Tilo; a courageous mistral; has been locked away in the Dwindling Heights prison away from his true love. Using his wits, his stealth and the items he can find within the keep, he must make his escape from the undead garrison of the Rat King and make his way back home in A Ghost of a Tale
A Ghost of a Tale comes to us from SeithCG after lengthy Steam Greenlight and Indiegogo campaigns which launched in 2013. Moving past initial stages and into early access and finding its way to Xbox Game Preview in mid-2017, A Ghost of a Tale is an action-adventure blending stealth mechanics with light RPG mechanics presented in a beautifully designed medieval country setting.
Tilo starts his adventure locked up in the depths of The Keep’s prison. It’s dreary and dank, suitably atmospheric for the situation the little mouse finds himself in. It isn’t long however before a mysterious helper assists Milo in breaking out of his initial confines and into the wider keep. A keep is a dangerous place for little Tilo, but there are plenty of dark corners, storerooms and barrels for a humble rodent to hide from his pursuers. Handily, these sporadic sanctuaries from guards and other enemies are also utilised as quicksave points.
As with any prison, it’s not only the guards who are wandering the corridors. The other cells and areas around the keep are populated with other prisoners in addition to inhabitants who don’t have an axe to grind with our protagonist. Most will offer conversation at the least, some will ask for favours in exchange for items lost within the keep or others will sell you goods you can utilise to progress with the scraps of money you can scavenge around the tower.
As quests are completed, Tilo earns experience to progress his level. Levelling up gives Tilo more health and stamina but also advances his skills making him stronger, faster and can also bestow specific skills which assist him in his quest such as a thief’s sixth sense called the “Red Mist” which highlights lootable items in the immediate area.
Tilo can also change his wardrobe to his advantage. Finding new costumes adds some major advantages to your ability to freely explore a given area. For example, gathering the “Guard’s Outfit” within The Keep and The Courtyard allow Tilo to freely walk amongst the guards without fear of attack. Given its weight though Tilo can’t run anymore and instead waddles quickly as the mail clinks with each step. It’s these small features that make Tilo quite lovable and it’s interesting to see how he will react when you eventually don a new set of attire.
Collected items, costumes and other paraphernalia can be both investigated within the inventory screen and used when required, some items also appear on the quick select wheel accessed via the D-Pad without the need to ruin the pacing of the action. A quest log points out objectives both remaining and completed although offers very little help in locating them, interesting since most games today handhold players with waypoints and GUI markers removing most of the mystery of discovery.
Graphically, A Ghost of a Tale is a very handsome affair. The care and attention to detail that SeithCG has poured into Tilo himself and the world around him is nothing less than impressive and a labour of love for the developers. Tilo moves like you would expect a mouse to move, nimble and light. Slipping into a sprint moves him down on to all fours and changes his posture as he darts forward. Carefully and stealthily sneaking his way around the dark corridors he looks carefully around at his environment as he progresses, Tilo is never motionless adding to the depth that’s been created around the central character.
The corridors of the keep are suitably cold. The damp, moss-covered stone walls are littered with the banners of the Rat King and torches which provide only the basic level of illumination to assist traversing the maze of rooms, cells and staircases. Away from the main cells, the guardrooms have roaring fires and other luxuries not afforded to the prisoners such as beds, cupboards and tables strewn with random foods, items and weapons.
Outside, it’s much more pleasant. Grass and other vegetation have taken hold of the keep with moss, ivy and trees intermingling with the aged architecture. In some areas, it’s not only destroyed the outer walls but intermingles with them to create new avenues for you to explore and alternative paths to take to avoid the patrolling rats.
Lighting plays a large part in A Ghost of a Tale, and the lack or the abundance of it can be both a negative to you or a boon. The darkness enables Milo to hide and reduces the likelihood of being discovered by the (fairly) diligent enemies; at the same time however it makes it difficult to spot the items you may need to complete quests or assist in your playthrough.
The excess of light, on the other hand, might make it easy to spot items and enemies but leaves you nowhere to hide. The natural light cycle can be moved forward quickly by sleeping in beds to regain both health and stamina in addition to allowing you to set the light level (for a period) by selecting the time of day you wish to wake, giving you an advantage in certain areas.
From the first few minutes and continuing to the end of the game, A Ghost of a Tale will continue to surprise you with its attention to detail. It’s a friendly approach to stealth action that gets easier to enjoy the more time you invest in its mechanics, quests and costumes.