The Yawhg is a curious creature. A mashup between game developer Damian Sommer and illustrator Emily Carroll, it’s an intriguing concept for a game.

What the Yawhg actually IS is never explained. Hints are peppered throughout the game, but it’s never all that explicit. It’s more effective this way because some of the unease and awe would be lost if you could see the apocalypse from a more removed viewpoint. As it stands, it just happens. Fragments of it are described, and then the game continues, in the aftermath.

The game is split roughly into two halves. The first takes place before the eponymous catastrophe, and the second takes place in the aftermath. Both seem exceedingly simple at first, but hold deeper secrets the more you explore – there’s an intriguing amount of creativity in the events of the game.

The first half surrounds the six week leadup to the calamity, and covers six turns. Each turn, conveniently enough, takes up a whole week – you select where in the city your character should spend their time, then watch the events play out and make choices if necessary. Each area has two choices, both of which affect the character’s statistics differently. For instance, in the arena, you can either bet on matches, which increases your wealth, or take part in the fights yourself, which increases your physical prowess.

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The real meat of this portion of the game comes from random events that happen each week. After each character’s action, you’re presented with another series of events. Like the rest of the game, this plays out via text and, in a few particular instances, special sound effects and static images. These events are mostly location-dependant, but things like other player’s actions or events elsewhere in the city can have an effect on goings on.

These random events add a nice dash of variety to an otherwise extremely short and repetitive game. Unfortunately, not all are created equal. Some are exceedingly simple and mundane; things like overhearing a jester tell a confusing joke or taking part in a darts tournament at the local tavern are rather common. These events are often disappointing and short.

However, it’s with the good events that the creativity and imagination behind The Yawhg really shines. A lot of events help paint the setting as eerie and sinister, giving the sense that there is something distinctly wrong with the city even before the Yawhg itself arrives. These events are of far more consequence than the minor, almost negligible events – they can reshape your character or the city itself. The ideas in play here aren’t confined to the usual fantasy tropes of vampires and werewolves, though those are present. The setting also plays host to untold eldritch abominations and creatures sprung from the weirdest corners of fairytales. There’s a wonderful sense of discovery to all of this, and I was often left eager to discover what was around the next corner.

Still, repeated playthroughs can lead to one very obvious conclusion – there’s simply not enough content to keep things from getting stale or repetitive. While I still find new event chains and interactions, which are always a joy to come across, most of the events are repeated. With the short playtime of the game, this is a definite problem.

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The second half somehow manages to be even simpler than the first. After the event you have to choose what role your character takes during the rebuilding efforts. Will they use their charm and lead the rebuilding efforts? Will they help the sick and wounded? Or will they be unable to face the aftermath, and turn instead to alcohol?

There are two separate “conclusion” sequences, one for the city and one for the characters. There’s a good number of the latter, which helps repeated playthroughs maintain some sense of variety. These endings are often touching or emotional. However, just as often they come across as nonsensical or disappointing.

There’s a definite disconnect between the two segments of the game. The actions and choices you make in the first part can have weird effects on the second part. Often the ending you get picks up on one small detail of your character, and ignores more important facets of that character’s story. For instance, I had a character who I played as a worker doing labour in the forest for gold. In one of the weeks he also stopped by the hospital to help clean it, and the game decided, for whatever reason, that the best fate for him would be to open his own surgery and help the sick and wounded. It’s disappointing when this happens – it takes away any emotional punch that the game’s carefully been building and comes across as pointless.

Similarly, even in the most basic elements of play there’s a stark difference between the two halves. While the first part is relatively open, and has something of a focus on exploration, the second half is much stricter in what it allows. Each stat has one “role” tied to it, and roles are either positive or negative – there’s no real room for experimentation here.

The Yawhg is definitely designed as a multiplayer game first and foremost. Even in single player, you have to choose at least two characters, but it feels far more natural with multiple people controlling one character each. In multiplayer, it plays out like a board game, with up to four people sitting around a virtual table, moving pieces around a board and triggering events.

While the single player experience quickly becomes repetitive, the multiplayer offers much more longevity. When I played with friends it led to a much more engaging and enjoyable experience.

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I would find myself either helping my fellow players or working against them. It’s not a competitive game by any means, but you can certainly screw other players over if you want – you could destroy parts of the city they might want to visit, for example. Multiplayer changes the entire atmosphere of the game. There are still sinister undertones, but the elements of joy and discovery are pushed right to the forefront. A lot of event chains practically require multiple people, so the game as a whole seemed more open. It always seemed like there was more to explore.

This all just serves to highlight how sparse an affair the single player is, though. It would be hard to recommend The Yawhg without multiplayer.

It certainly paints a vivid enough picture of all this with the dialog alone, but it is certainly helped by the art and music present. Carroll is an accomplished artist, known for her work outside of videogames. It shows here, as her illustrations are all beautifully done. The main problem with the graphics ties back into the lack of variety – there’s simply not enough of the good stuff. Few events, even the most interesting, have their own graphics, which is hugely disappointing.

The game’s sound manages, somehow, to be even simpler than its graphics. There is one main song that plays throughout the game, with different variants popping up when required. Again, there is an unfortunate lack of sound effects accompanying specific events.

Both sound and graphics contribute heavily to the aura of impending doom. As time goes on and weeks fly by, the music gets more and more dissonant and the graphics get more sinister as grey choking fog begins to seep into the city streets. It’s all very simple, but also exceedingly effective.

The Yawhg is worth checking out if you’re interested in a game that blends traditional gameplay elements with more unique storytelling and narrative ideas. It’s definitely an enjoyable multiplayer experience as well, and offers something a bit different from the usual local multiplayer fare. Tread carefully though – while there’s a fascinating and enchanting experience present, it’s not without its flaws which could very well be damning depending on your priorities.

Review: The Yawhg

Wrap Up

The Yawhg is an intriguing game that suffers from spreading its ideas slightly too thin. The single player can feel sparse after a few plays, but the multiplayer is a really enjoyable experience. It is definitely worth a look for those interested in something new and different.
Pros
  • Imaginative world and story
  • Enjoyable multiplayer experience
  • Excellent presentation
Cons
  • Short play time
  • Can get repetitive quickly
  • Single player feels lacking
7Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)
6.9

About The Author

Deputy Managing Editor

Alison has been gaming for about as long as she could walk, or talk. As time went on, she became deeper entrenched in gaming - from videogames to pen and paper games, they're all great as far as she's concerned. She's even studying software engineering and game development at university! Follow her on Twitter @HandsofaDream

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