Review: The Yawhg

I won’t lie to you: when I first fired up The Yawhg I was in the midst of a ragefit brought about by a few rounds of Counter-Strike. Honestly, this probably wasn't the best time to go about playing an indie game for review, and why the notion to start struck me at that precise moment I don’t know.

But I’m really glad it did.

The Yawhg plays a bit like an older adventure game, with branching story paths (fueled by random events) and a basic system for character attributes. At the start, your characters are given six weeks before the arrival of “the Yawhg,” a mythic and menacing something for which they must prepare. Player actions are met with art and writing based on their choices, and each decision contributes in some way to the game’s conclusion and epilogue. It’s a satisfying system, but not the deepest I've ever encountered. Indeed, one could argue that the game is flawed because of its simplicity, that The Yawhg is less of a game and more of an interactive storybook. I’m willing to say, in a grossly generalized statement, that people who would argue these things are wrong-headed and I don’t care to know them. Because the mechanics aren't the point of the game.

The Yawhg is simply beautiful. That’s the best word to describe it, really. The game’s vibrant characters and lovely setting are given life by the very talented Emily Carroll. The game’s action is given its voice with writing ranging from storybook-like to deeply ominous, provided by Ms. Carroll and Damian Sommer. The music, written and performed by Ryan Roth and Halina Heron, is resonant, moody, and fantastically executed.

These components make up a game that falls into a special category for me -- specifically, games that force me to feel. The Yawhg is constantly charming, tugging at heartstrings, alternately soothing the player or filling them with a sense of dread. There were several moments in the game where I found myself involuntarily beaming or choking back tears. I played the game’s story to several conclusions and it never failed to drag some feeling out of me, kicking and screaming all the while.

If complexity was all we craved from games, it might be impossible to recommend The Yawhg. But there’s something to be said for soul, beauty, and pure artistry. And while I’ll avoid a “games as art” diatribe here, the truth of the matter is that The Yawhg is full of soul, is beautiful, and it is, beyond a doubt, a work of art. In a broader sense, games like this should be rewarded and the creation of more of them encouraged, but on these merits alone, it should at least warrant a playthrough.

To put it bluntly: if you are a person who likes adventure games, or fantasy games, or interactive stories, or versatile writing, or soulful music, or excellent art, then you are a person who should play The Yawhg. Additionally, people who are capable of feeling emotion, and people in possession of a human soul, should seriously consider it as well.

I’m quite taken with The Yawhg. Hopefully you will be too.