening cinema that details Kya and her half brother, Frank, poking around their father's old workshop. When Frank accidentally triggers a device that zaps them into a bizarre world, he is apparently possessed by something. Finding out the specifics of what's got into Frank, literally, and how a dimension-breaching machine winds up in their father's workshop are just some of the things on your to-do list in the strange new world. Unfortunately, those tasks take a back seat to survival when Kya wakes up to find herself separated from Frank and surrounded by some strange furry creatures. Before she can process what has happened, she finds herself on the run, along with her mysterious fuzzy companions, when a pack of menacing creatures appears. Following her escape, Kya is befriended by her companions, called Nativs, who bring her up to speed on current events. The Nativs are a peaceful people being oppressed by an evil man named Brazul, who captures them and uses magic to transform them into wolfen, the feral creatures that attacked Kya at the game's opening. The Nativ village elder, Atea, decides that Kya is the Nativ's best hope for freedom and agrees to help her find her brother in exchange for her help in liberating all the captured Nativs. To aid her in her quest, Atea grants Kya the power to ride the winds and the ability to wield magic. Armed with her new abilities and with a sidekick named Aton, Kya sets out to find her brother and rescue the Nativs. Just before things fully get under way, the story takes a pretty interesting twist when Kya discovers that the evil Brazul is, in fact (cue dramatic music), her father.
The gameplay in Kya has been tightened considerably since the last version of the game we played. The gameplay breaks down into three distinct types: exploration, combat, and flying. Exploration is your standard third-person platformer fare, so expect to do your fair share of puzzle solving and character interaction. The puzzles will come in a variety of flavors. In some missions you'll have to suss out how to open blocked passages, and in more stealth-oriented missions you will have to sneak past wolfen or figure out creative ways to deal with large numbers of them. The game will offer some pretty cool solutions to your head-scratching dilemmas. In some cases you'll need to interact with colorfully eccentric characters for hints or help in your travels, or you might have to make use of creatures called jamguts, which will serve as fast-moving rides that are vital to reaching some of your goals.
The combat in Kya is closely integrated with the exploration and will come up as you encounter the various wolfen in the game. To restore them to their Nativ form, you must beat them into submission and use Kya's magic to exorcise the evil out of them. Unfortunately, the feral beasts aren't too thrilled about being changed back to their Nativ form. As a result, you'll have to work at bringing them down, which is where you'll be able to appreciate the game's solid fighting system. When you encounter a foe, the game will automatically shift into fighting mode and lock you onto the nearest enemy. Kya will have an assortment of punches and kicks, as well as a boomerang, at her disposal during a fight. The combat system is pretty basic at first, offering a limited number of combos, but as you progress through the game you can upgrade Kya's fighting moves, which will eventually give her an arsenal of leaps and grapples that will let you use your enemies against each other. The game uses a color-coded martial-arts-style system to help you track your upgrades. You'll start at white and work your way up to black by purchasing the upgrades in shops. Kya's magic abilities will also come into play and allow her to enhance her attacks. Restoring Nativs becomes a vital component of the game, since they head back to their village and begin building it up, which means more shops and more items for you to buy.
Flying in Kya has come together extremely well and is one of the most unique aspects of its gameplay. There are several varieties of wind-powered locomotion in the game, such as free-falling downward, moving forward, or sliding down tubes propelled by wind currents, and they have been nicely tuned. The game does a fine job of conveying the freedom of flight as you zip through the air. Your control of Kya is pretty simple during these sequences--you'll usually just be able to slide her from side to side to avoid obstacles or push away objects when you encounter them. During the free-fall sequences you'll be able to change Kya's positioning to let her dive in the air like a skydiver. While the flying sequences in the early versions of the game were a little unbalanced, they've been tweaked quite a bit and are very fun.
The graphics in the game have come together very nicely. They offer rich color and detail for the disparate chunks of land that make up the world you'll explore. The game's high frame rate is much more solid and consistent, and it complements the fluid animation in the game.
The audio has shaped up pretty well. The music is impressive, and the tribal-themed tunes have an epic flavor that suits the action. The voice acting is a bit inconsistent. Kya sounds fine, but some of the other characters in the game, especially the Nativs, may make you question whether they're really worth saving. Overall, though, the audio in Kya is quite strong and is a solid complement to the action.
Kya: Dark Lineage is slated to ship for the PlayStation 2 this fall.
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