Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox[Review code provided by Chibig]
Ankora: Lost Days is the latest entry from Chibig. Set before the events of Deiland: Pocket Planet and Summer in Mara, you play as Mûn in her rookie years.
Mûn is a Junior Ranger from the Interstellar Patrol who finds herself stranded on the unexplored planet Ankora after crashing her spaceship. Now she must explore the planet in search of ship parts and learn to survive Ankora’s harsh conditions. Luckily, she’ll have the help of the native Anks, who she’ll lend a hand to in turn.
Ankora: Lost Days is a survival adventure game, though it’s very much on the relaxed side of things. You have to manage Mûn’s hunger, thirst and temperature, but once you’ve got a few levels under your belt it stops being a concern. Managing Mûn’s energy is more of an inconvenience than a serious issue.
The same goes for Ankora’s many monsters. Combat is incredibly basic and easily ignored if you don’t feel like fighting. In the rare cases where Mûn faints, you’ll lose a few resources and go back to your ship, but it’s a minor setback at most.
Exploring the planet is Mûn’s major concern. Ankora is set up a bit like Minecraft or Dragon Quest Builders. Everything is laid out in a square grid, from the overworld to the individual terrain tiles. There’s some degree of building and terraforming, but it’s very limited and mostly used to get around by making stairs and bridges.
As Mûn explores, she’ll run into friendly Anks who will help her out in exchange for a few favours. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these favours are fetch quests. You’ll be sent from one end of the planet to the other over and over again, constantly hunting for things and then delivering them.
More often than not you won’t get much guidance on where or how to obtain what you need. Some items are random drops and others are craftables. Sometimes you can buy the item in question from a merchant, but you’ll have to remember which one sells what you want. Then you’ll have to remember which block the Ank who wanted three cheese wheels actually lives on.
You see, Ankora: Lost Days is badly lacking in standard quality-of-life features. There’s a journal to track quests, but it only tells you who gave you the task and what they wanted. Camps and other locations are marked on the map, but they use generic markers and the journal doesn’t tell you which one you need to visit. If an Ank does offer some guidance then you’d better remember what they said, because they won’t repeat any dialogue. All this can make it hard to pick up a session after you left off as you’ll lack the info you need to reorient yourself.
Because Ankora: Lost Days is quite open (you can navigate the whole map almost immediately) you’re bound to meet NPCs and clear quests before you’re really meant to. This leads to characters referring to people you haven’t met, places you haven’t been and events that haven’t happened, or asking for items you won’t be able to make until you’ve completed other quests. This isn’t a huge problem in itself, but the lack of guidance means it’s easy to get bogged down in problems you can’t actually clear yet.
There are also more basic issues. The game is designed to be played with a controller, but when I did so, the triggers didn’t work and I couldn’t get to my journal. This was consistent across three different controllers. When I swapped to keyboard and mouse, the sensivity couldn’t be changed and certain controls were unclear.
Smaller things – like a button to craft several items at once that I couldn’t figure out – are minor inconveniences, but those add up. Swapping tools constantly gets annoying, especially as you get more of them. There’s no shortcuts, so you’ll always have to cycle through several tools. Clicking a prompt with the wrong tool out tells you to swap tool, when it could just as easily have switched tools on a contextual basis. You can’t attack enemies that are stood on these prompts, either – you’ll just activate the prompt instead.
All that said, Ankora: Lost Days isn’t a bad game by any means. In fact, it’s very enjoyable – it just feels a bit undercooked. Many of my complaints are fixable if Chibig wanted to update the game further post launch. Core concerns, such as the abundance of fetch quests or the trivial survival mechanics, are more of a question of taste. If you expected a hardcore survival experience, you’re looking in the wrong place.
Because Ankora: Lost Days is very easy, it’s great for kids or grown-ups who just want something comfy to unwind with. The writing is pleasant enough and the characters are cute and enjoyable, even if they’re not especially deep. The music is inoffensive and the graphics are colourful and appealing. Priced at less than £20, it won’t hurt your wallet too badly, either.
Ankora: Lost Days is a comfy and easy-going survival adventure about coming-of-age and playing nice with nature. It’s far from a perfect game, though a lot of the issues I had are very fixable or can be worked around with a notepad and pencil. What Ankora: Lost Days does provide is quite enjoyable, though if you’re not a fan of fetch quests you’d probably tire of the game quickly. Still, at less than £20, it’s worth a look.