Waking aims to bring together traditional gameplay and meditation with a story about trying to awake from a coma. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite reach the mark and is more likely to turn more players away than if it focused on one or the other. When I first heard about Waking, I was quite intrigued by this concept and eager to jump in. However, the repetitive combat and level design made it a tedious game to play.
Waking endeavours to make the game about you, the player, by asking about desires, fears and memories. It attempts to evoke emotion by asking about childhood pets and your home town, but I wondered whether it was trying to steal my identity. Fortunately, I was never asked for my mother’s maiden name. Your answers to these questions then determine the names of the weapons you use to fight your way to the waking world.
The first thing I need to mention here is that I didn’t finish Waking. Honestly, not even close. The estimate was 20 hours to complete it, and I just couldn’t put myself through that, no matter how much I wanted to see how the game ends.
In the beginning, the game was quite interesting. I liked the character designs and seeing how the guided meditation was integrated with the other gameplay, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to make me want to play more.
I liked the guided meditation. It comes in after a boss fights and is an unusual way of calming a player after an intense battle. The meditation scenes were lovely too, with an angel with beautiful wings looking over you. Then the game asks you to close your eyes, and the screen turns to black—this part of the game I enjoyed, much more than the actual gameplay.
There are so many components to the combat in Waking that it becomes complicated and clunky. I felt like I spent too much time navigating through menu rather than playing. I couldn’t remember what certain melee moves did, and in the end, it didn’t really seem to matter. Instead, I started blindly throwing items at enemies without much thought. The system would be significantly improved by if it had a visual inventory and a select attack wheel.
Levels in Waking are procedurally generated, which you would hope would mean more variety. However, with the levels all looking the same, it doesn’t accomplish this. It just means that you need to work out where objectives are each time you die.
Speaking of dying, it’s what caused me to stop playing. Health isn’t regenerated before a boss fight, and there are no save points. When you die during a boss fight, you have to do the entire level again. I entered a boss fight with very little health, and when I realised I’d need to do the whole level again, I decided it wasn’t worth it.
Art style and sound design
The character design in Waking is gorgeous, and they reminded me a lot of Hellblade. Unfortunately, the levels do not do them justice and don’t give the player much to enjoy.
The sound effects in Waking are decent; however, the music isn’t anything special. For the most part, I didn’t even notice it. One time I did notice it was when fighting a boss, the music was uplifting and celebratory, even though I was getting pummeled at the time. It definitely requires more thought.
I wanted to love Waking. It’s great to see a game try something different, but unfortunately, it hasn’t worked here. If you like an interesting story and can push through the grind, you might want to consider buying Waking when it’s on sale. Otherwise, it’s not a game I can recommend in its current state.
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Platforms: Steam & Xbox
Genres: Action, adventure, atmospheric
** Find The Strawberry received a free key for Waking from Tiny Build. All opinions are my own **