First Impressions | Welkin Road

Scurry your way across a cloudy skyline, scaling surreal, and puzzling pathways, and gaps with the help of using floating energy orbs. It’s a free running game and you will probably die a lot.

Mirror’s Edge was a game that I enjoyed, not many people got along with it, but seeing as I’m a fan of the free running and parkour scene, I figured Welkin Road would be worth checking out. Welkin Road was explained as, “a game with free running elements with the addition of a grappling hook” Okay then! Got my attention!

Welkin Road
The worlds are quite big, but you’re too busy swingin’ to notice.

First thing to note about this game is that it has a very clean, modern personality from the start, the start being the main menu area. Everything is kept to a minimum and fonts are light and thin. The light greys and gentle contrasting between menu elements is easy on the eye, and very clean. So after checking out the key bindings, and making sure my graphics are maxed out, it was time to jump onto the “Start Game” area, which introduces you to the choice of playing the game in sequential order as a “Story” or manually choosing whatever level you wish to play and set a best time.

“To hook onto the orb, you need to be within a specific radius to activate the lock on, and you need to be targeting it almost dead on, otherwise you just fire a beam, waste your gloves energy then fall through the clouds below.”

Once the level starts, the entire screen turns into whatever colour represents that specific level with the addition of the number of the level centralised in a neat, minimalistic way.

Then a fade to white.

Different orbs offer different actions once latched on. This one...hang on...
Different orbs offer different actions once latched on. This one…hang on…

Fading into the world, you have a slight fall before your feet can begin their running. Then you’re on your way, running along the path heading to the edge of the road in front of you, Gravity is quite low in Welkin Road, and when you jump, you don’t get that sense of weight, you essentially float gently around the world. Another thing about Welkin Road is that there is an element that you must master, and that’s not the wall running, or the pushing away from walls mid jump, but it’s in fact, the grappling onto the floating orbs placed along your path.

Sometimes you'll come to what looks like the end of the road...look around...even below you
Sometimes you’ll come to what looks like the end of the road…look around…even below you

These orbs float, and can be interacted with your gloves. Gloves which fire an energy beam that latches onto the orb, turning the beam into a grappling hook essentially. A rather cool idea that I fell in love with, but then I learnt that it’s a little bit temperamental at the moment. To hook onto the orb, you need to be within a specific radius to activate the lock on, and you need to be targeting it almost dead on, otherwise you just fire a beam, waste your gloves energy then fall through the clouds below. Glove energy? Yeah, your gloves require a short cooldown period, this encourages you to use both your left and right hands rather than just the one.

There are different types of orbs throughout the game, represented by different colours. For example, the game starts off with Red orbs, these orbs float in the air, static, unlimited energy. Blue orbs, remain static, have a short time before the energy cuts off. Green Orbs, activate world landmarks, or move themselves when activated. There are sometimes moments where you’ll need to do shorter jumps over longer jumps, or wide jumps to swing round corners, but the bits that I like, are the bits where you feel like Spiderman. A huge empty space with nothing but orbs leading the way to the next platform.

I do really like the way the game integrates the free running element with the grappling hook system, although it does feel like the grappling hook stuff is far too precise and results in several failures from awkward near misses. Not only that, but the free running feels like more could have been added to it. You can sprint, jump, crouch, wall run, wall push, and walk slowly (To navigate thin platforms) but this all not only feels limited, but it feels too fluid in relation to the general gameplay. What I mean by that is instead of a quick camera jerk when you begin to wall run, the camera smoothly and slowly tilts a touch. I feel like some rougher head bobbing could have helped make this more intense. It could have done with some more free running elements though, some hurdles to jump, ledge climbing, wall running upwards to ledges, etc.

Welkin Road
The whole game is based around minimalism.

Graphically, it does feel clean, similar to the main menu, and the gentle colours make it bright but easy on the eyes. The gloves/hand texture kind of make it feel like you’re playing a level in Counter Strike, and the world around you feels like one of Counter Strike’s Orange BSP textured maps…only with pastel colours instead of orange. Does this make sense? …Does it?

“Gravity is quite low in Welkin Road, and when you jump, you don’t get that sense of weight, you essentially float gently around the world.”

Welkin Road
Set a best time, try and beat it. You’d be surprised how many times you’ll try.

There isn’t much in terms of sound design or music, the main menu has a nice soundtrack that swells gently in the background, but otherwise the game is all about the diegetic sounds. Footsteps, energy zapping, humming, wind, etc. In honesty, some gentle piano wouldn’t have gone amiss, the game becomes boring after a lengthy stint thanks to the lack of a soundtrack.

At least the game is simple to play, it doesn’t require a shed load of button mashing and finger stretches to hit specific keys, to perform specific actions, but it could certainly be improved, mainly in the experience area, like having more intense headbobbing, a bigger orb  target radius to hook onto, and maybe some music to make it either, more dramatic, or more relaxing.

I’ve found myself coming back for more, and that’s why I like it, it may be frustrating, but I really do like it. If multiplayer was introduced with live players I’d freaking love it even more. I think it’s a game you’d enjoy if you like puzzling platformers. Give it a fiddle.

 

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