I have been traveling pretty much my entire life. Be it for studies, work, to see loved ones again, or getting new acquaintances, I have always been on long journeys and I don’t know when or if I will ever truly settle. What I do find to be the hardest part of any travel is to say goodbye. It can be an emotional experience that is as heartbreaking as it is important. Eastshade Studios wanted to showcase this with a prequel to their main-game, Eastshade, properly titled Leaving Lyndow. So is this a proper goodbye to something bigger?
Goodbye, I guess
As a young graduate student from the Guild of Maritime Exploration, you play as Clara who simply is getting ready to leave her home and say her farewells. It is really as simple as that, which I do admire. Portraying how it is to say goodbye and take a last look at what you might not see for a long time or even ever again, is not easy to do. Leaving Lyndow does this fairly well, despite lacking emotional ties with previous encounters. It would have created stronger impact to leave your uncle, for example, if you have had previous interactions together, but the dialogue between you two show your uncle’s uncertainty and confusion at your departure, but also his acceptance of it, all in a believable and heartwarming manner.
The dialogue overall is simple, but adds to provide sweet goodbyes and give you short insights on your ties with those you meet before heading to the dock. There are some conversations that are too direct and want to elaborate on Clara’s past, which does break the immersion. However, this does not hinder the characters’ strength as they have some nice personalities to provide. Even some locals at the teahouse show that they care for you and will miss their time with you.
I just wish we could see more of their interactions previously. While you get enough to understand their connections and appreciate their farewells, it is underwhelming due to lack of attachment. What helps, in this case, are the extras you can find, such as letters or books. They don’t spew details or unnecessary lore, but are simple writings from everyday people, and I love how none of it is pretentious. My favorite part might have been scouring Clara’s old playhouse, where you could just look at items and even be provided with two flashbacks.
Unfortunately, the ties to this place create rather an atmosphere of mystery and joy, making you want to see more and not say goodbye because of that, instead of it being due to the actual connections you’ve made and thus not want to leave your close ones. By clocking in under 30 minutes, it is disheartening to not see more and create a stronger attachment to this place or its inhabitants. It is definitely serviceable and it makes me glad for what I saw, but the people I met did never leave a strong impression.
Story Score: 5/10
Well I… walked towards something
Since the goal of the game is to simply say goodbye and get ready to travel, that is what we are doing. Leaving Lyndow is a walking simulator with little else to speak of. You walk around, can zoom in and interact with objects and people, and that is it. With only four small areas to visit before leaving for the dock, there is not much to speak of, but I may as well try.
You start of in the house so you can pack your bag, get medicine, and say goodbye to your mother. After this, the rest is just as simple. You will say goodbye to your uncle and do a minor fetch-quest that is okay due to limiting the area you must search, and drink some tea at the teahouse and say farewell to friends, with both being incredibly short-lived. The one that stuck out to me the most, was the forest where you check out your playhouse and have a flashback after playing a tune on the chimes and sleeping by a stump. There was a minor glitch that had me restart the game, but that was easy to overlook.
Except for playing a tune on the chimes correctly, the biggest challenge this game offers will be to know what you must see in order to travel onwards. The game focuses on creating an atmosphere, but this could have easily been a movie due to the minimal interaction. You might have some dialogue-option and can take in the scenery, but nothing alters the events significantly or adds enough interaction to make you feel like a part of this world. After 30 minutes, I just remember that I walked somewhere for 95% of the game. Keeping in mind just how short it is, there was not much to do here.
Gameplay Score: 2/10
Don’t wanna leave this place
I do notice that plenty of walking-simulators’ strength lies in the presentation, and Leaving Lyndow is yet another gorgeous title to look at. It is not just because of the wonderful lighting, the beautiful animations of water hitting the shores or adorable flowers waving alongside the wind, but the textures themselves. Making the walls diverse in looks creates a realistic environment that really will enthrall you. Areas are also diverse enough to make this town believable, such as your uncle’s garden, the busy teahouse, the docks with huge ships, and of course, your comfortable and warm-lit home. While you won’t be visiting plenty of areas, what is presented is varied enough and feels connected thanks to the areas being coherently connected through similar landscapes and naturalist environments.
What is a blemish on this are the character models. All have blank stares with mouths being covered by cloth, and an uncanny valley effect to them due to their semi-human design. I do not know if this is due to the designers’ inability to create human beings, or if this is a new race, but I always felt uncomfortable with this setup especially when it was unclear on what they actually were. As for the audio, they only speak minor abstract words, not unlike a 3D Zelda title before Breath of the Wild. As for the rest, the audio is remarkable. Sounds of people talking over drinks at the teahouse, birds twittering by the forest, and even the sound of your own footsteps add to the atmosphere. There is also a segment where the sound effects represent a child’s fantasies when you play with him, which is a clever way to make his imagination come to life.
Lastly, we have the amazing soundtrack by Phoenix Glendinning. It is perfect, creating strong atmosphere by highlighting tones with echo, such as his piano-pieces in “Ambience” before you start the game or the strong cello playing as you walk through the dark forest and end up by the sunny valley where the cello is replaced with violins. It is amazing and memorable by both creating diverse atmosphere and highlighted tones, with few instruments. He honestly could be on the level with Jeremy Soul without giving exact same melodies, and I do hope he knows just how gifted he is.
Presentation Score: 9/10
Not much to see here
While the goal was to create an atmospheric journey, there is little to explore or even interact with to strengthen the main-game. While you can do optional goals like playing with beads, get denied at drinking more tea, or get a high score at a ball-game, it really does not add to the experience. Just achievements. For such a short game, there is nothing to really extend the game-time or come back to.
Extra Score: 2/10
It is nice to walk around and engage in our main character’s past, home and concerns of what might be to come, but there is not enough to be something lasting. Rather, Leaving Lyndow feels like a visually impressive demo of a bigger title. This is interestingly not the case, if I am to believe the developers, which gives me more hope for their main title. As for Leaving Lyndow, there is not much to remember after a playthrough except for the gorgeous atmosphere, and what there is to do for interaction is shallow. If atmosphere can get you far, you will certainly be happy to at least see through this title. Personally, I would rather save my money for a cup of coffee with some friends. Or shell out more for the beautiful soundtrack.