What do you get if you combine the meditative nature of A Short Hike with a 3D platformer and Breath of the Wild-style open world? It looks like the answer might be Tchia, from developer Awaceb. We went hands-on with a preview build of the upcoming game and came away impressed with its open approach to exploration and its almost magical ability to make even the simplest of discoveries feel special.
The preview build begins in Tchia’s fourth chapter, so there’s not much context about who’s who and what’s going on. A woman with a shotgun asks you to fetch her a crab, and like anyone with a healthy sense of self-preservation, you agree.
From there, Tchia lets you do pretty much whatever you want. The open world is a blend of Breath of the Wild in that it relies on visual interest and curiosity to pull you forward, with a touch of Elden Ring. The map has no points of interest marked out and little indication of what you might find in a given area aside from a few topographical hints. With no quest markers or clutter trying to pull you in a specific direction, you rely on what you see or what seems interesting to chart your course. The result is substantially more satisfying and makes even the smallest discovery feel fulfilling.
At one point, I became distracted for probably the 10th time from my mission to collect a crab. The last time, I was curious to see what would happen if I threw a lantern into the river (it kept shining and sparkling underwater – a completely worthwhile way to spend a few minutes). This time, I saw a campfire in the distance and unwittingly walked into a group of fabric soldiers animated by a nefarious power. It’s the kind of standard encounter you might expect in any game. But I found it myself and purely out of curiosity, so it felt special and personal.
Normally, I’d question how sustainable this level of wonder is. Finding a fruit that improves stamina or stumbling across a race that Tchia can run might lose its luster after hours spent clambering over the island, but, so far at least, it seems like Tchia is interested in giving you a reward that’s different from what most games offer.
Tchia’s take on New Caledonia is beautifully rendered and animated to the point where just walking around, watching the wind gently stir the grasses, and hearing the crickets stir themselves to life as the sun sets is its own reward. Rarely do games capture that sense of calm unhurriedness that you’re supposed to get from a nice nature walk, and unlike a stroll in the real world, you’re not going to get interrupted by a text message or an angry squirrel or the dozens of other nuisances you might find in the actual wilderness.
Even other “cozy” games have objectives or things you really should be getting on with. Tchia is happy to let you stare at the sun’s soft glitter on the water as long as you want. It’s an idealized fantasy world of the best kind and a joy just to exist in.
That sense of fantasy even shows up in the open world and platforming elements. In place of a health bar, Tchia has a stamina meter that depletes when you drop from high places or get injured, and it replenishes itself quickly. Leap off a high cliff or fall onto some rocks? No problem – just dust yourself off and keep going. The short, scrubby trees dotted around the central part of the island act as springy catapults Tchia can use to lob herself onto high ledges.
She also sends her soul to briefly inhabit certain objects. I spent a minute rolling around a wood sculpting site as a flower pot just for the sake of it, but some of Tchia’s puzzles and other challenges make more practical use of the ability. The fabric soldiers I walked into earlier only counted fire as their weakness, so Tchia inhabited an oil lantern to make short work of them and the source of their power.
Eventually, I found the crab I needed in a mangrove and brought it back to one of the local matriarchs. I spent little time speaking with the people I saw on the island’s roads or fishing in the river, but the conversations I did have, including a brief tidbit about feuds between families, make me keen to find out more about the people living on the island and how Tchia herself fits into it all. We likely won’t have to wait long to find out either. Tchia is planned for release in early 2023 on PS5 and PC via Steam and the Epic Games Store.
Kepler Interactive provided an in-progress build of Tchia for the purpose of this preview. Tchia is set to launch in early 2023 for PC, PS4 & PS5.
Josh Broadwell posted a new article, Tchia is already a charming, meditative spin on open world exploration