Early access hands-on: Izle
In a long-ago land, there existed nothing but beings of darkness. They were swirling about, doing their thing, until beings of light entered the picture. Drifting and merging, these lights joined together to create all life, filling the world with all sorts of things. As one might imagine, the shadows did not like this: surging forward, they corrupted and destroyed the worlds of light, leaving only a precious few to escape their wrath. It’s in your escape as one of the survivors that you stumble upon a floating island, luminous and untouched by the Shadows, the last bastion within which to re-create the world.
So begins Izle, an action-adventure terraforming RPG. From the beginning, your concerns are global: save for your hub area, your main task is to offer Shards of Light to the gods so they can create new islands and expand this new world. Each with their own theme and associated quests, the player is free to terraform them as they see fit. Mining and crafting veterans will find this aspect very familiar, if a bit more free-flowing than the strictly regimented squares of that other world. Building houses and structures comes very easily, your inventory quickly filled with materials, tools and armour to aid you.
However, things are not quite as laid-back as all that. The world of Izle is under attack by the dastardly shadows, all looking to invade and destroy this last world of light. Not much story is evident from the first couple of cutscenes, all of it fairly bog-standard darkness vs light stuff thus far, but the ramifications are clear from the first time your wimpy wooden sword fails to take down an ice giant. Contorting into a hulking purple brute, death transforms you into a shadow version of your former self. Though you are blessed with greater strength and higher HP, there is that pesky consequence of the sky becoming ablaze with darkness and the lands being stalked by shadowed-out versions of the original enemies. The message is clear: fall to the Shadows, and this last wink of light will be thoroughly snuffed out. Fortunately, hurrying to the hub and sacrificing a Shard of Light can heal you, clearing the sky once more.
Other, smaller details add a tinge of interest to the package. Several small minigames pop up throughout the opening cutscenes, allowing you to chase after lights or fend off dark beasts, always in ways integral to the plot of the cutscene. It’s a novel and refreshing idea, one that hopefully gets utilised more as they develop. Similarly uncommon is the item system: every spell, armour and weapon boasts its own XP bar, allowing you to craft and change your own class as you see fit. The quests to pursue are not so fleshed-out yet – most involve going somewhere, killing a monster and nothing else – but this at least will probably change with further releases.
Being in alpha, one can’t judge the game too harshly for its rough edges. The greatest detraction so far is the combat. Awkward to say the least, it often requires serious finger contortion to both attack and move at once. The lack of varied materials also means that most built structures will simply be made of the same ground beneath your feet. Here, the sloping terrain is a double-edged sword: while the departure from the strict square-by-square nature of Minecraft helps to make a more natural-feeling world, it also means that it’s much more difficult to build accurately, especially from a third-person perspective. Whether or not this is a good thing really depends on the player.
Despite these drawbacks, there’s a lot to find in Izle and, perhaps more importantly, a lot to build on. The trailer boasts scenes of swimming, grappling and parachuting; your character soars through the air on majestic birds, fighting massive demons. Though Izle is staying firmly on the god-shaped ground for the moment, its ambition reaches towards the heavens. We can only hope their prayers come true.