In a quiet little strip along the perimeter of the indie megabooth at PAX East is a charming rogue lite adventure game called Away: Journey to the Unexpected. I'm intensely worried that the greater gaming world might miss out on this one, so it's my solemn duty as a video game lover, and lover of all things quirky and creative, to call your attention to this project.
Away is being developed primarily by a single person; a French developer named Aurelien Regard. The game takes place in a colorful and vibrant world inspired by old-school 90s anime, and the NPCs and enemies look like characters straight out of Dragon Ball or a Studio Ghibli film.
All of the models are rendered in 3D, but they have a totally unique, hand-drawn look to them. They're brilliantly animated, and really easy on the eyes when in motion. They're funny, too. Enemies all have a cutesy air about them, and the NPCs boast memorable personalities. I stumbled, baffled and amused, across a random merchant in a field who had dance fever, shaking her hips and grooving to the music to attract new customers.
None of it made a lot of sense, but I guess all of that quirk and charm is the "unexpected" in Journey to the Unexpected. The game never takes itself very seriously, and the foundational plot driving the adventure is lighthearted and inconsequential. While explaining the game and its premise, Aurelien mentioned more than once that the world was a happy one, and that the mystery you're solving isn't dark at all - just fishy and interesting.
When you encounter certain beasts or powerful humans, you can work your way through a conversation tree to try to convince them to join your party. After recruiting these beasts (or people) to your party you're able to take control of them at any time, totally changing your first-person view and the combat options available to you. Each character has a special power and attack, but they also sport limited energy, so you'll have to use them sparingly.
I played a very small slice of the game, but I came away absolutely intrigued and enchanted. Away has a beautiful, memorable framework, and I'm hoping that Aurelien is poised to finish strong. This could shape up to be one of my favorite games of 2017, and if you're a sucker for old-school anime and quirky indie games like I am, you won't want to miss this.
Away: Journey to the Unexpected will hit modern consoles (including the Switch) and PC some time this year.