Tidal Affair is currently an early access isometric stealth game in which you follow Manisha and Lash on their mission to infiltrate St Charlotte’s Island and steal a hoard of magic parasols.
The game is played on a series of small maps in which you have to sneak past guards and traps to proceed to the next area. You can do this by sneaking past the guards and avoiding combat or by creeping up to them and performing take down moves. However, the game has a unique mechanic in that you can take control of the guards using your own magic parasol and then use them as you wish. This involves using them to shoot other guards or to merely break their line of site, allowing you to run past. As well as this there are a set of six ‘umbrella patches’ which act as special abilities you can use when controlling the guards. These range from instant headshots to stealing health from the guards and, if used correctly, they can get you out of a tricky situation.
However, it often feels as if the game doesn’t do enough with this. All of the guards you control are very similar, making the game repetitive over time. It feels as if more could have been done with this using a wider variety of guards and some puzzle solving scenarios that require controlling different enemies, but as it is it leaves a lot to be desired. The trap sections also have the effect of causing frustration rather than engaging the player. The often feel forced and are easy to die on. This is particularly annoying when they are placed at the end of a section, requiring you to go all the way back to the beginning of the level after you have lost your lives trying to figure it out. Although it makes sense to break up the stealth sections in the game, there are other ways to do this that are more engaging.
The visuals of the game also show an element of lost potential. A beautiful pastel-like art style is used which makes it stand out compared to its contemporaries, and this is especially gorgeous when looking at some of the character designs. However, during cutscenes there is a clear contrast in quality between the assets on screen. It’s very good to have detailed main characters, but when the next frame has them interacting with a background which has had noticeably less effort put into it, it creates a jarring experience.
This is exacerbated by the animation as well. Whilst it is understandable that the animation in an independent title such as this must be simple to save on costs, some of it feels a bit lazy. One example of this is seen in the opening chapters during an important scene in which a fleet of ships is sailing to a port. You can clearly see the ships moving in a group with a simple motion tween and perhaps more time should have been taken to create a more natural movement pattern in cases such as this as it removes the player from the experience. The sound effects also contribute to this lack of immersion as during some of the most important cutscenes in the game there seems to be no sound effects or music, leading one to wonder if it was the result of a glitch.
It it also important to note that the story often leaves the player confused. You don’t know exactly what you are seeking until around half way through the game, leading you to question the motives of the main characters. When you are being told to kill numerous guards and blow up ships with dynamite, you want to know who you are fighting and why, otherwise it is difficult to sympathise with the characters. This is a shame because there seems to have been a deep lore surrounding the story. There are characters and factions which are only mentioned briefly and it is evident that the developers had built a fairly vibrant world which has been sidelined to focus on characters which have little depth or motive. The ending declares that Before the Storm is a precursor to another title, which may possibly explore this lore, but it would have been nice to see more of it in this game.
It is hard to wholeheartedly recommend Tidal Affair despite some of its fresh ideas. The gameplay leaves much to be desired and the story could have done with better depth and execution. When considering it takes only about five hours to complete as well, the game does little to live up to its price.