How would you spend the next six weeks, given that you knew a terrible catastrophe was set to occur? Would you volunteer your time at the town hospital tending to the sick, take part in grand battles at the arena, or steal from the already unfortunate in the slums? Would you wonder how your actions were going to affect the town, once disaster hits, or only worry about personal benefit? The Yawhg, the latest offering from developer Damian Sommer and artist Emily Carroll, puts these choices to you, in a tale that’s never told the same way twice.
In each of my ten or so playthroughs of The Yawhg, I encountered at least one new instance. Once, while I was meditating in the town gardens, I happened upon a frog who claimed to be a prince transformed. I took him at his word and gave him the restorative kiss, and indeed he turned back into a prince, and bestowed a bit of his wealth upon me. Another time while meditating in that same garden, I encountered an entirely different scenario. This variety carries throughout each action, with every character, and there’s almost always something new to see. Not every interaction will be pleasant or beneficial, though.
The overarching narrative in The Yawhg tells of a terrible catastrophe, which appears every so often and lays waste to a town. The Yawhg is the one absolute constant in effect. It has come before, is coming, and will come again. The variables are in how you spend the time leading up to the event and the smaller, more personal stories therein. There’s claimed to be over 50 different endings to be seen, and in all my time with the game I never saw an ending repeated. Those endings are influenced by what you choose to do in the time leading up, and your actions will affect the restoration effort when the time comes. If you chose to rob townsfolk during those six weeks, it’s likely you’ll have little to offer in rebuilding the town, and things may end poorly for you.
Presentation in The Yawhg is stellar, from the music to the visuals and writing. The art direction is gorgeously stylised, and incredibly colourful. Each scene is presented similarly to a comic book panel, a still drawing with text to read or make your decisions from. The music that plays throughout is fantastic, with a particular highlight being a vocalised piece at the conclusion. Gameplay is in the style of a Choose Your Own Adventure, where everything you do will accrue, or deplete, stats like physique, magic, and wealth. Those stats play a part in determining whether or not you’ll be able to perform certain actions, such as having enough ‘mind’ to lead a group of travellers from a forest to the town. Ultimately, your character’s abilities also influence your ending, though there are still more variables at play that can unexpectedly hinder your efforts.
The Yawhg isn’t a particularly lengthy affair, but to play through only once is a mistake. The real joy comes from multiple experiences, and seeing the variety it has to offer. This is, of course, aided by the game being utterly charming on most every front.