Review: Hand of Horzasha

Review: Hand of Horzasha

The only human in a city of monsters, Diala gives up her life as a knight to protect the life of a neglected orphan. Explore the city. Find out where your allegiances lie. Seal your fate and those of your neighbors in an elaborate fighting ritual.

A review for this game was requested through the VN Game Den review request form.

A Labor of Love

It becomes apparent very quickly that this is a big, highly ambitious game. There’s a lot going on. There’s exploration, a little time management, a reputation system, and a lot of interface elements to try keep the sheer enormity of it in check. This is very clearly a labor of deep love and considerable work that really shines through in even the smallest detail, especially its incredible soundtrack.

An Unexpected Visual Appeal

The art has an atypical toony style that, admittedly, takes some getting used to if you’re accustomed to something a bit more refined or commercial. It’s self-consistent, though, and very emotive and high action where needed, giving it a strong overall aesthetic signature. The raw design itself is extremely well done. There are an incredible number of characters (35+ according to the game page, and I can attest to that accuracy), and every single one looks and feels different with a distinct visual personality. There was also a lot of consideration put into the environmental design. There are a lot of different backgrounds covering several different parts of the city and forest, and dotted with lively details like roving cloud cover, moving windmills, and other hand-drawn lighting effects. Together, it all forms an immersive, well-constructed, coherent visual space.

A Big Story

There is very obviously a deep lore to this game that’s been uniquely crafted down to very exacting details (even if I suspect it doesn’t all come up in-game). The evidence of the thought that went into building everything is clear, and it generally all tracks internally. The dialogue can get a little exposition heavy when being introduced to new concepts, but overall it’s wonderfully serviceable to the setting. The main character has a strong personality and a voice to go with it.

Where it fails itself a little is that there is so much lore going on and so much happening in the background and the periphery and the world around the main character, that the actual thread of the plot gets a little lost in the shuffle. They provide you with character profiles and a codex, which is nice, but there’s almost too much to hold onto mentally as you’re reading for everything to coalesce narratively. It’s also on the considerably longer side, so expect a slower pacing to match that length.

While the number of characters is fun and admirable, it makes it very difficult to keep track of who is who, what their allegiances are, and how imperative they are to the direct plot. So while they’re all very fun, I feel like you don’t really get to appreciate them, the main character, or the story being told, because you just don’t know who anybody is. It’s incredibly difficult to get to know them. This becomes particularly troublesome in a fight scene early in the game—one that gets you an early game ending if you fail.

Maybe a Little Too Big

This all feeds into the one big overall flaw, and that is that this game is almost trying to do too much, sacrificing some structure and readability in the process. They went to the effort to program this very sleek little map and time management system, and it’s way underutilized in the grand scheme of things. Something so big with so many moving parts could have really benefited from a more overt structure and a way to compartmentalize the story into slightly more intellectually manageable pieces. It’s very easy to lose where you are in the story, and without a particularly strong through line, it struggles a little to keep your attention through all the side elements. And where something like an RPG of this size would have clear delineations as to what’s main story and what’s narratively optional, and give you the ability to skip things you were less interested in, this particular format necessitates just throwing everything at you at once, making it more cumbersome.

If you want something that you can sit down and really sink your teeth into with multiple playthroughs and a lot of options available, this is it. It is a beefy, broad game with a lot there if you have the time to sift through it. It also has a lot of heart and a deep understanding of itself. It has a story to tell and world to let you live in, and it wants more than anything to take you along for the ride.

It’s available now on itch.io and Steam.

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