Waking Gameplay Preview – Fighting existential dread

*Waking developed by Jason Oda, published by tinyBuild – June 18, 2020 (Xbox One, PC)
*MSRP: 19.99 (Steam) – https://store.steampowered.com/app/1068600/Waking/

Waking is an adventure game at heart. You explore levels, defeat bosses, and unlock upgrades and collectibles for your character. Encapsulating all of this is, is a story of a comatose person struggling to stay alive and fight their way back to reality by collecting precious memories.

The three main methods of attack are beliefs, knowledge, and feelings. The game has some overt symbolism.

The combat mechanic is pretty unique. You have three main attacks available: Knowledge, which is a projectile attack, Feelings, which are melee attacks, and Beliefs, which is a reflective shield. To use the ranged and reflective shield attacks, you must find the items in the world and carry them. The melee attacks are based on charges, which must absorbed from items.

You can have a pet dog or cat that will aid you on your journey.

In addition to this is a helper character, in the form of a dog or cat. They can zoom through enemies and make short work of them. You also have available a powerful charge attack once you have built up enough of the meter and also a weaker ranged attack.

Boss battles can get a little intense with many things happening on the screen.

There is an ebb and flow to the combat. You start by charging and throwing an item at the opponent to stun them, and then using your melee attacks to deal most of the damage. If the enemy is far away, you can you use your ranged attack. Once your charge attack is ready, you can use that to finish off the enemy.

The game does try to tackle heavy themes but not all of the attempts hit the mark.

All of the levels, enemies, and narrative revolve around the contrasting themes of accepting death and fighting to stay alive. Some parts are well done while others fall short of the mark. The game will impact people differently based on their life experiences.

Overall, Waking is a pretty solid action adventure game that tries to deal with heavier thematic elements. Regardless of whether it manages to pull it off or not, I’m glad to see such a wide range of variety in genre and design in games today.

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