Tanzia can be described simply as a love letter the the action-RPG games of the PS2 era. This is no HD remaster or facelift to a title released before, Tanzia is a brand new game from developer Arcanity Inc. It was released in April of last year on Steam through Early Access and now can be played on Switch, even if it doesn’t always seem like a polished product.
Tanzia take place on an island of the same name. Tanzia is the home of a race called the Akazi and they have no interest in wealth or technology, only the pursuit of wisdom. You begin your adventure as a protagonist you name, who is the grandson of a highly respected shaman in your tribe of humanoid-like creatures. Early on with you starting as a little baby, their happiness is destroyed by the Skeleton King when he tries to kill the little child.
However, the Chief is wise and has seen the Skeleton Kings plans, so he is able to prevent the child’s murder. But it’s clear to him that if the people are to stay safe in their village, he must hide the child and go out to suppress the darkness emanating from the Skeleton King. When the baby is gown that’s where we come in, to take control of the grandson and train him to become the greatest shaman Tanzia has ever known.
The story is told through a mix of narrated story panels, dialog with NPCs throughout the campaign, and an unlockable in-game comic strip giving the origins of the game’s story. There’s a balanced tone of humor and seriousness that shines through in the writing and world, which comes off as a living and breathing place inhabited by this friendly race. The story is nothing groundbreaking, but you can the developers took the lessons learned from previous adventure titles and succeeded in providing a compelling and interesting narrative.
When first starting, Tanzia shows you how to control your character and then proceeds to put you through your paces by having you just play the game without a tutorial. The controls are simple to learn, with the left analog stick used for movement and the right stick allowing you to look around and can be clicked in to run. ZR can be used for targeting, with X allowing you to interact with people and objects and Y being your means of physically attacking enemies. B is used for jumping and for also interacting with NPC’s.
Anyone familiar with a hotbar should feel right at home navigating it in Tanzia. You can equip spells and items here you use frequently, so that you can use them when you wish, provided they have cooled down. This is beneficial for allowing you to not have to open the menu every few seconds to select a skill or item to use. You can only have a handful of spells and/or potions in the hotbar at any time, which is not inherently an issue. The problem lies with the execution of the mechanic rather than the mechanic itself. You will want at least a couple different potions on the bar and this only leaves room for a few spells, which you’ll probably cycle through entirely each and every enemy encounter.
Gameplay wise, Tanzia has all the elements of a typical action-RPG: you can fight with weapons, learn spells to kill your enemies, level up, and use potions to increase your health and mana. There is also a crafting component where you can make your own potions and enhance your weapons. Still, I found that it plays out more like a MMO title in mission structure with “kill this amount of enemies in a specific time”, or “defeat this boss to get an item” missions. They can be fun, but are definitely repetitive in execution and presentation.
Combat revolves around having a simple attack combo and being able to cast spells at enemies. Spells drain not only your mana, but also a cooldown meter for a specific command, which leads you doing a lot of pausing in order to drink potions to refill your gauge. As your physical attacks are weak and your defense is low, you’ll be spending a lot of time waiting for your spells and potions’ cooldown meters to deplete while you run around trying to avoid incoming attacks.
The combat ends up being serviceable, but not as responsive as I would have liked. Your attacks or magical skills don’t have any clout to them, and this is where Tanzia really feels like an MMO game. Tanzia does require some strategy, as well as skill, especially when attacks or magic spells don’t hit like they should. What I found was that if there was ever a point where you felt in over your head, you can try and leave the current area you’re in, as enemies will not follow you into another area and when battle is over, head for the nearest totem which restores all your health and mana.
While the graphical style of Tanzia may feel dated as it does look like World of Warcraft when it was coming into prominence, it manages to still excite and stimulate visually with bright colors and a charming art style. The visuals are easy to appreciate despite not offering cutting-edge quality. Ultimately, the graphics in Tanzia are charming and intriguing and if you like anything resembling the art-style’s of the PS2 era, you will have no problem immersing yourself in the world even though technically it looks like an older title.
The music and sounds effects are well done, but also inconsistent. I appreciated the tribal renditions the developer included and it is set up in an MMO-like fashion where you might hear a tune upon entering a new zone before it fades out in favor of natural ambience. The narrator that speaks over the story screens also does a good job, and is able to sell over the story in a meaningful way.
Overall, Tanzia is a breath of fresh air in a genre that has its fair share of ups-and-downs. While it never truly does any one thing perfectly, I still enjoyed my time playing through the roughly 8-10 hour story. Don’t go in expecting anything groundbreaking, but Tanzia does succeed in providing a fun, albeit occasionally rough, action-RPG experience.