Ever since a full-time job made it impossible for me to play World of Warcraft, I’ve been looking for a worthy alternative. I first put my eyes on Tanzia as it released but only got to play a bit of it in the last few days.
I wasn’t going to review this indie title; not yet at least. Tanzia has virtually no reviews on Steam and Arcanity Inc have been in early access for a little over a year already. Then, something showed me how interesting this could be for someone who’s trying to design a solid experience.
Welcome To The Uncanny Valley
The plot for Tanzia is not an intricate one. In the shoes of a humanoid shaman, we’re tasked with discovering more about a series of magic-related incidents. The many NPCs often speak about Voodoo and letters from a powerful relative lead us into a hectic chase. Pretty standard fantasy stuff but solid enough for an indie game.
From the very first moments, though, something caught my attention. It seems as if this title desperately wants to be a very specific MMORPG. Tanzia’s starting area looks strikingly similar to a cross-over between WoW’s Senjin and Bloodhoof villages, down to the little masks scattered throughout and the totem-shaped post-signs.
The similarities won’t stop there. Much like its big AAA brother, our shaman will be able to conjure totems and control various elements to keep their enemies at bay. Although all of these skills are in tune with the character we’re playing, some of the icons looked perhaps a bit too familiar for my taste.
Nevertheless, I wouldn’t cry plagiarism just yet. Perhaps the choices were done in good faith to honor a masterpiece of the genre. Still, there’s a really thin line between getting inspired and copying. There’s a note to it: a unique environment – that’s able to stick with the player – will only benefit the overall feeling of immersion!
A Clunky; Clunky Business!
While we’re talking about immersion, it’d be impossible not to mention how hard this games tries to drag you out of the action. It’s almost as if the developers thought us unable to multitask. I could accept something like that from a new title that just hit its Early Access mark; not from one who’s been at it for over a year!
To access any of the in-game menus – be it your inventory, the quests log or a map – Tanzia has you hit the pause button and go through a sidebar. I have no idea why the developers decided for it; there’s no reason for it to be like that; yet here we are! Every time I need to chug down a potion or glance at the map, the entire world around me suddenly stops moving.
Using the ever-present taskbar also turns out to be a lot harder than it should. Both items and skills can be placed there, but only a limited amount of slots are available. If Tanzia offers us a way to scroll through our bars or to add additional sections to the screen; I personally wasn’t able to find it.
Both of these issues could be easily fixed with a few tweaks to the game’s UI. A togglable mini-map and a waypoints system will immensely help players who are navigating the world of Tanzia; multiple bars will prevent us from digging through the backpack every time something is amiss!
Tanzia Could Surprisingly Be… Fun!
Other than the problems I discussed above, the handful of bugs typical of Early Access, and a few missing options in the settings menu, Tanzia turned out to actually be a fun game! The characters, the scenery, and the quests we’ll encounter are interesting enough to keep us playing and the plot seems to thicken the farther we go in.
Unfortunately, having to fight with the UI and the constant feeling I was purposely kept back from the front-line ultimately made me lose interest. I eventually gave up completely, barely into my 6th or 7th hour of gameplay. It wasn’t a bad game altogether but completing it didn’t exactly feel it was worth the hassle!
The harsh truth is that – ever since Steam opened the floodgates – players could always find something else to switch to. The moment your users decide to stop coming to terms with your UI, they’ll simply move to the next title on their wish-list. This is why UX and quality control should be your topmost priorities before release.
Tanzia – here’s its store page – had the chance to win a special place in my heart; perhaps it will get another one in the future as the developers keep working on it. For now, though, I wouldn’t feel comfortable if I suggested you spent some of your money on this game!