Ataraxia

by Lauren O'Donoghue

RPG
2022

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A notably polished RPG Twine game about joining an island community, August 21, 2022
by Kinetic Mouse Car
Related reviews: Fantasy, Twine

The story is one of finding a place in a welcoming community. You have been granted a cottage in a town on a new island and have access to a range of locations and townspeople. With this new start, you find ways of making the cottage your home.

There is one thing I want to say about content. When I first played this game on itchio it came with one of those “You must be 18+ to view this content” popup warnings but there is little explicit content to be worried about. The game’s content warning includes (Spoiler - click to show) language, violent events, and brief blood, which is true. However, after playing the game I sincerely feel that the content implemented is nowhere near an 18+ rating. I am only saying this because the +18 rating may discourage some players from even trying it which would mean missing out on an excellent and light-hearted game. That is my take on it. I would describe this game as not for kids but reasonable for most ages.

Gameplay
The gameplay is broken into days. Each day begins at the player’s cottage. At the start of each day the player can travel, harvest their garden, craft items, read books, and invite people over if they have a good enough relationship. Sometimes the player will get notifications in their mailbox about events and festivals held by the island community.

The travel locations are the town, forest, coast, and river, each having one main character that the player can build a relationship with (and possibly pursue romance). At each location the player can scavenge for raw materials and then craft items from them. You can then sell these creations at the market or give them to other characters as gifts. Sometimes new locations will briefly be available, such as (Spoiler - click to show) a shipwreck.

You can sell and buy things at the market which was exciting at first. However, it does not take long for you to buy out everything in the market. It also felt unrealistic that you can harvest a fresh crop from your garden every single day. Selling all that produce contributed to the excess of coins that I accumulated. I was surprised there was no way to customize your cottage beyond books and plants. A room extension or remodeling would burn off those extra coins.

One of the biggest strengths in this game is that quests are smoothly implemented. Quests usually involve finding and talking to new characters for information or crafting special items. Even though quests follow a similar model they avoid feeling repetitive. Sometimes they overlap which makes the game’s world more fluid.

Story
The ultimate goal is to become a happy member of the community but there is no variation in endings. The only ending is to (Spoiler - click to show) complete every task and achievement which is shown in a list. Because of this, players may not be compelled to replay it. I could see this as a game that you play again several months later when you stumble across it and decide to revisit it.

Characters
The game requires that the player become friends with the other characters. The only way to move forward in character interactions is to (Spoiler - click to show) alternate between giving them gifts and talking to them. It feels sort of awkward to have a heated interaction with a character and then earning points with them by giving them things out of nowhere. It is like in the Sims games where you give someone a high five until they become your best friend. Nonetheless, characters are richly implemented. They may be found strolling along in locations you normally would not find them, giving you an opportunity to chat. I also liked the idea of (Spoiler - click to show) recruiting the characters as teachers if you decide to turn the abandoned house into a school because it ties back to the theme of community building.

There is also a mild stat system that is used in character dialog. Gameplay choices affect your Sanguine, Melancholic, Choleric, and Phlegmatic levels. There is no way of checking your stat levels and it is not clear on what choices contribute to a particular stat, but it does add some extra depth. You might be presented with a list of options such as these: Here is an example of three links you could click on to respond to a character:

'Sorry. I didn't mean to intrude.'
'You left your door open.'
(Choleric) 'Looking around. Who are you?'


Each one of these would be a response to a character. If you did not have a high enough Choleric stat for the last option, it would be crossed out. Using stats in Twine games always adds a little complexity to the gameplay and Ataraxia is no exception.

Visuals
Game uses a simple colour scheme of teal background and orange text with occasional text effects in some of the quests. Everything is easy to read and navigate which is especially helpful in an RPG game where you are constantly flipping through inventories and stat statistics. I think its appearance is one of the game’s strongest points.

Final thoughts
Ataraxia is a nice ambient game with lighthearted themes of aspiration and productive community-building (along with just a touch of fantasy). Its gameplay is complex but not puzzle heavy and is an excellent example of a choice-based RPG.