The Yawhg will be here in six weeks. This sums up the premise of the upcoming indie PC release The Yawhg. Described as a choose-your-own adventure game, it promises a multitude of different stories, with a variety of endings you shape during the buildup to the Yawhg’s arrival. The only question is, will such a game warrant the $10 price tag? If you value narrative or atmosphere at all, the answer is a resounding yes.
The Yawhg takes place in a small unnamed town, as players control two to four different citizens trudging through their daily lives. Set in fantastical medieval world, players can fight in an arena, study magic with learned spell-casters, or even fight crime in the city slums. This is all managed from a menu set aside a beautifully drawn map of the town in question. For each of the six weeks leading up to the impending doom of the Yawhg, characters pick an area and an activity. Each decision affects a series of stats, and brings with it additional, possibly harmful, events. By the end of the six weeks, it’s up to the rag-tag cast of characters to aid in the aftermath of the Yawhg by choosing a specific role to play. How powerful or persuasive each character is determines how effective they are at a given task, and thus determines the town’s overall outcome.
As The Yawhg opens, The style of the artwork and the occasional humorous quip lull the player into a false sense of security. Even with the constant reminders of impending doom, each passing day brings mostly lighthearted events depicting everyday life; or at least as everyday as it gets in a fantasy setting. But The Yawhg drags you further along the lives of each character than expected. Whatever the Yawhg actually is, be it creature or natural disaster, is never fully explained. That, however, isn’t the point. What matters are the lives the individuals lead in the buildup, and how these decisions affect the rest of their often tragic stories.
Even with the occasional dark twist, The Yawhg keeps a consistent pleasantly melancholic tone. The Yawhg isn’t afraid to punish players as well, almost at random, adding to the calm trepidation of each of the six turns. And by the time the game finishes, you’ll feel a slight tinge of sadness as each player achieves what is most often a flawed existence at best. Characters’ decisions play a substantial role in the town’s eventual fate, and boy will each and every mistake shine through in it’s ruination.
Local multiplayer is also a possibility, presenting an almost tabletop quality to the experience. Groups can take turns advancing their chosen citizen, and with this comes the option to intentionally sabotage the town’s reconstruction. The Yawhg faintly scratches the same itch my experiences with D&D satisfies. There’s a certain attraction to a story-based game played in the company of friends, especially when betrayal is involved. As recompense for previous misgivings, or simply to see new endings, players can choose to loot the ruined city and flee, or possibly even give up hope to become the town drunk.
This will inevitably destroy any chance at getting the best endings, but that’s almost irrelevant. The Yawhg shares much with it’s story-based adventure game brethren, in that the writing itself is the reward. And for a game that consists of six, and only six turns, the amount of content is surprising. If you value narrative at all, you’ll want to dive back in time and again for one more quick fix; just one more unique story.
Writing aside, I can’t stress enough how much I enjoy the sights and sounds of The Yawhg. The artwork of Emily Carroll straddles a line between cheerful and downright eerie. Haunting music from Starseed Pilgrim’s Ryan Roth blends perfectly with the artwork. Only a scant few songs fill out the game’s soundtrack, but each carries with it a beautifully wistful air. Each packs a subtle punch that triggers instantaneously and slowly spreads. It all paints a harsh, yet optimistically nihilistic picture.
Admittedly, there isn’t much to the gameplay itself, with much of the player input consisting of binary menu choices. But The Yawhg feels more like a game adaptation of other mediums. It’s part tabletop game, part choose-your-own adventure book, and all amazing atmosphere. If you’re interested at all, check out The Yawhg on Steam Greenlight, and head over to the official site.