Review | Leaving Lyndow

As a part of the Eastshade universe and story, Leaving Lyndow acts as a halfway-house between prequel and demo for Eastshade Studios’ upcoming eponymous title. It places you in the shoes of Clara, a girl leaving her home for an expedition into the exciting but dangerous unknown. But with little time to narrate the importance of the life she’s about to leave, does it do a good job of conveying that joint sense of ending and beginning?

Leaving Lyndow is a walking simulator with puzzle elements, where the only controls used are the left mouse button for interactions and WASD (or right mouse button) for movement. With this combination you can pick up items to take or look at, read signs and talk to people. Interactive objects aren’t obtrusive, but it’s not too difficult to see they’re there.

Your journey begins as many do, with finding everything you need and packing up a suitcase before taking a tour through the place of your childhood to say goodbye and leave. Along your way, items and puzzles will give you a glimpse into memories of your past and people you meet will express their concerns, hopes and fears over your departure.

An adventurer's hut in the forest — one of the many things from the past you must say goodbye to.
An adventurer’s hut in the forest — one of the many things from the past you must say goodbye to.

The world being left behind is certainly an appealing one — the textures may not be much to write home about but, taken from a distance, the scenery itself is beautiful. It maintains that allure even on the lowest graphics settings. In all cases it tends towards excessive overexposure and the pink trees can seem quite angular, but this isn’t as much a detraction as it sounds and the lighting works well in enclosed spaces.

Walking through the world is a little slow with no means of increasing the pace, but this can be forgiven considering how little you have to do. It can seem disconcerting, though, from the minor issue of having no feet or reflection to the more disembodied feeling of gliding along the ground rather than using distinct stepping motions — this may be less to do with the motion itself but instead the fact that the sound of your footsteps seems far too slow compared to your actual walking speed.

If, when we mentioned puzzles, you were hoping for something mentally taxing, this may not be the game for you. There are only a couple that could really be described as puzzles and they’re incredibly simple, serving more to act as a conduit between memory and the present than serving as an actual challenge. In particular, one puzzle has you remember a tune and play it back and there’s also a basketball minigame (which we’re not entirely sure you can win, though that may be the point). Another item may be a puzzle, but we couldn’t work out if it had a solution or whether it was a random bowl to push balls around.

The pink trees can seem a little papery up close.
The pink trees can seem a little papery up close.

The elements you come across within the world do a good job of alluding to your past and setting up the history behind the town. Lyndow was washed away in a mudslide previously and you can see the reconstruction efforts taking place when you come across skeletonic house frames by the port. The flora and architecture all have a unique style, with domed houses, curving interiors and cotton-like plants that can be brewed as tea or used as flotation devices.

Unfortunately, the people of Lyndow have been hit with the ugly stick. Piggish eyes with no discernable whites stare out from bald potato heads half-covered (probably for the best) by scarves. It can be interesting when people look different in a game, but their design here is questionable and in some ways distracts from the rest of the game. Talking to them is about the same as talking to any NPC in Skyrim — they aren’t particularly animated, but you can choose several conversation options from a list. (On an unrelated Skyrim note — some items you have to collect at one point may give you nirnroot flashbacks).

The entire narrative purpose of Leaving Lyndow is to highlight the feeling of leaving a place of family and safety for adventure, finally being able to leave to pursue your dreams. This is, however, a tricky feeling to convey over the course of such a short game and feels at odds with the advertising purpose of introducing their next title. In an hour or two of gameplay you are shown a series of flashbacks and presented with interactions that show you the life you’re leaving.

The people of Lyndow aren't a people you would want to bump into on a dark night — or perhaps any night.
The people of Lyndow aren’t a people you would want to bump into on a dark night — or perhaps any night.

With proper pacing, these might have formed a coherent ‘image’ to take with you at the end, but instead they are spread through the beginning and middle. The final stretch, when you arrive at the docks to leave Lyndow, feels anticlimactic with its comparatively empty scene. We can’t help thinking it might have been an improvement to have the people from your past here to see you off — their absence in a way might be seen to add to the feeling of leaving everything behind, but it also feels like a missed opportunity. It doesn’t help that, starting from nothing, you don’t really know any of these people.

As it is, it feels like a build-up to nothing, which is somewhat accurate considering the game it introduces hasn’t been released yet. Having watched Eastshade’s trailer, the lack of narrative meaning continues, with no clear purpose standing out other than ‘look at the pretty graphics’. One of the most interesting things in the trailer — the ability to paint snapshot pictures of the landscape around you and display them — is completely absent in Leaving Lyndow, which is understandable due to the premise but would have been nice to see a small example of.

At just under three pounds, Leaving Lyndow isn’t going to take a massive chunk out of your wallet and it doesn’t demand much time either. But if you were expecting a more meaningful experience than what amounts to a scenic walk, that short amount of time may be better spent elsewhere.

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