The samurai has been a recent fascination in our culture, with games like Sekiro and Nioh being some of the most popular examples. There’s something magical about wielding a katana and defending villages from the outlaws that roam the land. Now, in Trek to Yomi, players will be tasked with defending their village and dispatching the outlaws.
This cinematic adventure has been hyped up in recent months, and the release is finally here. While many players have purchased Trek to Yomi, many others have been able to access it on Xbox and PC Game Pass. Like previous Devolver Digital games, Trek to Yomi is a day one exclusive for the platform.
The game starts with the player as a young child, learning to fight like a samurai. While giving players a quick intro to the combat, these early moments also cement the samurai’s honor into the young character. The players are also introduced to the black and white visuals, just as beautiful without color.
The combat training that players are given in these early moments works as a primer for the more complicated moves later on. This early training is also deceptive in how easy it is to take the incoming blows from your sensei. While it’s easy to block hits and get counters while you know they’re coming, it quickly escalates once you’re outside the tutorial level.
Trek to Yomi‘s combat is a little confusing in that it seems easy at first but quickly becomes a headache later in the game. There are frequent save points because players will likely die multiple times before encountering the first real boss. Then when they get there, they’ll die about a dozen more times. Players who don’t want to repeatedly die can play in cinematic mode, but they’ll have to restart to do it.
Sometimes it feels like blocks, counters, and combos don’t necessarily register in the game. Either this is a bug, or the split-second reaction time to achieve these combat mechanics is a little too short. There are many times when it feels like the player has to swallow every incoming hit due to the first block not registering.
That doesn’t mean the combat isn’t fun when it registers the hits because it is. It just feels like a headache when you have to try the same area over and over again because the game doesn’t register the action you’re trying to do. Once you get a good combo going, though, it feels like you did something awesome. In this way, the combat system has its perks and disadvantages.
The range of enemies in the world is fairly bland in the early game, with players running into the same four or five enemy types per section, with a few noticeable variations, and defeating them to get further. The standard stronger enemies take a little more focus to take down but are easy to defeat nonetheless.
The boss fights feel pretty good, even if they are more frustrating than the standard encounters. They don’t feel overpowered, just like a beefed-up version of your other enemies. Their attacks respond to your blocks and counters but watch out for attack sequences with multiple hits. Overall, the combat is repetitive, but it can become more complicated the more moves the player learns.
Most side-scrolling games don’t provide the kind of exploration that players are used to in modern games. However, in Trek to Yomi, this is one of the core aspects of the gameplay. This game has so much more story to tell than what appears on the linear path. As the player wanders into besieged huts and other hidden areas, there’s a chance they’ll find power-ups or environmental storytelling in abundance.
One of the most haunting examples is when the player returns to their village after leaving with the other samurai. A woman, scared of the threats coming, decided to end her own life instead of falling victim to the blades of the enemy bandits. As the player recognizes this, and the main character says so aloud, the player is forced to realize the impact of not being there to protect their home.
This game deals a lot with death, from the inciting incident of the game to the constant rampages of the Japanese warlords leaving dead in their wake. The cries of the family left behind in the villages are haunting, and the joyous laughs of the bandits over them will make you want to go on a rampage of your own. But this is just the start of the character’s journey, and he’ll need to know defeat before success.
Not enough can be said about the actual environments the game puts the player in. If Trek to Yomi were to be in color, it would be a disservice to the game. The fire, cinematic fight positions, and everything else come together to create something nice to look at, even when the screen is filled with death and destruction.
The story in Trek to Yomi is a tragic one, filled with death. Yomi is where people go when they die in this game, and the player sends armies there. Every person you cut down will end up in Yomi, and in some ways, the name of the game alludes to the character’s constant journey toward death.
While some might think it cliche, it pays homage to the samurai movies that came before it. The game often portrays its characters in certain familiar tropes that many fans will recognize. The main character is a stoic hero, torn between what he must do and his desire, and the antagonist is your standard musclehead with a heart for destruction and creating terror.
The Final Word
Trek to Yomi is arguably one of the most beautifully staged games this year. While the fighting is simple and repetitive, it’s very difficult to master some of the harder difficulties. Like the main character, the player will need to find their balance as they venture forward, encountering all the demons and monsters that this game has to offer.
Our Trek to Yomi review was written based on the PC version of the game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website!