Roadwarden is an upcoming wilderness exploration interactive fiction, with a demo out now
There’s so much appeal to just wandering about in games, which is perhaps what first drew me to Roadwarden. The game’s named for the job title of its protagonist, one of the few people who explore the wilderness in its setting. “They deliver messages, assist merchants, burn human corpses, and, if possible, get rid of beasts and highwaymen,” says the opening description. And there’s a demo available now, so you can see if this is the right career path for you.
The game’s genre is purposefully fluid. On developer Moral Anxiety Studio’s website, the top frequently asked question says “I can’t figure out what is this game’s genre,” to which they’ve cheerfully replied “Me neither.” Apparently it’s got the item usage of an adventure game, the character customisation of an RPG, the text of a visual novel, and some puzzles based on classic text adventures.
The full game is intended to run for around 10 hours, but even within the demo it’s an in depth bit of interactive fiction. You can choose bits of your character’s inventory and backstory; manage your health and wellbeing; and select an attitude to pair with your dialogue option, widening the possible outcomes. The map and area art are also gorgeous, and the whole time I’ve been writing this I’ve been enjoying the chill, plucky guitar soundtrack.
The writing evokes a lonely fantasy trek nicely. That the developers’ first language doesn’t seem to be English is sometimes apparent but doesn’t really detract from the experience. Plus, you get to pet and name your horse, as well as generally be friendly towards them, something that’s apparently usually frowned upon in this universe.
The full version of Roadwarden isn’t scheduled until at least next year, but you can find the demo on itch.io now for free.