Last week, on Indie Spotlight Thursday, I got the chance to play the innovative, pixel pushing game KWAAN. Published by Ankama Canada, but born from the efforts of developers, designers and artists; David Calvo, Maxime Plantady, Gary Lucken, David Kanaga, Guillaume Pervieux, Benoit Delassus and Mathieu Giguere, KWAAN is part MMORPG, part rogue-like and part adventure game. Its charming tale and take on the aforementioned genres is described as so:
“You are a little Dwaal, inhabitant of a remote island, on an eternal sea. You tribe is happy, worshipping a triad of animals known as Pachaas, basking in an everlasting peace. But one morning, as the prophecies foretold, KWAAN appears: a giant mutating sentient tree. And with KWAAN comes the end of time itself…
Every day, KWAAN needs to be kept happy, because if sadness grows into KWAAN’s heart, it with will take the world (the server) away. To make KWAAN happy, work together to meet KWAAN’s demands: caring for KWAAN’s appearance, summoning animals, crafting flowers, constellations and cakes, using items, discovering new landscapes, solving mysteries… KWAAN is curious, KWAAN always more gifts and novelty.
If the world is kept alive, then, maybe, an answer will be found to the greatest mystery of all: where do pixel souls come from?”
What stood out to me about KWAAN, right off the bat, was its take on teamwork. Its importance is paramount but in a way you don’t often see in games with cooperative play. Instead of teaming up to maximize damage and take down a boss or eliminate the enemy team, it is funneled into more creative endeavours. Players literally have no choice but to work together or risk losing their entire world. It was refreshing to direct my efforts into construction and creativity, rather than destruction.
I also enjoyed KWAAN’s approach to learning and understanding gameplay. While the in-game “How-To Play” guide gave a basic overview, some finer details were left out. So I explored, I experimented, I prodded my fellow Dwaal and took chances, all for the sake of KWAAN! My hardest lesson was learning that Dwaal aren’t the best swimmers.
My time with KWAAN was well spent. It is an ingenious, bright and creativity quenching response to the usually bleak and frustrating rogue-like recipe and it has successfully built a positive (and adorable) space for true cooperative co-op gameplay.
KWAAN is available now on Steam Early Access, with a full release planned for the end of 2016, as well as a premiere on both iOS and Android tablets in the future. I, for one, can see a lot of my spare time being spent on my iPad spawning penguins, dancing up happiness and painting tiny pixel art on cave walls.