I had no idea Skytorn was a thing. It was entirely new to me, when it suddenly appeared onscreen during the PlayStation Experience keynote. Yet, once it was revealed, I instantly knew it was something I was going to want. The idea that it would encourage exploration, and share the same kind of visual appeal as games like Starbound and Saira, got my imagination going.
Fortunately, it also happened to be playable on the show floor. I’d already learned from this event that the unexpected, indie surprises were turning out to be the best ones, and quickly settled in to begin playing. I mean, the final game may not exactly be identical. It is a procedurally generated adventure and incomplete, but I was confident a taste would be indicative of the final product.
It started out promising. Skytorn is set in a future where islands float in the sky and the land below is in ruins. I controlled Nevoa, an explorer who journeyed across these places, charting them, searching for secrets, and taking on requests of various NPCs I’d run across. In fact, it wasn’t long before I had my first task.
A woman had assigned me to investigate a signal. Someone had gone missing and needed aid. It would be up to Nevoa to save the day and deliver a transporter. The map in the upper right corner indicated the person was on the right side of the island, presumably a few meters down from the surface. Fortunately, an explorer like Nevoa was armed with a shovel that could be used for both attacking and digging. Yay for multipurposing!
Naturally, I didn’t head straight for the person in need. Skytorn is a game that encourages exploration and I was going to get right to it. I quickly learned there were dungeons hidden under the surface, and Nevoa’s shovel couldn’t dig through the bricks. I’d have to dig around them, searching for an opening she could walk or crawl through. Once inside, I could find creatures to attack or new places to explore. Often, more digging would be required to get to additional rooms. It felt more open than games like Terraria and Starbound, but still quite similar.
Another thing I appreciated was Nevoa’s agility. Unlike games like Terraria and Starbound, which require whips, boots, abilities, or wings for better jumps, Nevoa can double jump, wall jump, and generally bound all over the environment. It felt like more of a platformer with exploration elements.
Though, it was the overall presentation that won me over. There’s some really detailed spritework in Skytorn, and it comes together to offer a dystopian background. It almost reminded me of a 2D Fallout game. I found myself wanting to see more of the islands and take in more of the surviving humans’ homes to get a better take on the worldview.
I did find myself wanting after the Skytorn demo. It’s coming to the PS4 and PC, but I couldn’t help thinking what a perfect game it would be on the Vita. Still, the fact that even the PS4 is getting another indie game with personality is something to be happy about.