Quench, developed by Canadian indie studio Axon Interactive Inc., is a puzzle game about herding different tribes of animals through many obstacles. You are a bird named Shepherd that will guide these animals through an emotional pilgrimage using your power of the elements. I found the puzzles surprisingly varied and the story to have unexpected twists of intrigue and betrayal that I won’t be spoiling but rather be giving my impressions on my experience. The game is available now on Steam here and the Nintendo Switch here, the latter being the version I will be reviewing today. The myPotatoGames team would also like to thank the developers of Quench for giving us this review code!
The main focus is on the young new leader of the Elephant Tribe, Shaman located near the Western Elder Tree. It is Shaman’s duty to gather all of the other following tribe members: Springbok, Wildebeest, Zebra, Baboon, and Lion. Together they will travel to the Eastern Elder Tree and bring offerings to pray for prosperity and good fortunes. This is especially necessary as you have become aware that the lands to the East have become dry and hot, leaving many to go hungry, and dark spirits or smokebeasts have been plaguing their homes. You, the player, are born from a single fruit of the Western Elder Tree. I found this to be an interesting premise as elder trees grow in subtropical areas in real life and flower elderberries. It is even said in folklore that they ward off evil and give protection.
Dark Spirits “Smokebeasts”
Just when you think that the story would simply be about a voyage of hope, leadership, and union (which is a great story in its own right), the game is filled with tragedy, loss, and more questions I needed answered. I had previously not given much thought to the smokebeasts as I just figured they were enemies and that was that but there’s a lot more to it.
There are different types that you will contend with that have their own ways of dealing with them. However, because you cannot zoom in and the levels can become quite chaotic, it can be hard to differentiate between Cindertsags and Ravagers (which took me a while to figure out which enemies those names belonged to). I think the game would have greatly benefited from a glossary or monster guide to not only show you the difference of appearance, but also to remind you how to defeat them (temporarily or otherwise).
Levels and Puzzles
There are a total of 28 levels, half of which are more like an epilogue where you return home and fight the final boss. The first few levels are like tutorials showing you how to use the Power Wheel and your Weather Powers which are as follows: rain, lighting, wind, and earthquake. There are groves that have stones to indicate either a resting spot or an area that requires a specific element to activate.
At first I thought that the symbols on the stones where there to show you which power to use, but they are actually there to tell you which power you will receive. There can be more than just one stone and therefore the amount displays how many different powers you will gain in return for the one used. It took me several levels to see tiny triangles, maybe butterflies, floating around the groves with their color giving you a hint to the element needed.
Keep Watching that Stamina Bar
As your herd of animals walk, their stamina will drain. The tougher the terrain, the faster that bar will deplete. The specific rest areas need to be lush with green to have any effect on restoring stamina to your animals. If your stamina is empty, one member of the herd will die one after the other. When the levels were easy enough, I restarted the levels when an animal died thinking that if I run out, eventually I’ll have none to shepherd in the harder levels. I’ve also come to care for these animals and didn’t want to lose a single one. However, the number of animals you have will go back to their original count after every level. If you’re thinking “Well the elements are obvious; rain re-hydrates trees, earthquakes get rid of boulders, wind blows away sand, and lightning destroys thorns.”, you’re in for a spin later on.
Weather Powers Can Do More
Elements will also have some secondary benefits or problems such as rain healing your tribe or calming smokebeasts, lightning create brush fires in dry spots, wind uncovering enemies, pushing them away or speeding up your animals, etc. These are all things you have to take into account before using your powers. Luckily, the game will pause when you choose your power and lets you take a look around to plan out your paths and strategies. What I enjoyed the most is that there are usually several different ways to arrive to the same goal and your powers aren’t limitless. Therein lies the deeper puzzle aspect; you must ration your powers and/or trade them wisely. Meaning, you can and will run out of your powers if you’re not careful.
Different Tribes, Different Strategies
Once you have told your tribe of animals to set for a specific course, you cannot turn back. Sometimes even the most careful planning will be ruined by unexpected surprises as you watch your herd scatter away from a hidden enemy or having stragglers in the back that are slowing down the herd and draining more stamina.
Things start to get really intense when you have more than one tribe of animals to control and they are placed in different areas of the map in your levels. They also have unique characteristics that you need to be aware of at all times. For example: elephants are great swimmers but are much slower on land, wildebeests can easily climb slopes, and baboons can throw their firestones at certain enemies. You’ll probably use a lot of your lightning to quickly revive fallen animals but it can be quite frustrating if it happens in the water or right in the middle of your tribe because you can accidentally kill the ones that are alive.
Complete All Objectives to Pass
Something that aggravated me towards the harder levels was the fact that instructions for the objectives where not at all clear. The main idea was there, but I struggled with what exactly it was that I was supposed to do when there were too many path choices that weren’t linear. Moreover, there was a level that told me to herd my animals to the water but I didn’t see any. Do I bring them south? North? Where do they want me to go? When this happened, I had to experiment quite a bit and then restart once I’ve figured out where everything was and what it did. Thankfully, not all levels where like this and sometimes a glowing ring showed you where you should head to.
Graphics, Controls, and Sound
I didn’t mind that the gameplay had low-poly graphics with very simple designs except when it came to not being able to clearly see what was what if there were several things bunched together. However, it helped when hovering over certain areas with your powers as they would light up if you were using the right one. Then I would get frustrated again when the game would often lag or not respond to my commands. At the end of each segment of the story, there was a wonderful recap with beautiful backgrounds with a “cave drawings” art style. That, coupled with the soundtrack, made the game feel like it was truly inspired by African culture.
Every single level in the end was unique and changed with the story in mind. They can be pretty challenging but are grouped up into shorter stages so it’s not much of a drag if you need to do it over. The animals are adorable and every tribe leader has an interesting personality that made me care about the story just all the more! Sure I’ve had my fair share of troubles with the controls, explanations, and speed, but it was overshadowed by the games heartfelt narrative and exciting strategic puzzles. If you want to learn more about the game, need support, or want to chat with the developers, you can do so here on their Discord channel.