Tchia is an adventure open-world title in which you take control of the titular character and explore a setting based on New Caledonia.
Upon seeing Tchia, I told my wife about it — it looked like a title that she was going to love because it seemed very reminiscent (and clearly heavily inspired by) Breath of the Wild. And although I'm the first person in line to argue that the latest The Legend of Zelda entry isn't the masterpiece it's cracked up to be, I was hoping that Tchia would build on issues I disliked about Breath of the Wild. Better yet, its real-life roots and overall informative nature was something I wasn't only excited for — I was at the edge of my seat to learn about a new culture.
Tchia's narrative takes place entirely on New Caledonian myth, and a fantastic thing about the title is that everything is built around that ideology — the voice acting is done by local talent, the vistas and world are inspired by the islands, and even the story is based on local folklore. The visuals are done appropriately, with a chibi look very similar to that of Wind Waker, along with boat-sailing between the two major islands of the game, allowing you to explore its expansive open-world map. That said, the graphics pale in comparison to the execution of some of the tracks in Tchia, as I found myself becoming borderline nostalgic for its main theme.
Unfortunately, the visuals and the music are basically the only nice things I can say about Tchia, and its visual and audio charm can only carry this title for so long before it becomes a stale, boring, and convoluted experience that had me wondering half-way into chapter VI how on Earth I was going to put it all together into words (good news — if you're reading this, I managed to!).
Starting off with the game's narrative and setting (bear with me, they connect), Tchia doesn't do a great job of hooking you to the overall narrative until more than halfway through it when you learn about Tchia's actual story. The beginning, middle, and ending all felt rushed and didn't give me enough time to properly care for any character before event after event started happening that made me feel as if I should care for these characters more than I did. Tchia might as well be a silent protagonist, as she is incredibly stoic and unreactive, making it difficult to sympathise with her in otherwise horrible situations happening to her; her caretakers (and every other character she interacts with) appear so little, have so few lines, and have such a shallow personalities that it made it pretty evident I was interacting with NPCs; and the overall characters, including some major ones coming in later into the game, had such little screentime that they felt like total strangers by the time I should care for them.
Several times throughout the narrative, it felt as if Tchia didn't really know what kind of game it wanted to be, story-wise. The title fluctuates aggressively between trying to be funny and trying to be shocking, ultimately failing at both due to its constant fluctuation. One moment, you're failing to fist bump, high five, shake hands, and more with a young ally you meet, and the next, you're staring at animal cruelty, blood, and casual jokes about chickens "living longer than they should" once you cut off their head with seemingly no warning. This constant struggle between what theme Tchia was going to take hindered the narrative significantly, as often light was made of serious moments or funny moments were ruined by serious situations.
The biggest insult to Tchia's narrative isn't its characters and shoddy pacing but the way that you're expected to care for New Caledonian culture magically. Awaceb — the developer and publisher for the title — did an abysmal job at introducing its culture to outsiders, making it difficult for me to understand (or even care) for various elements of the story that I felt was missing a "kick" to them if I knew more about the culture. It's like playing God of War (2018) and its sequel, God of War: Ragnarok, but Santa Monica Studios not caring to tell you at all what Ragnarok nor Fimbulwinter mean to the overall world. I didn't care for New Caledonian culture and I wasn't told or shown why I should.
This all might not have been so frustrating and infuriating if the gameplay aspects weren't as slow as they feel. Spanning 10 chapters, you'll follow Tchia on a quest to defeat the malevolent ruler, Meavora, as you use her unique powers of soul-swapping with various animals and objects throughout the world. Being able to soar through the skies as various types of birds or running through the ground as a boar or deer made for fantastic and enjoyable locomotion options to explore New Caledonia and find the collectibles scattered throughout the world... if it were that simple.
Tchia's powers are limited — very limited. You can take control of any animal and creature you stumble across in the world... if you manage to find any. Birds, boars, and deer were so scarce that I decided to control rocks to traverse the large open world because Tchia's walking speed was dreadful. In each chapter, you'll need to travel from one part of the island to another and complete a given objective, but getting there was a chore because whenever I did manage to find one of the scarce animals that populated the world, Tchia's stamina bar was too low to benefit from it much.
You start off with three bars of soul power, and, depending on your movement speed with the given animal you possessed, you'll see it draining relatively quickly. This meant that whenever I did manage to find a rare creature that I liked travelling with, I only had a limited time before I was stopped abruptly because of the bar draining too quickly, barely managing to traverse the land at all. Once you've let go of the creature, Tchia will slowly regenerate only about half of the energy before you can take control of the next animal or object, meaning that the next time you find a bird (which could take several minutes at a time, in my case), you'd have even less time to traverse the world with it. In the end, it was more worth it for me to take control of the abundant amount of rocks rather than wait and hope for the rare occurrence of stumbling upon any creature that was worth travelling with.
The soul bar and lack of animals are only a few of the many limitations that Tchia puts upon the title, hindering enjoyment. Your stamina bar, the one that you use for climbing and gliding, is laughably short early on — it felt almost as if the game actively took necessary items to traverse the world and hid them across the map to force you into exploring and lengthening its own playtime. After taking control of a bird and going to the highest peak I could find, I used Tchia's glider for a whopping 10 seconds before I ran out of energy and plummeted to the ground helplessly.
