The Vagrant

A game by O.T.K Games for PC, originally released in 2018.
The Vagrant is a sidescrolling hack-and-slash action-RPG set in a large and detailed fantasy world known as Mythrilia. The game stars a sellsword named Vivian in the role of the eponymous vagrant. This mercenary is in search of her missing father and sister, but she soon gets embroiled in larger conflicts that see her bound to a witch named Holborn. Accompanied by the witch’s apprentice, Vivian sets out across the land to bring an end to the dark forces that have infested it.

The game’s vivid visuals are heavily influenced by the works of Vanillaware (Oboro Muramasa, Dragon’s Crown), offering beautiful backdrops, lovely character designs with unrealistically-endowed female characters, and smooth animations; and the level of detail is all the more surprising given that the game was created by a 3-person studio. Furthermore, the game offers a deep combat system, upgradeable weapons and equipment, a cooking system, healing and buff items, a detailed narrative, a substantial character upgrade tree, and other niceties usually reserved for larger studio productions, such as a journal and bestiary.

The game begins with Vivian aboard a ship studying clues as to the whereabouts of her family, when she is approached by a mysterious owl-man who delivers some intentionally opaque dialogue before disappearing. Vivian heads out onto the top deck to find that the ship has been boarded by skeleton warriors, and a violent tempest now tosses the ship about. Soon after, the ship capsizes, and Vivian ends up on the shore of an unknown land.

Vivian quickly finds herself saving a young maiden named Lucia from being attacked by a boar, and Lucia then asks Vivian to escort her to a nearby town… but it is later revealed that Lucia is attempting to flee an arranged marriage in order to be with the man she loves. This man soon turns up dead, however, with his blood spilt on a sacred stone that once protected their hometown, until it was sullied. When Lucia’s village is attacked by a necromancer, Vivian intercedes and is defeated. At the last moment, she is saved by Holborn, the Witch of Viride.

Holborn realizes that Vivian is no simple sword-for-hire, but rather a Runewarden… one skilled in the art of Runecraft. Holborn and her companion, Camden, are from the Academy, and they suspect Runewardens of being murderers, whereas Vivian believes the Academy to be corrupt. This is the source of much conflict between the characters as Holborn places a curse on Vivian and forces her to do her bidding under the watch of Camden. These events all transpire in the opening couple of hours and are representative of the overall depth of the narrative and lore of the world.

Additional narrative elements unfold as Camden and Vivian reach new areas, speak to each other around the fire when they make camp, and as Vivian encounters and defeats boss creatures. In addition, Vivian occasionally flashes back to earlier events in her life, and these are accompanied by fullscreen illustrations, as are many of the major story elements. The game also features multiple endings.

Vivian is a skilled fighter and has a large moveset. She is able to perform a 4-hit combo with her regular attack, and she also has a heavy attack. Unlike more technical fighters, heavy attacks cannot be intermixed into regular attacks for different kinds of combos… except for the final strike. Finishing a combo with a heavy strike results in a lunge that hits the enemy repeatedly for heavy damage. Heavy strikes can also be used to stun shielded enemies, opening them to follow-up attacks. Vivian can duck and attack or perform a ground slide, and she can perform midair combos which allow her to hang in the air as she delivers strikes. The final strike in an aerial combo is a spinning sword slash that carries her downward at an angle, smashing airborne enemies and potentially slashing through multiple ground-based foes on her way down.

Vivian can perform a 2x nonvarible jump, which can be upgraded to a double jump. She can perform a double-tap dash, which can then be sustained as a full run, and she can perform unique attacks from a dash in the form of a lunging strike or a jump kick. Vivian begins the game with a special attack in the form of a sword slash that emits a long-range projectile. New special attacks are earned along the way, and up to four may be assigned to various button combinations for quick use in combat. Each of these special attacks draws from a secondary meter that is refilled via potions or enemy drops, allowing for only infrequent use.

Finally, Vivian has a forward somersault that acts as a dodge maneuver, but it cannot be used to pass through shielded foes. This move can be used to avoid heavy strikes from larger enemies and is required to survive many boss encounters. Bosses are large and detailed and have a wide range of attacks, so players must be mindful of the telegraphs for each… particularly those heavy strikes that can drain half of Vivian’s life bar in a single hit. In these instances, the player must make use of his full range of ground- and air-based attacks, as well as dodging incoming attacks and dealing with support enemies.

With such a wide array of attacks at their disposal, players can move rapidly around the screen and take on multiple enemy types simultaneously. There is a fair amount of enemy variety, requiring players to change tactics on the fly, mixing up fast weaker attacks, aerial combat, and heavy strikes while prioritizing more capable enemies with higher speeds or longer reach. The environment is a factor as well, as some fights take place in enclosed areas where enemies must be killed before moving forward, while others take place as the player moves through the area and performs some minor platforming. Often, there are spike traps, projectile-firing contraptions, or flame spouts to contend with alongside regular enemies.

The game features six large environments that offer branching paths and reward exploration with caches of currency, mana (used to buy upgrades), and new weapons and equipment. A metroidvania-style map highlights the current objective and makes it clear which areas remain to be explored. There are also plenty of breakable objects along the way for additional loot drops.

Progress is largely linear with a few side paths to be explored and the occasional branching path, but players are free to backtrack to any previously-visited locale as needed. Backtracking as part of the main quest is minimal, and a fast-travel system allows players to teleport between save points if they have a large distance to cover.

Shops offer new swords, armor, potions, and food items, but most of these command high prices. Killed enemies and destructible objects drop coins, but it takes a long time to build up a stock of gold large enough to make a substantial purchase. Players are better off exploring the world to find these items on their own, and they can expect to find a wide array of weaponry in the environment, along with armor and potions.

Mana is the most frequent enemy drop, and players accumulate it quickly. Mana can be spent to enhance equipment for increased damage, elemental effects, and minor buffs – sometimes requiring additional crafting materials – and it is used to upgrade Vivian’s stats and skills across a robust skill tree. Dozens of upgrades are available on this skill tree, including health, defense, and strength increases, increased chances for critical hits, additional damage for elemental attacks, and a several new combat techniques. As expected, upgrades along each branch become more expensive as they go, although some upgrades remain locked until the player discovers the necessary items in the main quest.

The game features a cooking system, although in practice, it’s not a terribly important part of gameplay. By purchasing recipes from various cooks, the player can then mix the needed ingredients at campfires for health restoration and minor buffs. Cooking can only be performed at campfires, whereas the player is most likely to need health restoration during combat, which can be done on the fly with potions. Potions and health restoratives appear as regular drops on the normal difficulty setting, so skilled players will be able to keep their health topped up for much of the game.

The Vagrant was developed by O.T.K Games, a studio based in China and founded in 2014. This was the studio’s first release and it was created by only three people. Qiang Wang is credited with animation and game design, Yiran Rong is credited with programming and technical support, and Canlin Liu Is credited with game art and concept art. Music for the game was composed by Gabe Castro. The developers cite Vanillaware games – Oboro Muramasa in particular – and Castlevania X as their primary inspirations for the game.

The game was published by SakuraGame, a studio known for releasing anime-style games at budget prices.