In Indie RPG Puzzler Vidar, Death Is Everywhere

  • OS X
  • Windows
  • Puzzle
  • RPG
VIdar Logo
Vidar logo Razbury Games

There’s a lot of games out there that allow you to build your own city or castle, helping it grow into a vibrant hub. But what’s it like to watch a bustling burg become a desolate ghost town? That’s the scenario posed by indie puzzle RPG Vidar from Razbury Games, which maroons players in a cursed, dying village.   

Every night, one of the 24 remaining inhabitants of Vidar will be killed at random by the Beast that lives in a nearby cave. After each death, the story will change course, since every character plays a distinct role in town life. "It's about the impact that person has. How does the absence of that person change someone else? Sometimes it's for the better. But a lot of times it's grief," explained creator Dean Razavi.

Vidar promises a unique gameplay experience every time, with stories and quests changing with each playthrough. Quests send you to a puzzle dungeon for a limited time (about ten minutes or so), where you must tackle a variety of environmental stumpers using picks, shovels and more to make your way to the Beast at the bottom of the cave before every inhabitant of Vidar perishes. Puzzles appear randomly, scaled for difficulty as the game progresses. Razavi expects players should expect to see 30-40 puzzles per playthrough, out of a bank of more than 400.

An icy puzzle environment in Vidar Photo: Razbury Games

If a villager’s friend or relative dies, they’ll usually ask you to deliver or find something in the cave in honor of their memory. Or, if you’re in the middle of completing a quest for someone who dies, then you’re out of luck. Missing out on the reward won’t prevent you from finishing the game, but it could make traversing the cave more difficult or less straightforward.

"Someone described the game as a 'Choose Your Own Adventure, without the choice,'” Razavi told Player.One. “In our own lives, we only have control over ourselves. There's a lot in this world that we don't get to control, and I like playing with that."

There’s no leveling up, combat or random encounters in Vidar. The game started out as a traditional RPG, but the randomized deaths made obtaining equipment uncertain; if the town blacksmith died early, the player could never hope to defeat high-level baddies. "Once I took out combat, and everyone became quest-givers, everything worked," said Razavi.

Exploring town in Vidar Photo: Razbury Games

I spent a bit of time with Vidar after Play NYC. I was drawn in by the game’s nostalgic look, which reminded me of the games I returned to again and again growing up. (Razavi says the game’s visual style took cues from Squaresoft classics like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger, while its puzzle mechanics lean more in the direction of the Zelda series.) I enjoyed the way the game let me wander around the town at my leisure.

Talking to people and exploring every little nook and cranny contrasted nicely with the timed bursts of puzzle-solving. Most players will be able to pick up the basic mechanics of the cave fairly quickly, though was consistently left feeling as though I’d left a lot undone. That sense of depth, combined with the tweaks to the narrative and gameplay resulting from the randomized deaths, suggests there’s a whole lot of replay value to be had here. For a game with such a somber mood and story, I was surprised to find it’s also a hell of a lot of fun.

If you’re looking for a dark fantasy spin on old-school JRPG gameplay (without the level grinding), this moody indie is well worth a look. You can check out a trailer for the game below. Vidar is available now on Steam for PC or Mac for $9.99.

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