For Terra Incognita, Back to Basics Gaming has taken the essential aspects of JRPGs from the early 90’s and melded them together into an experience that captures the genre pretty damn well. Players control Alexis, a hero with a mysterious, magical background who explores the land of Terra on a mission of self-discovery. Terra Incognita promises a host of potential party members that can be obtained both by playing through the story, and through encounters across the land. There will be plenty of opportunity for that, as even Terra’s first episode is rich with its own lore, and Back to Basics only promises more backstory as the game is given new chapters.
The first companion players encounter is Leon, a hermit and former soldier that just happens to live in the same forest Alexis winds up in when he crash lands in his little crystal box thing. Visually, Leon doesn’t fit the role of a hermit. He’s young, handsome and has excellent hair. Actually, everyone in this game has excellent hair. It’s the Japanese influence. Instead, Leon seems to be a take off on Robin Hood, sans the Merry Men, with the same green tunic and badass archery skills.
Perhaps one of the reasons Terra Incognita is able to capture the tone of classic JRPGs so well is that the genre relies so heavily on archetypes: Alexis seems to be tied to some sort of great destiny, and with Leon we see an unpleasant family history. Most important is that the game’s score captures the melodrama of those classic titles perfectly. I found the use of these tropes charming, and showing of a great understanding of the material. If it were a different kind of story, then maybe I would cry cliche, but these tropes are so consistently present in JRPG games, so I find it to be just another way Terra is faithful.
Combat seems to be unbalanced in certain areas. The ordinary battles in the beginning region put you up against enemies that fall quickly to magic, but can take a few hits from a normal weapon. At a certain point, you face an enemy that Leon lets you know will be a challenge, though he didn’t turn out to be much tougher than the normal enemies of that region. Based on how the story perceives both encounters, this doesn’t seem to be what was intended when designing combat.
Aside from the small issue of the power levels, and some slight lag when text is loading on screen, Terra Incognita is an engaging experience that JRPG fans won’t regret checking out. The first chapter can be downloaded for under $4 from Back to Basics’ website. You can also check out the title’s Steam Greenlight page and help vote it onto the site.