Each animal you can take control of is relatively useless and you'll very quickly stop experimenting with them because you'll find out — they are worthless. If it isn't a bird to travel or a rock to — you guessed it — travel, it's useless. Boars can dig (for no reason), birds can poop (for no reason), crabs can use a pincer ability (which I only used twice, and not even experimentally — the game outright tells you to), and you can take control of centipedes... for no reason. I stopped caring about finding new animals because it plainly had no motive — explorative or otherwise.
The open world is massive...ly empty. You can collect Stamina fruit to increase your stamina by a whopping one point (which is VERY insignificant), find trinkets (which work as your currency), collect pearls underwater (which work as your second currency (don't ask me how that works)), and find enemy camps to defeat and get some cosmetics. Although it sounds like there is a large amount of things to do, all of these are straightforward and have no real sustenance behind them — you find a camp, kill it by using flammable objects lying around, and claim your chest. Or, you fly around, see a glowing object, and eat it to get +1 Stamina. Or, you fly around, find a glowing object, and grab it to get one more trinket. There was no sense of adventure, no desire to explore, no puzzles, nothing to solve... nothing. Tchia's world is empty, with no side quests, optional missions (aside from some races that give you one golden trophy that takes up one slot of your VERY limited space), and nothing to do.
That is the overall gameplay loop of Tchia — as everything else is in this game — a very A-B structured sequence. I never found a new item and wondered in joy what I could do with it because everything I could do was already spelled out to me. It ruined the sense of adventure and made me question if this game can even be classified within the genre overall.
The worst part is that when Tchia's good, it's great. It left me wanting for the few and fleeting moments of running wild and free as a boar or soaring through the skies freely because these things weren't offered to me — there were no animals and the enjoyable moments were few and far between. Instead, I was left with a narrative that couldn't tell what it wanted to be, lacklustre gameplay, and an empty world and culture I never managed to understand or care for.
Tchia (Reviewed on Windows)
The game is unenjoyable, but it works.
The most infuriating part about Tchia is that the very few enjoyable moments are incredible, letting you see exactly how great of a title this could have been if it weren't for its many lacking elements.
zgillet - 02:19am, 28th March 2023
This review is just totally wrong and should be stricken from Metacritic. Like, this is just factually wrong, and not an opinion.
You clearly never upgraded the sould bar through the shrines (or never even got there, which I suspect), nor did the stacking minigames to get more ukulele songs that literally let you SUMMON A BIRD.
You can also pin a location on the map that SHOWS UP ON YOUR COMPASS.
Also, it spells out the the lookouts around the map tell you where the placest of interest are, letting you pick the ones you want to do.
You played this game like a moron, and did not pay attention.
Clearing bigger encampments gets you large stamina fruits, but it looks like you never even did the combat.
Artura Dawn - 04:49pm, 29th March 2023 Author
I can definitely assure you that I did, in fact, do all of those things. In fact, I finished the entirety of Tchia in an attempt to like the game! The soul bar can definitely be upgraded, but I still felt — as I stated in the review — that the game in and of itself did not give you as much freedom as I might have wanted.
I cleared the stacking minigames to get ukulele songs, and thank you for mentioning that, as I forgot to say it myself: the no-stakes nature of this minigame made it boring and very — as I originally said — A-B process where you just tilt it a little bit and place it. In fact, I opted to not trying to turn it and just click the button until rocks magically stacked if I just kept doing that. Lo and behold, it did!
And while we're on the topic of the stacking minigame: if you're going to put important things, like getting a bird for traversal, then it shouldn't be something missable. And even then, keep in mind that the soul bar still does not fully regenerate, still limiting your time as a bird needlessly, because there was no reason to have a bar in the first place.
I fought the camps, and as many as I found, but the combat was very lacklustre and boring. Note that one of my main complaints about the game is the incapability to explore and experiment, and the combat was no different. I found the song to summon a Mwaken (something I didn't mention in the review to avoid too many spoilers) and I found combat to be more passable — enjoyable even — until the soul bar ran out, I tried to summon another one, and there was a cooldown.
The larger stamina fruit barely increases your stamina by three points, which as stated on the review, doesn't give you the freedom to jump off of a mountain and float down into the ground looking because you'll quickly run out, even with the three-point increase and stacking that across many more.
Cooldowns in the ukulele songs, the soul bar, and even the stamina bar are too restricting for you to be able to enjoy the game. I don't think it's right to have to wait until you are deep into the game to have the freedom to soar because by that time, you'll have already completed most things, so what's the point?
Admittedly, I did not realise you could pin your map, and that was something I missed myself! I clearly stated various things throughout my review that explain why I didn't like the game that you neglected to mention, including:
I played the game, I finished fighting Meavora, and the game became a string of twists and turns that were there to just try to shock you? This person's dying! Oh, nevermind, everything's okay because THIS person is dying instead! Casualty after casualty for characters I struggled to care for because I met them two seconds ago.
Thanks for your comment and for reading!