Taken at face value, Artifact Adventure is an unassuming title. It clearly aims to play off 8-bit nostalgia, grabbing the attention of players longing for the good ol’ days. I picked the game up on a whim, not really knowing what to expect as I booted it up and picked my four party members, Final Fantasy style. However, a deeper look revealed that this 8-bit RPG is also an open-world title, where you can do whatever you want… but face the consequences.
My first playthrough ended in seven minutes. I explored the first town and traveled down a well, coming across a slave trader. He offered a fair bit of cash for one of my party members, so I took him up on the deal. I had sold my healer off to a terrible unknown future… well, that’s life, I suppose. I decided to set off on my adventure in earnest, but noticed a boat to the south. Entering a small shoreline house revealed a depressing scene: a bunch of tired adventurers that had given up on their journey. What was the point of saving the world anyway? I decided to join them. And with that, I finished Artifact Adventure.
After a couple weeks of sitting in my Steam Library, I gave the game a more serious go. I decided not to sell any of my party members into slavery, and instead grab an airship from the King. Ready to explore the world in the best steampunk transportation known to man, my party set off to be the biggest jerks in the world.
Artifact Adventure is an open-world title, as advertised. You won’t be blocked off from visiting anywhere, and the only storylines and quests you complete are the ones you want to. If you feel like it, you can beat the evil Swamp King without ever doing anything for anyone in the game, just grinding out levels in
dungeons and the overworld.
Of course, I wanted to do stuff… I just may not have had everyone’s best interests at heart. At one point I heard about a town with magical healing water. Sounds like a good destination! I zoomed over to the tiny town, and it turns out that an Artifact (the game’s method of passing on skills and spells) is the source of the healing water, and if I wanted a healing spell early on I’d have to take the town’s livelihood away. I obviously wanted some healing, so I decided to sacrifice the entire place for my own gain. Too bad the healing spell was pretty awful. But luckily I had an airship! I hopped over to another town and bought a better healing Artifact pretty quickly.
Many games force you between decidedly ‘good’ and ‘evil’ options, but Artifact Adventure doesn’t stick you into such a binary scale. You can do quests for profit, because you feel like it, or just completely ignore them. I always wanted more money, so I took on a relatively straightforward quest to take care of a nasty bird monster for a merchant.
Well, it was supposed to be straightforward, but while exploring the forest I got lost and stumbled upon a person’s hut. They happened to be studying the birds I was tasked to kill, and it turns out they’re only trying to protect their young! Not that I care, I want that sweet rewar- oh wait, you’ll give me a feather to not kill the birds so I can collect the money and also not risk life and limb killing mama monsters? Perfect!
Granted the merchant was smart enough to send someone to make sure I killed the monsters, so my reward wasn’t all that great… but the fun is in the fact that I chose my own solution. Artifact Adventure doesn’t chastise you for picking one option over the other, but always reminds you that there are consequences to your decisions.