Ghost of a Tale Review - As Quiet as a Mouse

Ghost of a Tale

The scope of what a small team can accomplish is wider than it has ever been. At first glance, Ghost of a Tale seems like the type of production you would see in a AAA title, but this game was in fact developed by a team of less than ten people. In fact, 90% of the art, design, and coding was done by Lionel “Seith” Gallat.

As you let that realization sink in, Ghost of a Tale is a sprawling stealth RPG that puts you in the shoes of a mouse and minstrel named Tilo, who finds himself separated from his love and forced to escape from Dwindling Heights Keep. Should you strap on your sneaking shoes, or let this gorgeous game pass you by? Time to find out!

A Detailed and Atmospheric World to Explore

From the moment you start playing Ghost of a Tale, it’s clear that a lot of love and talent went into crafting this title. Dwindling Heights Keep is an incredibly rich and detailed place to explore. While there’s no voice acting to speak of, characters often have multiple branching lines of dialogue.

Written lore is plentiful, offering deep insight into the politics and social issues of this world populated by anthropomorphic animals. It’s an engaging tale, with memorable characters and interesting designs. From a worldbuilding perspective, it absolutely nails the sense of place and atmosphere.

How deep you choose to dive is up to you, but for those who want to soak it all in, there are plenty of details spread throughout the world for you to discover.

From a gameplay perspective, Ghost of a Tale falls mixes simple mechanics with complex scenarios and an emphasis on exploration. The stealth, for example, allows you to move slowly and watch an indicator over enemy heads that lets you know how close you are to being spotted or heard.

When enemies do inevitably spot you (and they will), you can flee to a designated hiding spot (usually cabinet or open basket), and dive inside provided you’ve broken the line of sight. The game won’t let you hide if you’re still within the enemy’s line of sight, which I appreciated. Stealth games often become frustrating when you flee, hide, and then the enemy simply walks up and pulls you out, even if you’re certain you broke their gaze.

Thankfully, Ghost of a Tale circumvents this, but the enemies will still often give chase until you find a place to hide, so simply running away is not a valid strategy. As the game goes on, you’ll piece together outfits like a pirate costume or a rusted guard costume that allow you to walk through areas without fear, but until you’ve reached this point, you’re always on edge.

Certain items you pick up like sticks or bottles can be thrown to distract or knock-out enemies respectively, but those wearing helmets will be resistant to anything other than a slick on the ground that causes them to fall over.

Stunned enemies will eventually get back up, but it’s an effective way to defuse the situation if you have an item handy. That being said, the targeting can be wonky. It’s all based on where you’re looking, so you’ll need to aim the camera near the guard’s head to trigger the proper attack.

Since the rat guards are twice your size, this led to some moments where my bottle flew off in the wrong direction. It’s a small nuisance, but it did happen a few times. Progression is also an interesting thing to discuss. A majority of the quests in Ghost of a Tale boil down to fetching items and bringing them back, but until you secure a map or a specific location, you’ll be working on dialogue along and perhaps a vague journal entry.

On the one hand, this lends the game a very organic feel as you search every nook and cranny of the keep, but other players may not like this, instead opting for more concrete guidance. I am of the opinion that it added to the atmosphere, and those who want more guidance can spend money they find to purchase maps or hints.

The last thing to discuss is a rather large element in the room: performance. I was playing on a PS4 Pro and I did sample the game’s three V-sync settings (full, half-refresh, and off). With the V-sync off, the frame rate did seem to hold more stable, but the screen tearing was hard to miss on a big screen.

Turning the V-sync all the way fixed the screen tearing, but frame rate drops were almost constant for me. In quiet areas, things were fine, but when guards gave chase or I entered a room with a lot of lighting, the game would chug to the point where it broke the immersion for me.

With so many things it does right, it’s really painful to see the performance in Ghost of a Tale bring down the overall experience. My hope is that a patch will remedy this issue, at which point I can forgive the other kinks in this mouse’s armor.

Performance That Falters Too Often

Ghost of a Tale

I was playing on a PS4 Pro and I did sample the game’s three V-sync settings (full, half-refresh, and off). With the V-sync off, the frame rate did seem to hold more stable, but the screen tearing was hard to miss on a big screen.

Turning the V-sync all the way fixed the screen tearing, but frame rate drops were almost constant for me. In quiet areas, things were fine, but when guards gave chase or I entered a room with a lot of lighting, the game would chug to the point where it broke the immersion for me.

With so many things it does right, it’s really painful to see the performance in Ghost of a Tale bring down the overall experience. My hope is that a patch will remedy this issue, at which point I can forgive the other kinks in this mouse’s armor.

Beyond the performance issues, Ghost of a Tale is a lovingly rendered work of art with sound stealth mechanics and RPG elements to keep you engaged throughout. The fetch quests can become repetitive, but the sheer joy of exploring the world helps to temper that feeling.

Fans of classic stealth titles like Thief or the Redwall series of books will absolutely love Ghost of a Tale. While the frame rate issues do bring down the experience somewhat, this is still a world well worth exploring.

Final Score: 7.5/10

A copy of Ghost of a Tale was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes

Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 3/21/19

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